With the relentlessly fast pace of life, it’s important to plan for some downtime, when health becomes your number-one priority. With this in mind, Iga Motylska spent a restful few days at Hoogland Health Hydro and exploring the nearby Hartbeespoort Dam area
Hoogland Health Hydro is only an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and 45 minutes from Pretoria, but once you arrive, it seems as though you’ve really travelled much further–back in time, that is. But it’s not just because of the building’s voluminous postmodernist architecture or the fossil bearing cave. It’s a place where wildebeest huddle on the lawns and monkeys forage in trees outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, with couches inside arranged so you’re watching nature in play. The only real reminder of the urban reality you’ve left behind glistens in the sun between the gentle hills that outline the horizon.
Hoogland is about elevation: hiking in the highlands (the highest point in Tshwane, at 1 450m, is found here); getting high on life; and trying to tune into your higher self. It emphasises the connection between mind, body and spirit. It’s about what you take from the experience. ‘It’s a creative space of healing. We provide a variety of expertise on all aspects of health and well-being,’ says Hoogland’s managing director, Anette Kruger.
Anette is the daughter of Dr Andre Kruger, who founded Hoogland with his own father in 1976. He runs this sanctuary with his wife Monica the resident psychologist Anette and her three sisters, while his son is opening a hydro in Tanzania.
‘We need to treat our bodies with more respect. You can trade in your car, you can trade in your spouse (he has a cheeky sense of humour), but you can’t trade in your body,’ says Dr Kruger. ‘When you look at cars, you have your service stations and mechanics; when you look at health, you have hospitals and health hydros. Each has their place, but if you don’t look after your car at the service station, you’re going to need to take it in to a mechanic.’
No two days are alike at Hoogland; visitors can choose from a variety of activities or can simply be. Each day begins with a guided walk at 6:30 am. Although the terrain can be challenging, there are numerous hiking and walking trails that vary in difficulty, as well as three labyrinths. On our moderate hike to the cave, Anette gives us a wild plum to taste and tells us about the region’s 186 bird species – most notably the European roller, short-toed thrush and violet-backed starling – and game, such as kudu, eland, wildebeest, reedbuck, duiker, klipspringer, brown hyena and jackal. Leopards have also been sighted roaming these rocky outcrops. At the top, equipped with our headlamps, we explore the cave and run our fingers over fossils embedded in layers slowly deposited over thousands of millennia.
We return just in time for breakfast, where all the aromas of the communal dining room serve to take me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. The whole-some, home-made meals are created from fresh ingredients predominantly sourced from Jasmyn Farm Market. There are no set meal times; guests are encouraged to come and go as they please between 8 am and 7:30 pm, while fruit and vegetables are available all day. The only thing you won’t find here is coffee, caffeinated tea, sugar or processed foods. The dining tables are deliberately big and by the end of the week, we’re eating among our newly made friends from France, Germany, Norway and Botswana.
Then it’s time for guided breathing or meditation in the Sun Sanctuary, followed by yoga. It’s a creative space where dismantled wooden doors have been converted to blackboards visitors can decorate with thought-provoking musings and colourful drawings. Each day reveals a new scribble. Watercolour paintings are weighed down by stones from the indoor labyrinth, while the copious bric-a-brac also spills into the adjoining library.
There’s also aqua aerobics – a weight bearing class in the gym – or African dance movement for those wanting to break a sweat. The day’s activities are choreographed to be chronological parts of the five-step hydro cycle – exercise, massage, heat, cold and rest – a detox process said to boost immunity, relieve stress, relax the muscles and improve blood circulation. So you certainly don’t need any excuse for getting a hand-, foot- or full-body massage before going to the sauna, steam room or sitz baths. Later, unwind in the jacuzzi or steaming jet pools before taking a cooling dip in the swimming pools.
By mid-afternoon, it is time for a discussion about a variety of wellness subjects, ranging from exercising and conscious eating to physiotherapy and aromatherapy, followed by a Q&A. We learn how to eat clean and make raw chocolate during the cooking class. Every evening sees an after-dinner talk by one of Hoogland’s on-site health specialists and can be about anything from nutrition and homeopathy to life coaching. Book any of them for a private consultation to focus on your key areas; as indicated by your physical wellbeing assessment. Additionally, with Dr Kruger’s on-site laboratory, there’s no wait for results.
Hoogland taught me to be conscious of my time, how I spend it and where I direct my energy. During my week-long Kickstart Wellbeing stay, I did not see anyone in the cinema-style TV room; instead, we all had conversations about capital-L Life while playing Rummikub. It put the highs into focus, here on the hills of Hoogland.
IN THE AREA
Hartbeespoort Dam is only 40 km from Hoogland so explore it by cableway, boat, or through its cuisine…
Meander through the Jasmyn Farm Market, which sells bric-a-brac, crafts, homemade goodies, second-hand books and antiques each Sunday and on public holidays. Enjoy a sweet or savoury waffle at the adjoining Windmill Restaurant and do your weekly grocery shopping right from the grocer their suppliers are local farmers and you can find various organic and health foods here, including freshly squeezed juice. It certainly gets Hoogland’s stamp of approval that’s good enough for us.
Next, ascend the 2.3 billion-year-old Magaliesberg mountain range to 1 985m with the Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway– 345m from the base station. The one-kilometre-long Dassie Loop walkway, with its engraved marble signposts, details the history and geology of the horizon. Lunch at the al fresco restaurant or have a drink as you watch the yachts glide on the waters below. If you’re very lucky, you may even see eagles circling overhead and witness a paraglider take flight to join them.
A sundown cruise with the double-decker Harties Boat Company gives you yet a different perspective from the water as you gently float past waterfront homes some way up the mountainside. This right here is the dam wall as you have never seen it. Yachtsmen wave as you clink your glasses and indulge in a snack platter, the sun setting on a rejuvenating week.
GOOD TO KNOW
Wellness packages range from three to 21 days and can be tailored to suit your needs. Choose from among stress management, kickstart wellbeing, holistic detox, weight management, supervised water fasting and type II diabetes treatment programmes.
012 380 4000, 079 872 2058
Jasmyn Farmers Market
083 484 0749
The Windmill Restaurant
012 259 0955
Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway
072 241 2654
Harties Boat Company
Saturday Sundowners (hour-long cruise with snacks and cash bar), Sunday Lunch (two-hour Sunday cruise including a three-course lunch and glass of bubbly)
012 253 5045, 082 704 7202
Photography Iga Motylska, Gallo/Gettyimages
(This article was first published in the autumn 2016 issue of AA traveller magazine)