I hope you have all enjoyed your supper and are now adequately fortified to cope with the business on hand.
Welcome to the 11th AGM. The Midlands Hiking Club is becoming quite well known now, and we have frequent enquiries from people wanting to join. At the end of July 2004 we had 133 paid up members. Our youngest member, Heidi Gevers, is 11. She distinguished herself by doing a write up for the newsletter on a day hike at Mboyti in April. Our oldest member is Jack Long, who at 84 is still able to keep pace with most of us. Aris Hofland, who celebrated his 80th birthday in June, demonstrated his fitness and agility during a day hike at Highmoor last weekend. It is encouraging for us all to realise just how many more kilometers of hiking we still have in us, as long as we maintain a high level of fitness through regular hiking.
In between the oldest and the youngest members are all the rest of us – a motley bunch, most of whom intend to do many more hikes than we actually get around to doing. The day hikes are probably the most well attended hikes, followed by cottage weekends and camping weekends. Cave and ‘berg hikes are still poorly attended, and usually it is the same hard-core group that benefits from these magical outings. Many of these hikes are led by Dave Sclanders, and are enhanced by his contagious enthusiasm for the outdoors, his understated knowledge of all aspects of the Drakensberg, and his patience and concern for the hikers in his care.
Five of our leaders are accredited Rock Art Custodians for the Drakensberg.. They are Dave Sclanders, Warwick Keating, Selven Nyker, Graham Cullinan, and Keith Ashton. It is illegal to visit any Rock Art site without a custodian, so we are fortunate to be able to call on their knowledge in this area. Dave Sclanders and Keith Ashton are still members of KZN Wildlife Hiking and Mountaineering Liaison Committee.
MHC members have been very active on the Whale Trail, three different groups enjoying this unique trail over the past 12 months. Perhaps we should try to book more of these formal trails for club participation.
To all our leaders, thank you for volunteering your time and effort in order to provide entertaining outings for our members. Thank you for willingly accepting the responsibility for the hikers in your care. Thank you also for all the added extras you provide for the benefit of club members, which make hiking and camping comfortable and fun.
Our Christmas Party held at the Keating’s lovely home was once again a very festive occasion, enjoyed by all. Thanks Warwick and Brenda for your care and hard work.
We have also been very fortunate this year in being able to experience vicariously other wonderful hikes through cleverly put together slide shows. Brian Henwood showed us the inside story of his Whale Trail. Backpackers very kindly allowed us to borrow the CD of their 2003 Grand Travers, which was led by Jenny Owen. Brian set the slide show up on his equipment and produced a wonderfully entertaining show. We are hoping to use a social evening soon to invite someone to teach MHC digital camera owners how to create their own slide shows with subtitles etc and set them to music, so we will be able to watch more of these shows. Thanks Brian for allowing us the use of your equipment.
The Back Packers Leadership Course was held over 3 days at Shongweni, and provided insight into hiking safety, navigation, bush craft etc. Several of our members attended this year and found the course to be enjoyable and useful. It will be repeated next year.
In spite of the major changes in Rod Hart’s life he has maintained if not elevated the high standard of the MHC web site, keeping it well up to date with entertaining photographs, and including interesting links as well. This site is well worth a visit.
Every couple of months Noël Harper has conscientiously, with no fuss (and the absolute minimum of much deserved nagging) put together and distributed an interesting and varied newsletter. For many of our members this is the only form of communication with the club, and is a vital integrating factor. Many thanks Noël!
Quite unexpectedly but very wonderfully events in my personal life this year seem to have overtaken me and forced a redistribution of my time. I have not been as active a member or as involved a chairman as I would like to have been, and for this I apologize. My very grateful thanks go to my committee, for their understanding and willingness to fill the gaps: Vice-Chairman Dave Sclanders, Secretary Merle Brett, Treasurer Pat Kirby, PRO Margaret Ashton, Activities Selvyn Nyker, Editor Noël Harper, Web Site Rod Hart, Member Warwick Keating. I would also like to thank Keith Ashton for his unfailing support and enthusiasm for everything pertaining to the Midlands Hiking Club.
