Walking across the Melville Koppies during the monthly cross-koppie hike

Five Great Jozi Walks to Prepare for MTN Walk the Talk with 702

If you live in Joburg, you’ve heard of Walk the Talk — in fact you’ve probably walked it. But here’s a quick description for everyone else:

MTN Walk the Talk with 702 (that’s the official name but I’ll call it Walk the Talk for short) is an annual Joburg tradition in which 50,000 (!) people get up early on the fourth Sunday morning in July and walk around Joburg. The main purpose of the walk is to bring people together, but participants can also work as teams to raise money for charitable causes. (Read more here.) This year will be the 18th annual Walk the Talk.

Normally the Walk the Talk distance options are 5 kilometers, 8 kilometers, and 15 kilometers. But South Africa is celebrating 25 years of democracy in 2019 (the country held its first democratic elections in 1994, marking the end of apartheid), and in honor of that anniversary Walk the Talk is also hosting a 25-kilometer walk.

I’ve never done Walk the Talk before I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) at one time. But I’m doing it. Why walk 8 kilometers when you can walk 25, right? Right.

So I guess I better get training. And so should you because you’re going to sign up with me, right? Right.

Since I like to do things in fives, here are five Jozi walks you can do to get ready for Walk the Talk.

Five Great Walk the Talk Warmup Walks

1) Emmarentia Dam/Johannesburg Botanical Gardens

This park, which is really two parks (Emmarentia Dam and the Joburg Botanical Gardens), is the best place to walk in central Joburg. It’s big, flat, and has great walking paths all the way around.

Emmarentia Dam in the morning with geese
Emmarentia Dam on a misty fall morning.
Walking Emmarentia Dam to practice for Walk the Talk
My friend Ruth and I walked Ruth’s housemate’s dog, Othello, in Emmarentia a few mornings ago.

One loop around the perimeter of this park is about five kilometers. I suppose you could walk around it five times or just give yourself a break and do it twice.

There are several entrances to Emmarentia Dam/Johannesburg Botanical Gardens but I usually park on the dog-walking side, off Orange Road in Emmarentia. See my previous blog posts here, here, and here.

2) The Wilds Municipal Nature Reserve

I’ve raved about the Wilds repeatedly (see here and here) but I’ll say it again: This is the prettiest and most underrated park in Joburg. Brisk walking is not as easy in the Wilds as in Emmarentia due to the steep paths and thick vegetation, but it’s definitely possible to get a nice workout here. A walk through the whole park is about 3.5 kilometers.

Ostrich sculptures at the top of the Wilds
These beautiful ostrich sculptures are by local artist James Delaney, who lives next to the Wilds and has poured his soul into rejuvenating the park.
Pablo the dog walking the Wilds
James’ dog, Pablo, is a regular in the Wilds.

If you’d like some extra motivation to walk the Wilds, tour guide Kennedy Tembo of Microadventure Tours holds regular “Senior Citizens Hikes” in the reserve. (Don’t worry if you’re not a senior citizen — I don’t think Kennedy will check your ID.) Follow Kennedy’s Facebook page for event announcements.

The Wilds parking lot is on Houghton Drive, just north of St. Patrick Road in Killarney.

3) The Melville Koppies

The Melville Koppies Nature Reserve holds a special place in my heart — it’s the first park I ever visited in Joburg. I’ve written about it in many blog posts, including here, here, and here.

You can walk the Koppies on your own, but the central section of the park is closed to the public except on special tour days. So the best way to experience the entire reserve is by participating in the semi-monthly cross-koppie hike sponsored by the Friends of the Melville Koppies. The hike crosses all three sections of the Koppies and is usually about eight kilometers (with lots of hills).

Looking to the north from the Melville Koppies
Looking out over the northern suburbs from Melville Koppies Central.
Walking across the Melville Koppies during the monthly cross-koppie hike
Crossing the east side of the Koppies.

The Melville Koppies have several entrances but the organized hikes leave from Mark’s Park in Emmarentia. Hikes cost R60 for adults and R40 for children. Check the calendar on the Friends of the MelvilleKoppies website for details.

4) Modderfontein Reserve

I don’t know the Modderfontein Reserve as well as the other spots on this list. But I want to include it because it’s on the east side of Joburg and all of the other places are on the west/central side.

