Thanks to Ian Talbot I was invited on this trip after our own club hike was cancelled.
I arrived at Ian’s by 06h00 & travelled to Bushman’s Nek on a beautiful morning with much promise, before meeting up with the 10 other hikers (Campbell & Loraine, Graham Cullinan & Gretha, Karl & Susanne, Peter, Graham Harrison & Keith & Margaret) & to my surprise I knew three of them.
The two mules were over an hour late but it was luxury to load them with our heavy items of food & drinks etc.
We were soon on our way, with most keeping their strops on for the river crossings, but I wrongly had my boots on as the rivers were too deep for keeping dry feet, however I was able to keep them on as the leader carried me across & I was really impressed at being treated like a queen. It was fun.
We made our way up Bushman’s Nek pass in sunny but chilly weather, had lunch amongst sheltering boulders & were happy to reach the lodge.
We were soon settled in & gathered around the fire sipping various concoctions, slowly changing to more “spiritual” drinks & eventually the cooks quietly made their way into the kitchen from where appetising smells made us very hungry. Needless to say we enjoyed the lovely dinner.
Outside it was dark & very cold & whilst looking at the bright stars in the clear sky we were side-tracked by a wandering jackal in close proximity. During the night the wind came up & made it even colder.
The following morning, after breakfast, seven of us made our way up to the top of Devil’s Knuckles. The leader chose the gully closest to the Knuckles. Boy it was rough in places & steep. Oops down went Gretha’s walking stick like a snake in the grass but it was soon recovered by “bumming” down the slope. After more strenuous efforts we reached the cairn at the top (3050m) then made our way to the edge of the Knuckle & admired the views & rock formations, not to mention the numerous tarns. I feel so privileged to be able to get to places that relatively few people ever do. It is so special to me; I love the isolation, tranquillity & enormous beauty.
Too soon (after some photographs) it was time to return. Then the leader had a disobedient party as we left him to go down on his own, when we decided to take the next slope which looked easier, however Keith was already three-quarters way down when we met up.
After a late lunch the few of us who still had some energy explored the nearby caves, overhangs & the typical basotho shelters with natural-stone walls & small entrances.
Then it was back to the Lodge for hot baths (what luxury) & sundowners around the fire before our gourmet dinners. Ian having a surplus of whisky, we enjoyed a flambé pudding & at this altitude (2400m) it was quite something.
Mules don’t talk, they just carry & go & had lugged up plenty of red wine from which I was pleased to make nose-warming gluhwein.
Stargazing followed plus another, yet closer, visit from the jackal & I am sure some of us got good photos before retiring to bed to rest our weary bodies.
The following morning we made our way back via Tarn Cave, the steep descent being pretty but rather slow going. Unfortunately Graham slipped & gashed his head but bravely carried on. We arrived at the cars early afternoon then had a relaxing drink at the hotel before saying our goodbyes.
Many thanks Keith for your leadership & Ian once again for inviting me. I hope it will not be the last time, happy hiking to all of you.
Margaret Kirsten – (Visitor) – Chairman Durban Ramblers Hiking Club