Please do not hesitate to volunteer your services as a committee member. The work that needs to be done is not arduous, and there are always many others to help, advise or step in if needed. Only one person is required to take responsibility for each portfolio, and with 133 members to choose from we should have many more volunteers than we can use.
Finally to all the members who have enjoyed hikes over the year, Thank You! This, after all, is the sole purpose for the existence of the Midlands Hiking Club, and the more members who hike the better we have done.
It was good to see such an excellent turn-out for the AGM. Members crowded into the venue provided by the Hilton Hotel and were treated to a tasty Finger Supper followed by the business of the evening. The Chairman read her report, as above, and our Treasurer advised that the Club was solvent. Members were however urged to be more pro-active regarding attend-ance at various Day Hikes, Caving/Camping week-ends and Trails. It is essential both from a financial point of view and organizational aspect that your Committee/Leaders are advised timeously of attendance, payment made, if required, and are made aware of what members actually expect of their Hiking Club.
The following members were elected to serve on the Committee for the year 2004/5 : Chairman – Dave Sclanders; Vice Chairman – Brian Henwood; Secretary – Keith Ashton; Treasurer – Ossie Deysel; PRO - Margaret Ashton; Activities – Irene Dickin; Newsletter –
Noël Harper; Webmaster – Rod Hart; Member – Warwick Keating.
To our retiring committee members we convey our sincere appreciation for their services during the past year: Chairman – Mary Clover; Treasurer – Pat Kirby; Secretary – Merle Brett and Activities – Selven Nyker. Thank you for your efforts on our behalf.
Welcome to Angus & Heather Anderson, Chantel Beattie, Fiona Bell, Michael Bennett,
Clive Frank, Paddy Holman, Dian Mackenzie, Molly-Anne McCord, Trish Middlebrook,
Alison Potgieter, Christina Timmermann, Teresa Whitfield and Mark Wisdom and welcome back to the fold Penny Duffield. We hope you all enjoy many happy hiking hours with us.
To Bushy Kirby we wish a speedy recovery from his leg operation and hope to soon see him once again hiking our hills.
Members are reminded that annual subscriptions at R40 single and R60 per family for the year
1 August 2004 to 31 July 2005 are now due and payable. Those of our members who have not as yet renewed their subscriptions are requested to either pay by cheque to the Treasurer,
Ossie Deysel or by direct deposit into the Club’s Bank Account at Nedbank Hilton Branch,
Account No 1519007299 with a copy of the deposit slip, including your personal details, faxed to 033 330 3763.
At a recent meeting of your committee it was agreed that we should reinstate our monthly social evenings. The next social evening therefore will be on Tuesday, 19 October at the Hilton Hotel and thereafter monthly with the exception of December when we all gather to celebrate the year end with a Christmas party on 4 December. Full details of Social Evenings on the Hiking Schedule.
CLUB CHRISTMAS PARTY
The annual Christmas Party is scheduled for Saturday, 4 December, at Mark Nellist’s farm “Chiarella” in the Karkloof area. Activities will commence at approximately 11:00 and members are requested to bring a picnic lunch, a small gift and, if they have one, a gazebo for shelter from the sun and hopefully not the rain. Full details of this event will be published in the November Newsletter. In the meantime note the date in your diaries.
This month we feature a campsite close to home, Hermits Wood situated at Garden Castle. It is sited on a grassed bank next to the wood in the Mlambonja River Valley and provides a superb view of Garden Castle peak to the south and Rhino Peak on the Northern escarpment. There are ten sites, some of which have concrete slabs suitable for caravans, stainless steel braai areas at each site and benches on which to sit out and admire the view. A small ablution block with hot and cold water, toilets, showers and wash-hand basins as well as washing up facilities for dishes, etc. is located at a convenient mid-point to the campsites. Gas stoves for cooking and lighting need to be included in your equipment as there is no electricity. A small shop which carries basic essentials is at the Reserve Office.
