MIDLANDS HIKING CLUB

 

 

FROM THE CHAIR

 

WELCOME TO 2005

From your Club Committee and Leaders, we hope that you had a good Xmas and New Year and that the year 2005 will bring happiness, fulfillment, and lots of enjoyable hiking with many new friendships made.

CLUB XMAS PARTY OF 2004

First of all a very big thank you to Mark and Mary for hosting and organising the very wonderful Club Christmas gathering enjoyed by the party goers at the farm.  Also our thanks to those who got involved with the day.   The Xmas present organisers who sorted tickets for the presents, the braai lighters, tea and cake providers, food providers, table and chair bringers, gazebo attendants,  "fuffi" slide, life guards, whistle blowers,  judges, war-cry teams, and everybody who came and enjoyed the day.   Well that just about sums up the day.

For those who couldn’t make the day, have a consolation drink, you missed one of the finest days of the year.  The setting at Mark’s farm was incredible. The house high up on the bank, looking down on the dam.   Plenty of shady trees to sit under, and a wonderful crowd.   Mary, sorted teams, organised tasks, and allocated jobs to everyone.   Each team had to produce, and VENT their war-cry - (some of us cried), some of us produced incredibly rousing war cries in a short space of time and executed them wonderfully - all during the pre-race braai time, and then - all competitors and event managers (everybody was involved) were shepherded to the dam for the afternoon of tube races.  Some were very dashing in their tubes and gave of their utmost to race across the dam.   Lunch and beer probably had an effect on some, however all managed well as the senior life guard and his boat were not called up to rescue, or give mouth-to-mouth to anyone. 

As in every race some gave more than they expected, Bushy twisted his knee badly while doing the -"sideways quick kick-crawl", and had to be helped out of the water, and Warwick injured his arm badly whilst in a frenzy of catching up to his opposition and switched his style the "crawl" to the more powerful "over-the-shoulder-roundhouse swing".  

Then there was the "Fufi slide" for the more adventurous.   A long steel rope from high up in the garden, across the lawn, over the bank, and lifting of legs to miss the fence at the bottom of the garden, then across the water for as far as you wanted to slide.   The longer you "slided", the longer was your swim back.   One who shall remain nameless, did not feel like the long swim home, so decided to do the "long drop" from high up on the wire, landed badly at high speed in the water and suffered from badly damaged ribs for a number of weeks. (so in view of these 3 KNOWN SERIOUS mishaps  - the 2005 Xmas party will be organised at the local Tiddley Winks hall - so please start now and get your knees, backs, fingers and thumbs strengthened up for the party)

After the swim, Father Xmas and his lovely assistant arrived, and the present "giving and swapping" went ahead with much mirth and chasing of a few selected gifts and cherished presents.  The honour for the most chased present went to the - candle-stick, with a bottle of Rose wine coming a close second.   Thanks to Graham and Jean for doing the Father Xmas family honours.

After all the excitement, and energy sapping racing and frenzied Xmas gift opening and exchanging, a format of decorum was established with tea, many cakes and a few drinks being consumed in the shady garden as the sun set on a wonderful day. 

Thanks to everyone who came, participated and enjoyed.   Special thanks to Mark, Mary and family for organising, hosting, and putting up with us all.

 

CLUB NEWS

 

WEDDING BELLS

MARK and MARY were married on 27 December.

From everyone at the club, we wish you lots of happiness, companionship, and many happy years ahead.   We hope that with busy married life you will find the time now and again to spend a quiet week-end away from the rush of the farm - so come and join us on a week-end hike.

 

 

WELCOME

We welcome the following new members to the Club and hope they enjoy many happy hiking hours in our company – Elin Carbutt, Fritz, Naomi & Cordula Klingenberg, Sue Lehmkuhl and Gay Ann Tilbury.

We look forward to your continued support of the club, at the functions, and on the hiking days and week-ends.   The two slide evenings - or should I say - digital slide presentations set for early this year are a must - see our Amatola Trail, and our Mini Traverse - fantastic photos of fantastic people - doing fantastic things.

