“I can be myself.” Stepping out of character and on to a trail of mindfulness

 
 
 

Schelaine Bennett packed her bags, and set off to Johannesburg to pursue her dream of acting. But when she did, she left behind her family, friends, and the outdoors lifestyle of the Mother City. Then a friend told her about a place where paths lined with adventure run through rivers and mountains. It has since become a consistent retreat for Bennett. “The Hennops Hiking Trail is where I can take a deep breath and reconnect with myself,” she says.      

Far from crowded highways and the bustling urban areas of Gauteng, the vast expanse of nature stands out. “The hiking trails are an incredible escape from the city life,” Bennett says. There are three routes, ranging from two and a half to 10 kilometres, with the occasional kudu, eland, or zebra along the way. Crossing the Hennops River, the paths veer into the mountains, each offering the opportunity for reflection. “All I can focus on is my next step, and the feeling of fresh air in my lungs,” Bennett says. The wind rustling through the trees is the only sound that breaks the silence. “Everything just stops for a bit,” Bennett says. “It’s like a moment to pause.”

The best place to do this is at the suspension bridge. Originally built in 1932, it still hangs above the rushing waters of the river, transporting hikers across. It’s at this spot, less than an hour away from both Johannesburg and Pretoria, that Bennett has found her ultimate respite. “My soul feels at ease,” she says. With a career centred on stepping into character, it’s a welcome relief to walk these paths. Here, Bennett can take off the mask and forget about the roles she plays. “Being out in nature, I can be myself,” she says.