29/30 May 2004
A party of Warwick (leader), Brenda, Campbell, Lorraine, Merle, Clive, Keith and Margaret met at the campsite at Weenen for a social gathering with little emphasis on hiking. After setting up camp part of the group took a walk to the dam and enjoyed viewing the bird life.
Lunch over at the campsite the group boarded vehicles to view the game on the way to the start of the Beacon walk. Vehicles parked we headed for the 45 minute hike to the beacon and enjoyed the spectacular vista over the Bushmans River and Weenen town. On the return enjoyed a glorious sun set over the berg.
The evening camp-fire was interrupted by a cold wind sending the party to the comfort of their sleeping bags.
Morning dawned bright and beautiful with a magnificent bushveld sunrise. After breakfast it was decided to explore a new road along the old narrow gauge railway line between Weenen and Estcourt.
Apart from the fresh evening wind, we enjoyed glorious weather, moderate viewing of game and hospitable camping, a most enjoyable week-end.
6 June 2004
Three members – Leader Graham Cullinan, Morris & Noël Harper plus two visitors Lorraine Welch and Ivan Frommurze met at 09:00 outside Game at the La Lucia Mall for a walk up the coast. It was a slightly overcast day, warm, with a gentle breeze just enough to keep the walkers cool as they wandered through the bush and onto the beach before heading north in the direction of Umhlanga Rocks. Those brave enough lost the shoes and paddled along in the surf.
Near Umhlanga we moved off the beach, along the paved walkway which meanders through indigenous gardens past holiday flats and hotels until we found a patch of lawn near the lighthouse on which to sit for a tea-break. One or two considered taking a dip in the ocean but the board said “Rough seas” - a good excuse to give that one a miss.
On up the walkway for a distance before descending to the sands once more to continue north past the Lagoon – no nudists in sight – following the white foam line for another couple of kilometers to a patch of rock pools where we once more took a break and watched children frolicking and family pets splashing around in the many pools. There were any number of fisherman who did not seem as much concerned with actually catching fish as they were with enjoying the warming sunshine.
On the return much excitement for Ivan who spotted a Kourie shell washed up in the waves, small but completely undamaged. Back along the beach, past the men’s “Nudist Beach” this time populated by a few brave souls who watched our progress with some interest or maybe it was trepidation, before we headed up into the shade of the indigenous coastal bush. The sounds of the birds and the river were all around us occasionally interrupted by the sound of a passing motorist higher up the hill.
Through the bush to some benches where lunch was unpacked and the inner man replenished ready for the walk back.
The route continued along the paved walkway, on up a road into the village where the intrepid hikers managed to locate a soft serve shop –Graham had been hankering after some the whole day. Having satisfied Graham’s sweet tooth craving we headed back down to the walkway for a spell before returning to the sands and surf going south to La Lucia.
A lovely walk thoroughly enjoyed by the five of us. Those of our members who for one reason or another were unable to join us really missed out. Thank you Graham for a fantastic day.
Friday 11th June
Everyone arrived at Mary's cottage just before dusk. Joan and Andrew Templeton, together with Casper Labushagne, who they lifted from Dragon Peaks, where he was able to leave his vehicle under cover at a minimal charge of R10 per night, Graham Cullinan and Grethe Simkiss who also cadged a lift with Mary.
As we neared the cottage, the filtering rays of sunset over the Cathkin Mountain range were breathtakingly beautiful. Mary's cottage is very comfortable and can sleep up to 20. A most welcoming fire was made by Andrew whilst we busied ourselves lighting candles and setting about getting our respective suppers.
