MIDLANDS HIKING CLUB

 

FROM THE CHAIR

 

The Heat of Summer has gone, and so is a 6th of the year.   As a big road sign in the Howick area once pointed out  -  “ Come on Boet – wake up you have just passed ……”   .    Well, time is running, the coolness of winter is coming, and April / May are the best time of the year to hike.   So start planning to hike with the club, before the next excuse will be “its too cold to hike”.

 

Club Fixtures    -  Where too ????

We have had one fixture cancelled due to too few takers – only one, apart from the leader.    Please remember, we would like to think that the club is of personal interest to all members, and that some planning takes place to plan your week-end hikes in advance.   That it is not a club, that when by Thursday or Friday, there is nothing better to do, then decide to go hiking.    Leaders have to plan ahead, and in some cases get permission from landowners to go onto their property.   At what stage does the leader decide to cancel the hike, and have to contact the Parks Board, or landowner to say the hike is off.    I believe, that unless the hike is booked by enough people by the Wednesday evening, the hike should be called off.   With petrol costs as they are,  for a group of 2 or 3 people to go on a hike is not worth the effort for the leader.  

Brian’s day hike to Ferncliff Nature Reserve only interested 2 other club members, and 3 visitors.

Please support your club and leaders.   There is nothing more demoralizing for leaders than to go to meetings to discuss the next program, do all the preparation, then have to cancel.

If what the leaders are planning is not what the club wants, then we need to be given ideas and guidance.   As I have said before, this is your club, give your input.   It is not a club for a few leaders only, and a handful of hikers.

 

Tarn Cave Week end

If you have an internet connection on your computer, and checked the club’s website, you would have seen the write up and the pics of the very wonderful week end that was shared by a number of club members on a hike to Tarn Cave.    The weather superb, cool overcast and warm.   Time to swim, and a great time to relax and take in incredible scenery all week-end.  The mountains were incredibly lovely, with views and colours changing all the time.   On Sunday morning, those who got up early, and went to the top of the hill above the cave were treated to a stunningly spectacular sunrise.   A most enjoyable week-end was had by all.

 

New Members

We bid welcome to the following new members and trust that they will participate and enjoy many a hike in our company:  Joan Birch, Clive Brickhill, Dale du Plooy and family, Moira Filmer, Patricia Hampshire, Tony and Nola Sharples, Ivor Widlake and welcome back to the fold, Jack Long, at 85 our oldest member.

 

The club continues to grow, we have at present 133 paid up members, and another 7 who are waiting to get papers to sign up.   That’s great, but where are you all ??????

For new members, we love to hike with you, we would love to meet with you, so if you are at a club meeting, please meet your leader, or your Club Committee.   The committee  members should have name tags to make them easy to identify.   If you need any help with anything, from how hard is the day’s walk, to what food, clothes, boots etc to bring, approach them.    Between us we have many, many, many years of experiences to share with you.

Those who have just joined, my plea to you is please, do some good sound walking at home in the evenings, being that bit fitter allows you to enjoy the outing so much more.   Remember the club evenings at the Hilton Hotel, every 3rd Tuesday of the month, so please join us and grow with us.                                                                  Dave

 

CONGRATULATIONS

 

Congratulations and happy birthday to Jack Long who celebrated his 85th birthday on 17 February.   We all look forward to having you on many more of our hikes, Jack.

 

COBHAM WEEK-END : 30 APRIL to 2 MAY

 

It has been suggested in order to attract younger people to hiking that for this camping week-end members encourage their under 30 year-old family and friends to join us in enjoying the crisp fresh air, the majesty of the Drakensberg and the great outdoors only found in the mountains.   They are sure to find it an awe-inspiring experience.

 

5-6 DAY MINI TRAVERSE

 

Many members attended the Social Evening when we viewed Keith’s beautiful photographs taken on the Mini Traverse in the Drakensberg.     Quite a few expressed interest in this hike.   Keith is at present investigating the possibility of undertaking the mini traverse in September and would appreciate being advised by members if they would like to participate in order to assess interest.    Please contact Keith either by telephone or e-mail if you would like to join in this adventure.   One definitely needs to be hiking fit, so members you still have time to get your fitness up to peak for this once in a lifetime experience. 

