Slackpacker's Deluxe (Western Loop)
The Slackpacker’s Deluxe loop of the Old Salt Trail is one for your bucket list. If you love hiking, incomparable views, rare and endemic wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, but you still enjoy your comfort, this is for you!
The trail is a spectacular four-night, five-day, 73 km slackpacking hike across the breathtaking western Soutpansberg Mountains. Unique in its splendour and beauty, the range stretches in a mighty panorama across the northern reaches of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Winding through this remarkable landscape, you will discover yellowwood forests, proteas, ancient baobab trees and endemic flora and fauna. One might encounter the Endangered Mountain Reedbuck or get a glimpse of a leopard and any one of the many other species this mountain has to offer. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax, and take in the peace and beauty of the Soutpansberg mountains.
This is a very challenging hike, and a high level of fitness and hiking experience is required. But the challenge is rewarded with the fantastic hospitality experienced along the way, with all meals taken care of and luggage transferred from lodge to lodge. Hikers need only take a day pack with them to carry their own water, snack packs (provided by hosts), and hiking essentials.
Day 1: Medike Reception to Leshiba Luvhondo Camp up Duluni Gorge (11.5 km)
Day 2: Leshiba Luvhondo Camp to Sigurwana Lodge via Hamasha Gorge (15.5 km)
Day 3: Sigurwana Lodge to Lajuma Wilderness Camp via Mt. Lajuma (16 km)
Day 4: Lajuma Wilderness Camp to Leshiba Venda Village Lodge via Yellowwood forest (19 km)
Day 5: Leshiba Venda Village Lodge back to Medike Reception (11 km)
- Distance: Approximately 73 km
- Maximum Capacity: Eight people sharing (either twins or double)
- Guide: Yes, Soutpansberg Rangers accompany hikers on the trail
- Age limit: No under 16-year old’s and under 18-year olds must be accompanied by a guardian
NOTE: Medike West requires a high clearance vehicle. Hikers with sedan cars can arrange transfers to the start from secure parking nearby.
Day 1: Medike West to Leshiba IKC up Duluni Gorge (11 km)
The Big Climb
Distance: approx. 11.5 km
Altitudinal gain: 550 m
Difficulty: Difficult – official Green Flag Rating coming soon!
Day 1 starts at the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) Medike Mountain Reserve Reception. It is the biggest climb of the hike, starting at the bottom of the Sand River Gorge and hiking up to the top of the ridge, with an elevation gain of over 300 m. The first 2 km of the hike follow a jeep track over the railway and along the Sand River, with a gentle climb up to Medike’s Marula Camp Site. From here, the trail heads straight up the mountain, with a single-track trail winding its way up. It is a steep, rocky climb, but you will be rewarded with some truly awesome mountain trees and incredible landscape views over the gorge. Once at the top of the climb, there is a small plateau where you can rest for a few minutes and marvel at the climb you’ve just done.
The trail then heads through mountain bushveld down into the Duluni Gorge to meet a mountain stream coming down the gorge. You will follow the stream, crossing it a few times until you reach Duluni Cave, where a bit of boulder hopping is required. The entire stretch along the stream goes through riverine forest areas, with some spectacular trees (including the odd Yellowwood and Forest Fever Tree) along the way. Keep an eye out for leopard spoor and scratches on the trees as you pass them. The cave makes a good spot for a snack or lunch break.
After the break at Duluni Cave, you will continue to follow the stream up the gorge through more forested areas. You will pass some old stone wall terraces not far upstream, which have their own stories to tell and are worth a few minutes before moving on. A short diversion off the trail takes you to a rock art site, where both bushman and Khoikhoi rock art can be seen.
The trail continues upstream until you reach the Leshiba fence, where you will need to crawl through the ‘Hiker’s Doggy Door’, a cunning swing gate that ensures the gate closes behind you. Once on Leshiba, it is a gentle gradient, meandering through mountain bushveld, Silver Terminalia woodlands, and an open vlei that is fantastic for birding. A rocky path again takes you along the river, where there is a great little mountain stream dam, perfect for an afternoon swim.
The final stretch of the trail goes across the Leshiba plains in front of the lodge, a haven for wildlife drawn to a watering hole. On a good day, you are likely to see kudu, giraffe, impala, warthog, wildebeest, and nyala, amongst others. One more short uphill on a farm track takes you to Leshiba’s Luvhondo Camp, where the fantastic Leshiba staff will welcome you.
