AASVOELSKRANZGROT – (Vultures Cliff Cave – Highmoor Area)
This outing was to celebrate the new millennium from a different sort of venue, however Margaret and I did the same thing last year but from two different caves.
We reserved the cave for two nights for six people but unfortunately Alison and Jeff had to back out at the last minute due to a bout of gastric flu so only 4 members of the Ashton family made the trip, namely Margaret and Keith with youngest son Paul and eldest son Miles. Our middle son’s (John) wife (Heather) put her foot down and said there was no way she was going to sleep in a cave on New Years Eve. Paul’s girl friend (Amy) also said she was not going to sleep in a cave with no bathroom etc. not to mention the creepy crawlies and other nocturnal wildlife.
We four crazy people however thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, taking with us plenty of goodies, including beers, sherry, whisky (great with that mountain stream water) and Drambuie to help us celebrate the new millennium. As we were carrying quite heavy packs (20 kg plus - with all our goodies) I chose the easy route from the Highmoor office to the cave which passes to the right of the first dam, then rises northwards before descending to a lovely stream and waterfall west of the old look-out tower. After quenching our thirst we hiked north-eastwards to the cave initially keeping the look-out tower to our left.
Even with fairly heavy packs, and not rushing, it only took us an hour and a half to the cave. With backpacks it is quite a steep and precarious descent in places to the lower cave which is much better than the higher cave, but the effort is well worth it. The lower cave is well sheltered but still with beautiful views and is very close to the mountain stream and magnificent waterfall. The only drawback is the continual roar of the waterfall. Brave, but silly people can actually walk right behind the waterfall.
After lunch in the cave and a nice rest the younger Ashtons decided to have more relaxation whilst us “oldies” decided to do more exploring and get closer to the baboons which had been eyeing our cave. We then had a good supper in the cave and practised with some of our drinks in anticipation of New Years Eve the following night.
On day two after a good breakfast we headed for Mount Lebanon, eventually reaching the far beacon in time for lunch. Here we ate well whilst admiring the magnificent views (immediate vicinity being extremely steep and rugged). We returned via roughly the same route and during the day we saw many baboons, mountain reedbuck and 10 cape vultures plus many other lovely birds, butterflies and insects. After returning to the cave we relaxed in the beautiful and refreshing stream for a couple of hours before enjoying our supper and celebrating new years eve, although I have to admit we were all too tired to stay awake till midnight.
We made our way back to the office by lunchtime on new years day. By then it was very misty and pouring down (including hail) with thunder and lightning, otherwise before this we had perfect weather.