Remember, it is your club, your energies are vital to the success of your club.

May 2005 be a good year for all of us. 

Dave 

 

ADVANCE NOTICE – NEW YEAR’S EVE 2005/6

Recently we had a highly successful and enjoyable long weekend at Vergezient Mountain Retreat.   Hettie Randall did an excellent write-up about the venue and associated hikes, views and activities which was included in our November 2004 newsletter.   Keith Ashton has also circulated much information about the venue by e-mail to those members with this facility.

It has been suggested that we celebrate the next New Year’s Eve at this great venue in conjunction with Margaretha Kirsten of Durban Ramblers in order to ensure about 30 participants and have the venue to ourselves (30 Dec 2005 to 1 Jan 2006).   Would members please inform Keith Ashton ASAP if interested as we would need to confirm a booking soon - the venue is extremely popular for New Year celebrations - cost is expected to be about R80 pppn.

 

2004 GRAND TRAVERSE CD

There are still a few copies of the CD on the “2004 Grand Traverse” at R50 each and the Paul Hone CD  “ uKhahlamba I Hear your Drums” at R100.  Members wishing to purchase a copy of either of these CD’s are asked to place their orders together with payment with either Dave Sclanders or Keith Ashton at the Social Evening on, Tuesday, 15 February.

 

COMMITTEE/LEADERS MEETING

The next meeting of the Committee/Leaders is scheduled for Tuesday, 8 March, at 19h00 at the Hilton Hotel.   Apologies prior to the meeting to Keith if you are unable to attend.

 

 

HIKING NEWS          

 

A few lucky members of the club spent the old year's eve back at Aasvoelskraanz cave, as in previous years.   As they did last year, the cave dwellers went for a afternoon hike to Mt Lebanon, as did last year, the mist rolled in thick and fast, however, this year the hikers just managed to get home in time, so were able to partake of the goodies carried all the way from the cars for the evening.   The cave was ablaze with 101 candles, food was good, much wine was consumed - and unfortunately we all went to bed, and woke up in time for New Years breakfast at 07h00. Well, "a good lie-in" is also a good way to see the New Year in.

 

HOWICK MEANDER

14 November 2004

 

A party of ten, Keith (Leader), Margaret, Morris, Noël, Irene, Teresa, Peter, Mike, Annette and Aris met at the Ashton, 27 Riley Crescent, Howick at 08:30 and set off in high spirits loaded with cooldrinks, flasks of coffee, snacks and sandwiches in our backpacks.

 

Soon we were on the Curry’s Post road heading for Beacon Hill, the highest point in the Howick area.   With some effort we climbed the bank on the left of the road and on to the grassland to what is aptly called Beacon Hill.   We, the locals, as well as the non-locals admired the vista

-              Midmar Dam and the eleven overflow gates recently raised by 3,5 metres,

-              the town of Howick, lower down on our left, interspersed with the blues of the blooming jacaranda trees,

-              the motorway and railway line meandering through the heart of the Natal Midlands.

and around us the ecologically sensitive nature reserve, an example of a typical Natal mistbelt type of grassland.

 

We continued on our route to the uMngeni (Umgeni) River, walking through tree-lined avenues (Plane Crescent).   While following the winding river trail, we paused a number of times for our knowledgeable leader to explain how in 1987 this part was destroyed when the swollen river flooded the riverbanks and ruined the wetland on our left.

 

He then found a quiet spot to rest in the lush grass for a mid-morning break – having refreshment and chatting about the good things in life.

 

We passed Mills Falls – a mini waterfall.   “Mills House, is up there and a mill was in operation in years gone by”, said our leader.   On to the streets and into the business district of Howick, Harvard Street, where during the week the street vendors sell anything from watches to pinky underwear and lipstick at very competitive prices.

