The imposing 40m-high granite structure is a symbol of Afrikaner dominance - and regarded by many as controversial. It is located on a hill in the 240-hectare Voortrekker Monument and Nature Reserve which also serves as a picnic spot. Much work has been done to reinvent its cultural identity and to take the sting out of its historical significance but it remains a contested site.
In 2020 the Adventure Zone company, based just outside Cullinan and known for their fun outdoor adventure activities like hiking, quad biking and ziplining, were invited by the museum and monument to develop new attractions in the reserve that would reinvent and broaden the monument's appeal and make better use of the expansive nature reserve that surrounds it.
At Adventure Zone Voortrekker Monument you can now go quad biking, learn archery and take a course in ancient fire-making techniques. By the end of 2021 they also plan to have a zipline installed.
We visited to check out the new hiking trails which Adventure Zone have been plotting through the reserve. When we visited the trails will still being cleared so we had the privilege of taking the hike with two Adventure Zone staff who helped map the trail, Oz and Waldo (we were assured we might get lost on our own, and as we started the walk, it was clear they were right!). When completed there will be a choice of 3km, 5km or 8km trails. We went down the middle on the 5km, which in the Pretoria summer heat is tougher than you think.
The trail begins by scaling the hill on which the Voortrekker Monument stands before tracing a winding path through the grasslands below where zebras, various antelopes and wildebeest graze. What made having a guide for this trail so special was the chance to learn about the variety of trees and shrubs that cover the reserve and their various uses.
Seemingly everyday trees like the ubiquitous suikerbos (known for its protea flowers) were viewed in a new light once we heard of its many medicinal properties, while we were amazed to hear about the literally fireproof 'baboon tree' and the remarkable Parinari capensis, a tree which grows underground. Visible only by the 'crown' of leaves which sprout just above the surface, botanists believe many of these 'underground trees' to be thousands of years old.
After descending from the Voortrekker mount we then climbed a steeper slope on the adjacent hill up to the Schanskop Fort. Note that the shorter 3km route includes only the Voortrekker side of the trail. It is possible to drive up to see this impressive fort, although climbing it makes the view all the more rewarding. This is quite simply the best view to be found anywhere in Pretoria. It's no wonder the Boers chose to set up a fort here to keep watch for any invading British forces.
From the fort we then descended again through a dry and rocky section of path where the high iron content of the hill is clearly visible (millions of years ago lava once ran off these hillsides), eventually snaking our way back to the Adventure Zone reception and boma area. With advance notice it is also possible to arrange for a braai to be waiting for you after the hike. Alternatively, cold drinks are available at Oom's Deli next to the Voortrekker Monument.
Need to know: The hike should be booked in advance by phone so the team can know to expect you. Call +27 72 274 8259 to arrange your visit. You can pay the hiking fees (R80 per person) when you arrive.