There are brief moments along the Terblans Hiking Trail, when the only sounds you will hear are the crunching of leaf litter beneath your feet and the faint stirring of leaves from the canopy above. Even the birdsong ceases. It’s just you and this majestic forest; away from the din and frets of this world.
John Muir, one of the most famous and influential naturalists that ever lived, penned it perfectly when he wrote – “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” When you are deep within the stately kingdom of Knysna’s Diepwalle Forest, this statement becomes even more pertinent with each step that you take and a certain oneness with nature becomes inevitable.
The 6,5km circular trail, which starts at the Grootdraai Picnic site, weaves gently through this enduring indigenous forest, and while there is a fairly steep ascent near the start of the trail, most of it is a relatively easy amble. The beauty of the trail lies in the details, so be sure to take your time, stopping often to look at the many smaller components that make up the forest, many of which are easily missed if you are too hasty.
Take time to study the intricate web of life thriving on and near the forest floor and you will observe the many varied species of bright green moss growing between gnarled and exposed roots and on fallen trunks of decaying timber, which on close inspection are remarkable in their complexity.
Contrasting with the dominating palette of green are many different kinds of vividly coloured species from the Fungi Kingdom, mushrooms and brackets, which grow in bursts of colour, occurring in various shapes and sizes. Mushrooms can be seen rising up from the damp, dark leaf litter and brackets protruding like a shelf on both live and dead and decaying trees. Keep a look out for some great examples of the Ganoderma applantum all along the trail, a bracket fungus which is brown on top and white on its underside. It is revered for its medicinal properties and forms part of the Knysna elephant’s diet.
Another fascinating and otherworldly species often seen is ‘old man’s beard’ which is a wispy, pale green lichen that dangles delicately from the high boughs of many of the larger tree specimens such as the ancient Outeniqua yellowwoods, some of the tallest trees in the forest. What is interesting about this lichen is that it is highly sensitive to environmental disturbance, especially pollution, and has thus been hailed as a valuable indicator species of air quality. Old man’s beard grows prolifically in our forests so you may breathe deeply of the untainted air.
Much of the trail is edged by lots of young, common forest grape plants all eagerly reaching for the light above. The common forest grape is a vigorous climber with velvety, rust-coloured tendrils and vine like leaves. Many can be seen clinging to the tops of 20m trees.
You will cross small tea-coloured streams, skirt valleys of large forest ferns and verdant banks covered in pretty bracken fern. You will pass pelargonium shrubs covered in delicate purple flowers, and eventually, you will once again find yourself back at the picnic site, a place to linger and enjoy an unhurried ‘al fresco’ meal.
Another John Muir quote states, that “In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks” and in this case it is no different. You will experience the magic of this forest haven.
What makes the walk even more enjoyable is the fact that the trail is well marked throughout with yellow signs featuring a bushpig.
For more information, visit http: www.gardenrouteadventureguide.com/terblans-hiking-trail