 

We viewed the 95 metre high Falls from the platform, paid our fees and via a zigzag path descended to the bottom.   Our leader called for a lunchbreak at a spot where the splashing falls water would have surrounded us after a lengthy rainfall and from where we could watch an abseiler ascending back up the rocky cliff face.   No wonder the Howick people are proud of their waterfall and its splendour.

 

An hour later we expressed our satisfaction to Keith for guiding us along the many surprises of the Howick Meander, while enjoying refreshments, cakes and cookies, abundantly provided by Margaret on the verandah of their home.

 

Thank you Keith, Margaret and all my fellow hikers for the camaraderie on this lovely day.

Aris Hofland


GXALINGENWA CAVE WEEK-END

20/21 November 2004

 

Alison, Chantel, Elmarie, Irene, Keith & Margaret, Max, Teresa, Trish and two German visitors, Jonas and Annediase Wentrup, lead by Dave Sclanders left Cobham on Saturday morning to climb up to Gxalingenwa Cave.   A second group, headed by Brian Henwood, remained at the campsite planning to do day hikes over the two days.

 

The weather was extremely hot when we set out but by early afternoon clouds and light rain had set in, a relief from the burning sun.   The pace was slow and we were able to enjoy the brilliant views.   We crossed Emerald Stream and then our lunch stop was at Pinnacle Rock, an amazing rock that has broken off and stands on its own pointing upward.   Nearby are beautiful rock paintings.   This area is believed to have been a spiritual site for the Bushmen and we were all aware of a sense that this has been a special area for South Africans who have come before us – probably an area enjoyed and revered by many different cultures over many centuries.

 

We reached the cave at about 13h00.   The cave is large and well sheltered with a full waterfall and running stream right there.   The noise of the waterfall provided a restful backdrop throughout the night.   Some of the ladies ‘bonded’ by bathing in a beautiful pool below the waterfall – Reubens would have found well-rounded models for his paintings!!

 

Later in the afternoon and evening we experienced heavy rain and a thunderstorm.  Sitting snug in the cave, we could not see out, and when on several occasions there was a huge colt of lightening nearby, the loud crash of thunder so close outside was an experience to go through.   Once the storm had subsided, we went out of the cave to enjoy sundowners and snacks on a nearby rock, all snuggled together on the rock like daisies.

 

The evening was spent chatting, eating and drinking, and then by 20h00 we were all in our sleeping bags.   We were up the following morning early and set off at about 08h00.  The grass was wet from the storm, with more rain threatening.   The walk back on Sunday was unhurried and we stopped on the way at a high vantage point to enjoy the views of the beautiful valley below.   We watched a troop of baboons spread out below, looking for a mid-morning snack.   The path took us to Ingenwa pool, where enjoyed a chilly swim in the river.   Here we met with some of the group who had walked from the campsite.    They had also experienced a heavy rain on the Saturday evening.     The weather was cool and by midday a steady rain had set in.   We followed the Giant’s Cup Trail back to Cobham.   The march back to the cars was done at a steady pace in the rain.   No lunch break, no sight seeing, just a short cut to get back quickly.   We arrived back at the campsite, wet, tired but very happy.   Some of us finished off the week-end with drinks and chips at the Himeville Arms.   Alison Gunning’s friends from Germany had joined us on the cave hike which was a great opportunity for them to experience the Drakensberg – Ukhuhlambe.

 

All-in-all, this is a highly recommended hike, and thanks to Dave and Brian for their leadership.

Trish Middlebrook

 

AASVOELKRANS CAVE HIGHMOOR

31 December 2004 – 2 January 2005

 

Keith, Margaret, Miles, Tony, Trish, Teresa, Jenny, Hettie, meeting up with Dave and two Swiss visitors, Oliver and Andreo.

Friday 31st: The approach to Highmoor is breathtaking, the age-old mountains wrap their arms around our souls, and we feel content.    There are always preparations for any hike, they are not to be taken lightly, and one always has to be prepared for the unexpected.    I think that the more experienced one becomes, then the more cautious and forward thinking it makes you.