 

CLEOPATRA MOUNTAIN FARMHOUSE

 

A little piece of heaven situated in the Kamberg Valley backed by the mountain of that name.   The unusual lounge complete with fireplace (full of interesting objects) and the dining room are cantilevered over a trout dam.   You look across the water to the Lebanon Mountains, enjoying the peace and tranquility.

 

The rooms are spacious, individually furnished, each one beautifully thought out.   Mine followed a bird theme complete with nest, eggs and miniature bird cages.   They contain everything you need from a fly swatter, torch, umbrella to home-made biscuits.   Candles add atmosphere to the bathroom, books in the Loo, a TV, ceiling fan and mohair blankets on the bed.

 

Richard and Mouse Poynton complement each other perfectly, he the Chef Extraordinaire bursting with enthusiasm and she the interior decorator.   The pre-dinner talk that Richard gives is witty and entertaining leading on to the highlight of the day - the five course dinner plus port, beautifully presented.   Every mouthful a gourmet’s dream.   A meal to be savoured and lingered over.   I cleaned my plate every time!   Even the plates were delightfully varied in shape and size.

 

My friend and I were last to leave the dining room and have coffee.   Everyone else seemed to have retired “early”.   Only when I got to my room and jotted down a few notes did I realize that it was 23h30!

 

Breakfast was three courses, plus home-made breads, croissants, scones and muffins.   The description of the ”Breadbasket” is shear poetry.

 

Definitely not the place for Dieters     The Witness gave them five stars for every category (I would heartily endorse that).   The article ended by saying “Hold on to your wallet, but this experience is worth a once in a lifetime big spend”.

                                       Irene Morris

 

KAMBERG NATURE RESERVE

23 January 2005

 

The Fates were kind to the 28 members who, on Sunday 23 January, assembled at the entrance to the Kamberg Nature Reserve to walk to the Roman Baths and from there on up to the Bushman Paintings.   While down below us, as far as Durban, the day was one of drizzle, showers and the occasional downpour, we walked comparatively unscathed.   Certainly rumours of rain and rumblings of thunder accompanied us throughout the day, but the rumours never materialised into more than a slight drizzle and the thunder kept at a distance.

 

Leaving our cars outside the Kamberg office we transferred into 4X4 vehicles and drove to the parking area some two kilometers away.   From there we walked along barely discernible paths through damp tussocky grass to the banks of the Mooi and stopped by a pool, usually a favourite swimming spot, but today it looked rather uninviting.   The river, swollen by the recent rain, entered the pool in a series of rapids and flowed strongly out over rocks at the far end.   However, undeterred by the rough water, several of the younger members jumped in and were carried bouncing and tumbling down the rapids into the pool to be swept by the current behind a rock on the far side.   Encouraged by their obvious enjoyment, several others, young and not so young, also braved the waters, pronouncing the experience to be fun and exhilarating.

 

From the pool we continued on to Roman Baths, an undemanding and gradual climb, skirting marshy pools and avoiding rivulets of water, conscious of the rumbling thunder and the anxious barking of a few baboons as the sky darkened warningly.   I had been told about the Roman Baths, a lovely pool in the headstreams of was most attractive, the full river cascading into the dark pool about 15ft below.   What I had not been told and what filled me with distinct trepidation was, that should I wish to swim in the Baths, I was expected to jump off the rocks and hurtle down that 15ft into the pool.   Swimming lost its appeal and I sat stolidly on the rocks above watching, my fingers crossed on her behalf, as Teresa, obviously an initiate, teetered uncertainly on the edge of that dark pool to emerge to deserved applause.

 

It was going to be impossible to ford the strong flowing river at the usual crossing and continue our hike up to the Painting as planned, so while our leader pondered this dilemma we ate an early lunch sitting on the rocks above the pool.   Most unexpectedly the sky cleared and we enjoyed about 30 minutes of hesitant sunshine but just as we were finishing the sky again darkened, this time with a menace which sent us scuttling homewards.   However, after a couple of kilometers the threat of downpour passed and, with time in hand, Mary decided to show us the remains of a cottage (one of two) which had belonged to her family and where she had spent many holidays as a child before it was expropriated by the Parks Board.   Partly demolished on expropriation, it now lies a tumble of bricks, blocks and stone with here and there straggly bushes of Hypericum, escapees from a former garden, pushing their way through the rubble.

