HIGHMOOR – LONG WEEKEND – 14-16 DECEMBER 2002
Margaret and I had booked for 6 nights over this period and included it as a long weekend for the club. Highmoor has become a particular favourite of ours as it is so close to Howick and we discover something new every time we visit this magnificent spot.
We arrived at the campsite the day before everyone else and so were well established by the time Warwick & Brenda, Graham & Jean and Dave arrived on the Saturday morning; our three sons and one daughter-in-law were due to arrive later in the day.
After Warwick, Brenda & Co had pitched their tents we set off to Ka-Dedakushe Falls, first bearing left along the old jeep track near Kamloops and Salma Dams (both beautiful trout fishing dams, but the daily rod fee is R80 and the bag limit is only 2 trout). We gradually climbed about 3km until we reached a track junction (at about 2080m) and bearing right we continued for another 3km to the “Plaque” with lovely views of Giant’s Castle and beyond. The “Plaque” marks the spot where history was made on 18 May 1973 by S P Botha (Minister of Water Affairs & Forestry) declaring this reserve the first wilderness area in a state forest (Upper Mkhomazi and Mdedelelo). KZN Wildlife is now keen to keep wilderness areas as such and I understand the plaque may also be relocated at some time, closer to the office. From the “Plaque” we descended along a ridge for about another 1.5km (the track eventually disappearing) until we reached the falls. We had a leisurely lunch at this beautiful spot at the top of the twin falls (about 80m high) but there was very little water coming over.
After lunch we retraced our route taking a left turn about a kilometre past the “Plaque” to descend by a narrower track (the “short cut”) back towards the dams. After an enjoyable day’s hike of about 15km returned to camp to enjoy a couple of beers. Whilst we were hiking our sons had arrived, pitched their tents and settled in.
On the Sunday, a hearty breakfast consumed, we all set off and met up with our “day hikers” at the office, being Philip & Christine Grant and a group of friends from Boston; this increased our hiking party to 19 participants. I had intended to hike via Aasvoelkransgrot (Vultures Cliff Cave) to the end of Mount Lebanon but this is quite a long way and some of our party wanted a slightly more leisurely day (including our sons). However it was easy to comply with both requests and we made our way across the Kamloops Dam wall climbing gradually in the direction of the old look-out tower to reach our first stream and waterfall in less than an hour. After a refreshing drink (it was a lovely but hot sunny morning) we continued along the side of the hill below the look-out tower and before too long we were descending steeply to the top section of Aasvoelkransgrot. Having inspected the cave we made our way to the beautiful stream and had a nice rest and refreshments doing some paddling to cool off our feet. Refreshed we returned to the cave and then descended even more steeply to the bottom section of the cave which is close to a magnificent waterfall and pool. This lower section of the cave is a very good overnight sleeping spot and Margaret and I have celebrated at least a couple of New Year’s Eves in this lovely place. Being a bit like his dad our middle son John decided to climb up to and stand precariously behind the waterfall (I took a photograph of him whilst Margaret freaked out). We then crossed in front of the lovely pool and climbed very steeply up the other side and onwards for a couple of kilometres, (our sons and daughter-in-law Heather decided to have a leisurely time at the cave, pool and stream before making their way back to camp by a shorter route) our main group numbers dropping from 19 to 15. After reaching the ridge Warwick & Brenda and Graham & Jean, as previously arranged made their way back to camp, first via the escarpment. Our main group was now down to 11 and the rest of us continued towards Mount Lebanon, however after more climbing and getting within site of the beacon, ominous thunder and lightning started. As we were on a high plateau we thought it wise to start our descent. We managed to have lunch by a stream but on our return to camp we got caught out in a gigantic thunderstorm with torrential rain and hail. We were in it for over an hour and a half so we were like drowned rats by the time we reached camp.
I have rambled on a bit regarding the first two hikes so will merely outline the routes for our later hikes. On the Monday Warwick and Brenda, Graham and Jean, Dave and our sons decided to strike camp in the morning (to avoid the usual afternoon thunderstorms) and have a shorter hike. Margaret and I met up with our day hikers (Aris and Victor) and we had a very rewarding circular hike via Fulton‘s Rock (with it’s marvellous Bushmen’s paintings) to Caracal Cave (a great lunch spot) and then back to camp via the usual route to the cave.
Margaret and I had the campsite virtually to ourselves for the next 3 nights. We continued hiking each day including another trip to Ka-Dedakushe Falls but this time included a slightly tortuous downhill route to find and enter the secret cave far below and behind the falls.
Another day we did get right to the beacon on Mount Lebanon but got caught in yet another thunderstorm on the way back. We enjoyed our six days so much that we have already reserved our favourite campsite at Highmoor for 4 nights at Easter.