Looking like a mule pack we set off, led by Keith, groaning under the weight of our backpacks.   It was our own fault, we knew that it was only a couple of hours to the cave, so we had all brought a couple of extras for a New Years celebration.   It was a pleasant and easy hike, passing the Kamloops Dam, and to the south of the old look-out tower (now demolished).   Aasvoels is a double storey cave with a waterfall nearby, gushing into a pool, which is ideal for swimming and replenishing water supplies.   After lunch we set off for Mount Lebanon which certainly loosened up our legs and got our hearts beating – a good warm up for the big walk the next day.   The hills were filled with wild flowers, and we often stopped to appreciate their delicate beauty. Back to the cave where the ladies treated themselves to a private swim in the river above.   The heavens opened to give water and life to the animals, plants and insects that had chosen to live their lives in this mountain paradise, so we sat in the river in the rain – how invigorated we felt, it cleansed our souls, as we sat in that cold water, surrounded by a wallpaper of nature.  We became part of the quiet setting, and were happy.   Dave and his Swiss couple had arrived so we busied ourselves with cave duties – dotting candles in the niches in the walls, preparing sleeping spots for the night and generally not much else, except for enjoying the moment.  We were treated to a double rainbow over the outlook from the entrance to the cave, and felt that we had been given a special gift.   As it got dark, we lit our

candles and the drabness of the cave was illuminated, and looked like an elves grotto, it was magical and a perfect setting to celebrate a new year coming.   We all huddled together, and shared drinks and stories and experiences.  I thought to myself, if only the world could be as simple and peaceful as we were that evening.   What a beautiful place it would be.

Hiking and sleeping in caves brings you back to basics, and you realize how little you really need to make you happy – it is what comes from within and what you give to each other from your heart that is important – not material wealth.

New Years day 1st Jan 2005 :  Next morning we set out for a 15 km circular walk, past Shasta Dam, descending steeply to Fulton’s Rock, where we saw some magnificent Bushman paintings, which included some elephants.  We then climbed gradually up to Caracal Cave.   ‘Keep on the track’ Keith kept saying – the only track being - following in his footsteps as he made his way through the long grass.   After lunch in the cave we had a gradual climb southwards to the ridge, then eastwards to the old look-out tower, and back home to Aasvoels.   It was a good day.

Sunday 2nd January:  We were greeted with an early morning mist, but ever optimistic, we slowly did what we needed to do, have breakfast, wash, tidy up our belongings etc, and by the time our boots were on and sticks in hand, the mist had risen and a ray of sunshine shone down in the valley.   Keith took us to some lesser known caves with lovely Bushman paintings which included an unusual one of a buck drawn face-on, head bent grazing, and another one of a cat with body outstretched, as if leaping for its prey.

It was time to pack up and make our way back to civilization.  Time stands still when you are in the mountains, and I think there is always a feeling of regret when we have to leave.  The exciting part is, that we know we will be back.

Thank you Keith and Margaret and everybody who gave of themselves to make this a perfect entrance to 2005.

Jenny Sleed

 

INJASUTI – WONDER VALLEY CAVE WEEKEND

8-9 January 2005

 

As Margaret and I had enjoyed celebrating New Year in Aasvoelkrans Cave this was already our second cave outing so early in 2005.

Our backpacking group this weekend consisted of Graham Cullinan (Leader), Margaret Ashton, Margaretha Kirsten (guest visitor) and I – not very impressive numbers (3 members plus 1 visitor) for a club with approximately 130 members and not very encouraging for our leaders.   However maybe it was just too early in the New Year to want to blow away the cobwebs.

Graham had intended leading this hike to Marble Baths Cave but someone had booked it first so he reserved the great alternative of Wonder Valley Cave.