The first night is accommodated at Leshiba’s Luvhondo Camp (IKC). The huts are fully serviced with bathrooms and hot showers. The fantastic Leshiba staff will welcome hikers and see to all their needs. Includes dinner, basic breakfast, and snack pack for the following day’s hike.
The Old Salt Trail Day 1 in pictures
Day 2: Leshiba Luvhondo Camp to Sigruwana Lodge, through Hamasha Gorge
Distance: approx. 15.5 km
Altitudinal gain: 529 m
Difficulty: Difficult – official Green Flag Rating coming soon!
Day 2 of the trail starts back across the Leshiba plains, with lots of wildlife sightings very likely. You will be following established game trails until you reach the cycling trail, skirting the open plains. The trail then heads into the Bushman’s Medicine Chest, where your guide will show you some of the medicinal plants native to the region and tell you a bit about what they are used for. A small diversion to the rock art shelter will follow, showcasing San and Khoekhoe rock art and ancient artefacts. After these fascinating early morning excursions, you will follow the trail as it winds its way through a dense forest toward Hamasha Gorge. A stop at a viewpoint on the ridge gives you a great view looking down into the gorge before heading down through the forest to rocky slabs and the river at the bottom.
This is a very technical part of the trail, with steep angled rocks, multiple stream crossings, and boulder-hopping in a stream bed to navigate. It is, however, incredibly rewarding with the most spectacular and dramatic landscape unfolding before you. The rock pool here also makes for a great tea break spot and a place to cool off and take a dip.
The trail then heads up ‘The Slabs’, big red rock slabs that slope steeply down towards the stream. Multiple slabs need to be traversed, and it requires walking up the gorge at an angle. At the top of the slabs, the trail heads back into a beautiful riverine forested section and a welcomed lunch stop next to the stream.
The afternoon hike takes you away from the stream heading west out of the gorge. It is a long, rocky trail traversing beautiful mountain bushveld, rewarding hikers with fantastic views over the tops of the mountains and serving as an ideal place to glance back at where you’ve come from and be amazed. The trail then enters Sigurwana and crosses beautiful grasslands and open savannah.
The final stretch of the trail drops down on a fairly steep yet short descent into a small gorge below Sigurwana Lodge and the most beautiful Waterberry forest next to a stream. A small waterfall with an incredibly deep pool in the Waterberry forest makes for the perfect spot to rest, put your feet in the water to cool off, or even better, swim in the pool. The lodge is just a short hike from the waterfall, a scramble up a rocky ledge, and some more stream-hopping to reach the final stretch of mountain bushveld and a warm welcome by the Sigurwana staff.
Accommodation: Home – Sigurwana Lodge
Sigurwana offers luxury accommodation, fully serviced rooms, hot water showers, and baths. Includes dinner, breakfast and snack pack for the day.
The Old Salt Trail Day 2 in pictures
Day 3: Sigurwana Lodge to Lajuma Wilderness Camp via Mt. Lajuma
On top of the world
Distance: approx. 15 km
Elevation gain: 545 m
Difficulty: difficult to very difficult if ascending to the top of Mt Lajuma – official Green Flag Rating coming soon!
On the third day of the trail, you will reluctantly leave Sigurwana Lodge and head straight towards a rocky cliff and a waterfall into a beautiful Forest Fever Tree forest at the base of the cliff. The climb up the rocky slope that follows will require a bit of scrambling in places to reach the ridge. Once on top, you will find yourself winding your way along a long plateau with open grasslands and patches of forest. This area is a hotspot for wildlife sightings, so keep your eyes open!
Small deviations from the trail will take you to two different rock art sites, and the tale of the Bushmen unfolds as you go. It is a long but easy hike to Mt Lajuma on jeep tracks and single-track trails across the odd rocky outcrop. Mt Lajuma looms ever higher the closer you get, especially as you descend into a small valley at its base. Clusters of trees provide an ideal spot to take a break, cool off, and recharge before heading up the mountain.