The following morning we were woken to a most amazing red sunrise just peeping over the horizon, and in no time at all it was quite blinding, indicating a promise of good weather. Thandi made a huge pot of mealie meal, just in time for Brian Henwood, who joined us for breakfast, having left Pmburg at 05.45. At 10:00 we set off for our hike - leaving our cars in the capable hands of "Karel" and "Sarel" our newly appointed cars guards a.k.a. Casper and Andrew who elected to breathe in the mountain air and get down to some serious reading. Venturing out via the Steilberg route and crossing the Makulumane stream our party proceeded along the contour, when who did we come across?, none other than Johan Marais - no "water blommetjies" though! and a friend of his from Zimbabwe. They were staying at Dragon Peaks and were on their way down from the top - just goes to show what a small world we live in - only people hiking in the Berg? - Midlands Hiking Group (Who else!!). Having detoured to avoid a fallen landslide, and bundu bashing up a steep incline, (not for the faint hearted) literally, hands and knees stuff! we reached the top where we were afforded the most magnificent views of the Cathkin Valley, the Drakensberg Sun, and Bell Park Dam. We carried along the top passing the beacon and decided to stop for lunch where we were rewarded with the most majestic views of The Bell, Cathedral Peak and espied Ntunja. Brian rustled up some most welcome tea - and even shared his "Dirkie" with all of us!.
After this little break, we decided to start our descent which led us through a wonderful indigenous forest where we saw the most "humungous" cabbage and assegai tree (cryptocaria)and noddy florawoodringtonia (indigenous cyprus)(some of us even came back intelligent!) and beautiful cycads, ferns etc. though disturbing to note was the debarking for "medicinal purposes" that is being done. A little off the path and back tracking up again is a lovely cave, which we have elected to name "CLover Cave" where one could experience a magnificent sunrise and lovely views!
Eventually we were on a solid path again and with the help of modern technology were able to assess that the Rugby Match between Ireland and S.A. was 11 all! This being 5 mins to half time! Fuelled by this knowledge Mary and B.B.C.(a.k.a. Bundu Bashing Cullinan) hot footed it back to the cottage so as to be in time for the second half of the game! only to find one of our car guards (no names mentioned - sporting an Ireland Peak!( He insists it wasn't intentional! - but his favourite peak! ) listening to the commentary via portable radio!) Lucky for him S.A. won.!! After our supper Mary taught us a new card game - think it was called Tricks/Trumps - sometimes you just can't teach an "Old Dog" "New Tricks"!!
Awoke to another glorious sunrise, had our "brekkie" and set off for Sterkspruit Falls at 10:00 as we wanted to be back at the cottage for lunch with an expected departure at about 14:30. Mary's ridgeback "Chinta" the most well behaved canine ever, couldn't believe his luck, he was being allowed to join us! We passed a plot where an unfortunate owner once had a home, and which is no more - having been razed to the ground by lightning!. A very real threat if you have a thatch roof.
After another clambering descent (short-cut?) through this lovely forest we followed the path to the top of the Sterkspruit Falls. A very narrow path veering to the right, affords one a different view from another angle. Quite a majestic sight! Crossing the top of the falls, Mary tried out the "waterproofness" of her new boots, and seemed to be pleased with the result! We sat down to enjoy a water break and "sip" from the mountain stream and "chew the cud" - Graham couldn't resist the chance to do some horizontal P.T. (such a laid back bunch I thought) and couldn't resist but to sing this little ditty which has now been slightly changed, depending on the geographical layout one finds oneself. It goes like this "Way up the river, where nobody goes - is a big black momma washing her clothes!! With a rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there, that's the way she washes her clothes!
We all drank deep and filled ourselves.
I have said this before, and I say it again, Some of us are very blessed to be "able bodied" to be "able" to enjoy these simple pleasures.
Mary thank you for your heart warming hospitality and thoughtfulness. For affording us the opportunity to share your delightful cottage and to experience and enjoy the beautiful Cathkin Valley, we all had a wonderful weekend. Thank you.