The four of us set off from our house early on Saturday morning and arrived at Injasuti office just after 08h00.   After completing the details in the mountain register (always very important) and having a quick drink (Graham having his compulsory number of muffins) we were soon heading for Van Heyningen’s Pass.   As an older more direct track to the foot of the pass has been closed for some time, the newer route adds about 2 km in distance but is a more gradual climb (westwards initially towards an old forest guard’s hut and then eastwards).  The old track can be clearly seen on the approach to the foot of the pass (a concrete sign in the grass says “Path Closed” – this probably being to prevent erosion).

We were lucky that it was an ideal overcast day for ascending the steep zigzags up Van Heyningen’s Pass, but this is a lovely climb through indigenous forest besides a cascading stream that has to be crossed twice, carefully in summer, due to greater water flows.    As we reached the top of the pass we could see mist floating about on the higher levels, but we dropped our backpacks and detoured to the end of the out-crop passing many glorious proteas which were in various stages of bloom. Although it was misty above us we had magnificent views down into the Injasuti valley, the fast flowing river and the cottages could be clearly seen far below.

Continuing on our way to the cave with some slight mist we passed waterfalls and many lovely flowers.  Just had to take photos of a particularly brilliant red Brunsvigia natalensis.   I call them candelabra plants.

Arriving at the cave we decided first to fill our three 5-litre water bags (leaving Margaret to settle in and guard our stuff) from near the beautiful pool a few hundred metres away  and below us.   This proved to be a very wise move due to what was to come later.

After some snacks and setting out our gear we went on an exploration of the valley and waterfall below but had to cut this short due to rain and a threatening thunderstorm.   We arrived safely back at the cave only slightly wet, but the heavens then opened and we had a fantastic thunderstorm with torrential rain.   We were treated to an electric storm far more dramatic than any man made laser display, the cave and floor vibrated from the violent thunder claps;  our only concern being about the stability of the cave roof.   However the storm eventually passed leaving an unbelievable display of waterfalls rarely seen.   The mist higher up cleared providing us with a beautiful but eerie view of Sterkhorn, Cathkin Peak, Monk’s Cowl and Champagne Castle.

The mist and drizzle closed in again and the light faded, but pre-dinner drinks were next followed by tasty suppers and after dinner drinks in our very cosy cave before we settled down very comfortably at 20h00 ready for a good nights sleep.

We awoke early on Sunday morning to thick mist and rain so we had a long leisurely breakfast followed by discussions and reminiscing about many of our experiences over several cuppas.

We eventually packed up, donned our gear and were on our way in pouring rain and mist at about 11h30.

Luckily our small group were very experienced as the conditions descending Van Heyningen’s Pass in pouring rain, steep slippery slopes, ankle deep in fast flowing water, not to mention the difficult stream (now roaring and much higher) crossings and landslides may have put others off hiking for life.   However we were all in good spirits arriving safely back at camp having really enjoyed the experiences.

Thanks Graham for a great weekend and excellent leadership and thanks to all for such good company.

Keith Ashton  

 

CAMP SITES VISITED ALONG THE WAY

 

While down the south coast we decided to visit the site of the old Pont which in days gone by used to haul buses, cars and people across the Umtamvuna River in order to access the Eastern Cape/Transkei.   The slipways are still clearly visible but with the advent of the bridge the pont itself has long since ceased to grace the river.

Set on the banks is the Old Pont Caravan, Camping and Watersport Resort which boasts some 2km of river frontage, and 4km of river for power boating, jet skiing, water skiing, board sailing and canoeing.   There are 160 camping and caravanning sites, most of which have 15 amp electricity, as well as six large ablution blocks, children’s games room, swimming pool, communal braai areas, picnic site and small cafe.   Limited basic on-site accommodation consisting of caravan, rondaval or parkhome is available on request.   For our members there are four well marked hiking trails of various grades through the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve said to be the breeding ground of the Cape Vulture and Fish Eagle.

On our wander around it all appeared to be well maintained with on-site 24-hour security patrols.

For further information contact telephone: 039 311 2211 / 2034;  Fax: 039  311 2033; e-mail: pont@intekom.co.za and their website is ww.godownsouth.co.za/oldpont.htm