Johannesburg

Hike the Doornfontein Ridge with Dlala Nje

09 Dec 2019
created 25 Sep 2019
Dlala Nje (meaning 'Just Play' in isiZulu) is an innovative tour company based in Hillbrow’s iconic Ponte building that offers memorable walking and immersion experiences in the infamous inner-city neighbourhoods of Hillbrow and Yeoville. Dlala Nje’s aim is to dispel myths about these notorious suburbs and to showcase the unusual history and various African communities that make these areas of the city so distinctive.

Dlala Nje also has a second base at Victoria Yards in the heart of eastern Joburg's Maker's Valley where they run a community centre for local kids from surrounding suburbs like Lorentzville, Bertrams and Bez Valley. In September 2019 Dlala Nje launched their first Urban Hike walking tour that sets out from Victoria Yards, a unique trail that plots a lesser travelled route over the nearby Doornfontein Ridge.

The three-kilometre Dlala Nje Urban Hike requires moderate fitness and very good balance (the path across the ridge is a rocky one that requires good footwear – we went up in a pair of running shoes) and general tolerance for moderately steep ups and downs. Although that might sound rather strenuous, the overall pace of the walk is more than leisurely with plenty of breaks to catch your breath.
 

The tours run every other Saturday or Sunday (coinciding with weekend events at Victoria Yards such as First Sundays and the Saturday Farmers Market) and on either day during the hike you can expect to come across Joburgers from all faiths and backgrounds who come to the ridge to escape the city and practice their cultural beliefs in the peaceful surrounds of nature. An especially comforting reminder of the universally special, and often holy, place that nature holds for many of the millions of people who live in this sprawling, fast-paced and often overcrowded city.

As with Dlala Nje's other tours, the guides do a great job of both explaining the many traditional beliefs that are practiced by visitors to the ridge and of underlining the importance of being respectful to those people who you may meet along the way who use this site as a place of worship, a spiritual retreat, and even as a home.
 


The halfway point of the tour is the very top of the ridge, near the Joburg Observatory, from where you are treated to the most remarkable panoramic views across the eastern suburbs of the city. Fringed by the distinctive downtown Joburg skyline on one side and the historic leafy suburbs of Kensington and Bedfordview to the other with the gently rocky ridges of Troyeville dotted by church steeples straight ahead, this epic panorama forms the perfect backdrop for an enlightening talk on Joburg's early gold rush mining history. The view is particularly spectacular in October and November when the thousands of purple jacaranda trees that line the streets of the suburbs in the valley below burst into bloom.

From this high point (one of the highest in the city) it is then downhill all the way as you slowly make your way off the ridge and into the historic suburb of Bez Valley to sit down and enjoy a lunch of a filling kota (a half loaf of bread filled with your choice of chips, sausages and processed cheese) at a quirky community garden that overlooks a local football pitch. Suitably fed and watered, it's then a gentle 10-minute stroll back to Victoria Yards in time for an afternoon of browsing the many workshops, showrooms and galleries of the art community that calls the inviting Victoria Yards complex home.

BOOKING THE DLALA NJE URBAN HIKE
The Dlala Nje Urban Hike leaves from the Dlala Nje office at Victoria Yards, 16 Viljoen St, Lorentzville on alternate Saturdays and Sundays at 09:30. Bring sturdy walking shoes, a bottle of water and protection from the sun with you as there is little to no shade for most of the hike. The tour lasts approximately 3.5 hours and covers 3km. Tours can be booked online at dlalanje.org and cost R380 per person.

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