9 – 11 July 2004
It was the thought of exploring the little-known Ongoye forest that prompted me to join the group that booked in for the weekend at the Shangri-La Holiday Resort.
This neat little resort, located at the mouth of the tranquil Umlalazi lagoon just north of Mtunzini and close to the small village of Port Durnford, offers three types of accommodation. They have a couple of cottages, ten fully-equipped tents each with six beds, and about 20 campsites. Our group of nine chose to take along tents and we set up camp on three adjoining grassy sites tucked away behind the sand dunes and beneath the canopy of the indigenous coastal forest.
It is a mere 20 minute drive from Shangri-La to the base of the Ongoye mountains, then it is a fairly steep ascent along a narrow track to the edge of the Ongoye forest. Unfortunately this access road is in poor condition and really only suitable for 4X4 vehicles. The route is also not well sign-posted so don’t try it without a good set of directions.
Ever since it was proclaimed many years ago the Ongoye forest reserve has been managed as a conservation area, first by the erstwhile KwaZulu Government and now by KZN Wildlife. It is located a mere 15 km north of Mtunzini and is surrounded by a large tract of state-owned land occupied by scattered rural communities. Though KZN Wildlife charges an entry fee of R10 per person, there are virtually no facilities whatsoever.
The 3 000 ha forest that blankets the Ongoye mountains some 1400 m above sea level is interspersed with massive granite outcrops and grassland. The tracks across the open grasslands and through the forest lead to various vantage points from where you can park and walk. The best option is to walk along the track through the pristine indigenous forest and look out for the rare bird species. You cannot get lost as there is only one track through the forest. We have subsequently learnt that if you follow a cattle path through the grasslands you are very likely to pick up a few pepper ticks. Nevertheless the elevation of the forest reserve provides scenic views to the coast and inland for as far as the eye can see.
The weather on Saturday was perfect for hiking but surprisingly we were woken in the early hours of Sunday by rain. The wind came up and with intermittent rain it was only possible to take a short walk along the beach on Sunday morning.
This venue and the hike through the Ongoye forest makes for a good weekend getaway and we will certainly return to do it again!
26/27 July 2004
A party of ten – Keith, Margaret, Merle, Clive, Campbell, Lorraine, Graham, Grethe, Warwick and Brenda drifted into the campsite from 08:00 to 13:30. Having set up camp the early birds took a 2 hour hike along the western side of the valley, returning in time for lunch to meet the Cullinans and Ashtons. The afternoon hike of 2˝ hours was to the base of the main waterfall.
Sunday morning was again a beautiful veld sunrise, and after a rather leisurely breakfast the party hiked to the eastern edge of the krantz above the valley of 1000 hills were lunch was taken. The return was via a shorter route through the canefields. This hike is about 14 km in length, and we arrived back at the campsite mid-afternoon, in time to decamp before a change in the weather. Beautiful weather, a very comfortable campsite, and beautiful views.
A Committee/Leaders meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 2 November, at the Hilton Hotel. Members please note that in future notice of these meetings will be included in the Fixture List.
PRE-HIKE / TRAIL PROTOCOL
As always a gentle reminder in order to assist our hiking club leaders, please adhere to the following procedure when intending to join hikes.
Moderate – physical fitness
Day Hikes – Please try to inform the relevant leader a week, or at least a few days before the hike of your intention to participate.
Weekend Camping/hiking or over-nighting in Caves – Please try to inform the relevant leader 2 to 3 weeks before departure date of your intention to participation.
Moderate to severe – physical
Severe – physical fitness essential
Long Week-end Trips & Longer Trails – Please contact the relevant leader as soon as possible after publication of the hike in the
Newsletter Hiking Calendar. The above is to assist the leaders in making or confirming the necessary arrangements, some of which have to be made and paid for by the Club a long time in advance. The leaders have to put a lot of effort into hiking arrangements.