Belvedere, a word most commonly associated with the opulence of the self proclaimed ‘luxury vodka’, which I must say is quite a contrast to the taxing descent and ascent of the Belvedere Trail in the Blyde River Canyon
The trail begins at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, I signed in at the reception under the scrupulous gaze of the lady behind the desk, I think to ensure that I was in decent enough shape to complete the walk so that she wouldn’t have to come down and stage a rescue mission.
The first leg of the walk led me through the potholes, where I strutted with my head held high like some crusader, venturing off into far off places where tourist’s feet dare not tread. This was of course ridiculous, as the trail is frequently walked and conveniently placed spraypainted directions make it nigh on impossible to get lost.
Once through the potholes, two short bridges take you across to a fairly level path that leads you to the edge of the canyon. The views on this section are magnificent and the walking is easygoing and very pleasant. As the saying goes, ‘nothing easy is worth having’ and just as you settle into a steady rhythm on the steady path, stopping of course to lay the obligatory rock on the cairn, the path enters into dappled shade and the descent begins.
Going downhill, in my opinion, is the perfect example of how you can have too much of a good thing. I have completed seemingly endlessly ascending walks where I prayed to the skies above for even a metre of decline, there is no such problem on the Belvedere Trail. The descent takes you down to the bottom of the canyon in a mix of sloping paths and small but frequent drops. Almost the entirety of this section is covered by trees and there are some good opportunities for spotting wildlife, I was fortunate enough to see a boomslang, and the birding is excellent too.
This descent will take you to Belvedere House, which has unfortunately fallen into a state of disrepair. I assume that the trail is named after this modest house that is secreted deep in the canyon, but the building is now little more than a shell and is completely abandoned. This is a crying shame as it would make a fantastic spot for a quiet retreat in the bush and could no doubt make a profitable enterprise selling drinks and possibly piggyback rides to desperate walkers. I’m sure it would be an extremely rewarding restoration project for those with a hermit-like disposition, but for now it stands simply as a decaying landmark. From here, it is a short ascent and subsequent descent into the bottom of the canyon where the fruits of your labor can be keenly seen.
You emerge onto a large rock plateua that sits adjacent to a waterfall, where stunning scenery surrounds you. You can get a clear idea of how far you have walked, and still have to walk and could spend countless hours watching the progress of the roaring water as it tumbles off the edge of the fall into oblivion.
Here I had company for the first time, in the form of an incredibly hairy Italian man and his wife. They were sunbathing on the rock, taking full advantage of the secluded and picturesque setting with little regard for the effect it may have on the appetite of other walkers.
On this trail, what goes down must come up, and I left the waterfall behind me as I heaved my legs back up the trail. The climb up actually took less time than the climb down and was thoroughly enjoyable. There are some great spots to take a quick breath while looking back into the canyon and I was sorry to reach the top. The path back to the potholes provides a nice winding down to the trail and by the time I reached this section, the sun was beginning to dim. My return through the flocks of tourists was slightly different to my departure as I scurried past them to try and reach the shop before it closed, which I can thankfully say I did.
The Belvedere Trail is by far my favorite walk in the area and promises some spectacular scenery and a challenging but enjoyable walk.
Where: The trail starts at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, sign in at reception and follow the spraypainted signs across the bridges.
Duration: The trail takes 4-5 hours at a comfortable pace.
What to bring: 100R for entrance to the Potholes and fee for the trail, hat, suncream and plenty of water and some snacks as the only place to buy refreshments is the shop at Bourke’s Luck this is also where you will find the only toilets.