The Modderfontein Reserve is a large strip of semi-wilderness (275 hectares) surrounded by rampant suburban development. The reserve includes a really nice picnic area and a long hiking/cycling path.

The reserve was accidentally created due to its proximity to an old dynamite factory — read more about the interesting history here. Also the Modderfontein Reserve is privately owned, which unfortunately makes it more vulnerable than the other City Parks on this list. It has recently changed ownership, and from what I’ve read online it seems there are some questions about the reserve’s future. So best visit it now while the going is good.

Modderfontein Nature Reserve
Picnic area by the dam in Modderfontein Reserve.
Dam at the Modderfontein Nature Reserve
The stream that runs through the reserve.

Modderfontein hosts a popular park run every Saturday morning. Park Runs are five kilometers and they can also be walked. So this is a good way to ease into Walk the Talk training.

The Modderfontein Reserve entrance is at 1 Arden Road, Modderfontein. There is an entrance fee of R30 per adult and R15 per child.

5) The Westcliff Stairs

I’ve saved the best for last.

Climbing the Westcliff Stairs, a series of paved stairways climbing up one of the biggest hills in Joburg, is the most physically exhausting thing you’ll ever do in Joburg. (I’ve done it countless times but I still feel like I’m going to die each time.) The main section of stairs includes more than 200 steps.

The Westcliff Stairs isn’t a park. It’s a beautiful set of curving stone steps in the middle of one of Joburg’s most beautiful neighborhoods, which has become a secret escape for Jozi exercise fanatics of every age, size, and color. Go there early on a Saturday morning and you’ll find yourself gasping up the stairs with frighteningly fit personal trainers, elderly grandpas and gogos, gangs of middle-aged women training to climb Kilimanjaro, young children, dogs, and everyone in between. It’s pure magic.

People running down the Westcliff Stairs
The first of ten trips down (and up) the Westcliff Stairs.

For extra motivation I recommend running the stairs with my personal trainer friend Xolani Moyo of Xtreeme Boxing Fitness. He’ll calmly tell you to run the stairs ten times, with a smile, and you might just do it (with a lot more walking than running).

The gang after running the Westcliff Stairs 10 times
The stair-climbing gang. Maybe some of these guys will join me for Walk the Talk. (Photo: Xolani Moyo)

The Westcliff Stairs can be accessed from Wexford Road at the bottom or Woolston Road (near the Ridge School) from the top.

None of these walks are anywhere near 25 kilometers. But if you’re really gung-ho it’s possible to combine Emmarentia, Melville Koppies East, and the Westcliff Stairs into one giant walk. It still won’t be 25 kilometers but it’ll be a gargantuan workout, I promise you. Send me a message for directions.

In the meantime, sign up for MTN Walk the Talk with 702. There are only a couple of weeks left to do so.

I wrote this post in partnership with the MTN Walk the Talk with 702. Opinions expressed are mine.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Peggy Laws May 17, 2019 at 8:49 am

    I feel completely exhausted just reading about all of these – but – on a serious note – have done all of these over the years. Now I stick to the easiest and flatest. But aren’t we lucky to have so many great places to walk on our doorstep. Thanks for the blog Heather!

    • Reply 2summers May 17, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Hahaha. My pleasure! Iโ€™m exhausted too ๐Ÿ˜‚

  • Reply eremophila May 17, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Sounds great. I’d suggest training on some steep sections, and then the 25 on the flat Will be a breeze, well, sort of.!๐Ÿ˜
    I’ll be cheering you on from the metaphorical sidelines.

    • Reply 2summers May 17, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Thatโ€™s my strategy!

  • Reply Peter May 17, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Jeep paz – 25km’s โ€ฆ.. Any idea if that 25km route is a start to finish, or is it maybe just a 12.5km loop x 2. It sounds worth it if it covers some interesting sights โ€ฆ..

  • Reply Louise Whitworth May 19, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve done the 15k before was pretty easy, it’s all flat, then we added another 2ks on walking to Greenside to get lunch ๐Ÿ˜‰ definitely keen to join you on the 25k!

    • Reply 2summers May 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      Okay! Letโ€™s do it.

  • Reply Lani May 22, 2019 at 11:09 am

    So excited about your upcoming walk – sounds like a true celebration. And what lovely walks – jealous!

    • Reply 2summers May 22, 2019 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

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