The ascent takes you up a rocky slope to the saddle of Mt Lajuma. The climb requires a bit of scrambling from time to time, and there is a tad scary moment as you climb around a fence post on a little ledge. The Lajuma trail continues from the saddle up rocky, grassy slopes, towards the top of Mt Lajuma. At 1,727 m asl, this is the highest point of the Soutpansberg, with fantastic panoramic views across the Limpopo Valley to Botswana and Zimbabwe and across the southern bushveld plains towards Polokwane. Blouberg can also be seen to the west.
The trail then backtracks down to the saddle, descending into ‘The Patches’, an open grassy plain on Lajuma with micro-forest patches. It is a steep, slippery, and rocky descent hard on the legs and must be taken with care. Once on the patches, it is an easy hike across the plain towards a ledge and down a rocky path into the forest. Finally, you will meet a road that takes you back east to Wilderness Camp at Lajuma Research Centre, your stop for the night.
Lajuma Research Centre’s Wilderness Camp offers basic accommodation designed for student groups. Dinner, basic breakfast and a snack pack for the next day’s hike are provided.
The Old Salt Trail Day 3 in pictures
Day 4: Lajuma Research Centre’s Wilderness Camp to Leshiba Venda Village via Hamasha Gorge
Distance: approx. 15 km
Elevation gain: 420 m
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult – official Green Flag Rating coming soon!
At around 19 km, this is the longest hike but also the easiest. You will start the day by heading straight into the forest thicket behind Lajuma’s Wilderness Camp and up to a rocky cliff line. You will then ascend a rocky crevice known as ‘The Chimeys’, the most technical part of the day. It is not very long, and the views that welcome you at the top are beautiful. From here, the trail is level across a plateau, through grasslands and woodlands, and past another rock shelter. Cutting across an open field, you will find a jeep track next to an old Eucalyptus plantation. Follow the track up a gentle incline to another ridgeline until it meets the Sigurwana gate and slowly peters down into a single trail again. A short distance further, there is a beautiful view spot just before the trail goes into the forest, making for a perfect place for a morning tea break. This first section of the trail is easy hiking, and it is a good opportunity to set a good pace, get into a rhythm and cover some distance in the morning.
Entering the forest is like entering a different world – it is a wonderland of incredible ancient trees. The trail winds its way through the forest and offers plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the sounds and sights of the ancient trees. It is worth taking some time to enjoy all the forest has to offer before heading out of the forest and up onto a plateau on Tolo Nature Reserve, where it meets another jeep track. The track leads back down the hill, through more forest thicket areas until it meets the Leshiba fence line, where it trail crosses back into Leshiba through an old farm gate. The trail soon leaves the jeep track to take you through mountain bushveld and beautiful view spots as it weaves its way over Mamba Ridge and back towards Leshiba’s Venda Village Lodge. There is a good opportunity for wildlife sightings again as you cross the plains in front of the Lodge.
Accommodation: Home – Leshiba
Leshiba Venda Village offers luxury accommodation and is the perfect place to sit and reminisce on the trail’s adventures. Rooms are fully serviced and include hot showers and baths. Dinner, breakfast and snack packs are provided.
The Old Salt Trail Day 4 in pictures
Day 5: Leshiba Venda Village Lodge to Medike
Distance: approx. 11 km
Elevation gain/drop: 357 m
Difficulty: Difficult with steep descent – official Green Flag Rating coming soon!
After a delicious breakfast, the final day departs from Leshiba Venda Village Lodge, following a trail across the Leshiba plains where hikers are likely to see a variety of plains game or even spot a Cape Vulture. The trail then takes you past five viewpoints along the cliff edge, which all have their unique beauty. It is a gentle start as you hike back towards Medike Mountain Reserve, mostly along a single track, passing through magical wooded areas.
Once beyond the viewpoints, the trail reaches the Leshiba-Medike fence line, where another Hiker’s Doggy Door allows you reentry into Medike. Once through the Doggy Door, you will tackle an incline past an old settlement where pot shards can still be found. Beyond that, you will reach a small plateau, where the mighty Sand River Gorge comes into view, and you can look down into Medike, where it all began. From here, the trail is technical, rocky, and takes you down a long steep descent. Take care as you head back down the mountain, where a bit of clambering down some rocks is required. It is a beautiful hike down through mountain bushveld trees, well shaded and cool, a relief in the midday heat. Once on the valley floor, the trail meets the Medike road, crosses the Sand River and railway line again, and it is only a short hike back up to the Medike Reception, where a warm welcome by the Medike staff awaits you.