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Slackpacking in the Midlands

Definition of Slackpacking, by the author of Slackpacking in South Africa, Fiona McIntosh

"Most simply, Slackpacking is backpacking without the schlep.
Slackpacking trails are a relatively new genre of multi-day hiking trails, which allow you to travel light, carrying only your water, lunch, camera and waterproofs in a day pack, while someone else takes care of transporting all your baggage to an overnight stop-over, where you can enjoy the comfort of being accommodated in luxury hotels or guesthouses"
Inspired by the most recent, larger and excellent edition of “Slackpacking: A Guide to South Africa's Top Leisure Trails”, by Fiona McIntosh and edited by David Bristow, John Hall, the owner of Pleasant Places *Guest House in the Lidgetton Valley, believes the growing craze of slackpacking will catch on in the KZN Midlands in the New Year.
Front Garden at Pleasant Places
John wears the look of a quietly confident man when he says,
“We'll get this up and running in January. The trails are 90% sorted and I've consulted and obtained permission from farmers, whose land the trail traverses. It's for people who want a challenging walk, but don't want to haul a heavy backpack around."
Getting people to know about the charms and attractions of the Lidgetton Valley is a passion for John . . . and not just for the potential business opportunities.
Autumnal reflections at the dam
Dam reflection
“People don't know the extent of the activities on offer here. Many folk visit the Midlands Meander or come here to attend a wedding, have great jollifications, and then rush off home, oblivious to the beauty of the area they have just had the privilege of visiting. Guests attending weddings here seldom return.
We live in a community and these trails will provide employment opportunities for some of the people in the local village. I'm driven to create new adventures here, giving some of our local youngsters a chance to get involved. They will assist with marking out and on-going maintenance of the trails. Many school-leavers struggle to find employment soon after finishing school and this will give them a vision and hope for a brighter future; it'll be great for this area too.”
Initially there will be a 44 kilometer, three-day walking trail, sleeping over for four nights.
More trails are in the pipeline. There are also 1 and 2 day trail options.
The trail starts at Pleasant Places Guest House, spending the first night there, being pampered and de-briefed, before the walk starts the next day.
The first leg of the walk is to Swissland Cheese, where walkers will be treated to a lunch including the best goats cheeses ever tasted, washed down with a glass of wine.
Looking back toward Pleasant Places from Swissland Cheese


Slackpackers will cross rivers and streams, walk across pastures, through indigenous forests, climb hills and drop down into valleys.

Cool, shady spot along the river

After relatively easy walking they will arrive at hospitality venues en-route, such as Lythwood Lodge and Blesberg Farm Cottages. Dinner and breakfasts, either catered or self catered, will be available. All provisions, utensils, braais, charcoal etc. will be provided at self catering stops.

John took me on a drive to a number of key spots along the route, including a successful, modern dairy farm, where 800+ cows are milked, 60 at a time on a revolving turntable.
Sixty cows being milked on a turntable


Later we walked through a stunning section of indigenous forest and on to a dam where ardent fly fishermen will be able to cast a line on the beautiful Blesberg Farm dam. The last leg of the 44km trail will see a walk down into the picturesque Dargle Valley, with views to die for.

Looking over the Dargle Valley with Midmar Dam in the distance
After a lunch at a local Pizzeria, the happy hikers will head off to crash for the last night at Pleasant Places.
Cooling mist in the garden at Pleasant Places


Well, as they say, the proof will be in the pudding/walking, but I get the impression that John’s passion will bring an exciting new aspect to hospitality in the beautiful Lidgetton Valley

- Garth Johnstone

The process of setting up the trail follows info provided by The Footprint Hiking Club, South Africa's most active hiking club, who advise a detailed and extensive planning phase, which investigates and implements the following key aspects thoroughly before a trail can be set up:
  • Research
  • Planning
  • Environmental Impact Study
  • Feasibility Study
  • Construction techniques
  • Maintenance
  • Marking
  • Maps and mapping