 

Back at the 4X4’s a pleasant surprise awaited us.   It was Mary’s birthday and the previous Wednesday had been Margaret’s, so we celebrated the two events with champagne and chocolates.

 

With time still in hand we paid a visit to the Trout Hatchery.   Current Brochures, available from Information Centres, describe the Hatchery as “fascinating and well worth a visit”, so it was a surprise to find that it had, in fact, been closed down.   No one seemed to know quite when or why this had happened but there was something distinctly eerie about the place, the parking and picnic areas still mown, the tanks still full of water and the paths around the perimeter of the Hatchery still maintained, but no activity, just a stillness and a silence.    Annette put forward the theory that maybe there had been a pollution problem and that the cost of installing a filter plant was not viable.   A few days ago, I read in an August 2004 copy of “Wildside” that the Cape Clawless Otters had been causing big problems in the Kamberg, slipping under the fences of the Hatchery to feed on the captive trout.   But, whatever the reason, it was sad to see what had been for many years a vibrant local activity, no longer functioning.   One could only guess at the loss of jobs incurred by the closure and the extra cost involved in the stocking of the area’s Trout Dams.

 

From the Hatchery we drove back to our cars and after thanking Mary for a very enjoyable outing prepared ourselves for a wet journey home.               Sally Browne

 

TARN CAVE and DEVIL’S KNUCKLES  

28 -29 January 2005

 

A group of nine, Dave, Keith, Rod, Amy, Allison, Teresa, Cathrine, Carollee and Rebecca left the Bushman’s Nek KZN Wildlife office on a cool overcast morning with the aim of climbing to the top of the Devil’s Knuckles.  Not far from the start, our first obstacle was a river crossing, where it was boots off, and wades through.    Heavy rains had been experienced in the area, river banks showing very high watermarks.   At the 4th river crossing, the whole bank had been washed away, and we had to find our own way to cross the very big gully in front of us.   Later the group stopped at the inviting Cedric’s Pools (or as some know it Twin Pools) for a swim before carrying on to the lunch spot.

 

Up to now we had walked on the flats, now we hit a few up-hills.   With the path winding up a very pretty river, plenty of waterfalls, lush green grass everywhere, clouds forming incredible patterns in the sky and on the mountain tops – what a sight.   After lunch at another river crossing, we started the long hard pull up the foothills of the berg.   There was a bit of a rock scramble to get up a steepish place, then onwards and upwards.   For some, like Teresa and Allison, this must have seemed like a little hill, they shot up.   For others, it took a little longer.     At the top was a very special tarn.   Growing in the water is a rare plant that is endemic to this small area of the whole world – it only grows in a few tarns – and nowhere else.   We were lucky; the plants were in full bloom as could be seen by the white dots on the water.   The name of this special plant is Aponogeton ranunculiflorus – or the Sehlabathebe Waterlilly - or Crown Jewels of Sehlabathebe.   Once in the cave, tea drunk, the ladies went to wash in the tarn, then later we explored the area above us.

 

What a beautiful area, rock pools with clear water and a mass of water life, including flowers, tadpoles, and other crawlies.   Some pools were deepish, with clear, cold water.   It is amazing to think that all this life only abounds in summer.   In the winter they dry up, everything dies or hibernates, and comes alive next spring.   Maybe we should be able to do that – get out of the way in cold and ugly times of the year.

The mountain vista was spectacular, continually changing as the mist rolled in and out.   There would be a view for as far as you could see, then misted up, then clearing.   Rays of sunshine bringing different shades of green all over the mountain.   Clouds ranged from deep black to misty gray with traces of scattered blue sky here and there.   Then to settle the matter, a bright rainbow arched across the sky.

If you are in the mountains, you must get up early to watch the sunrise, this is a very special time in the berg, you never know what you may experience.   We experienced an incredible sunrise.   With us above the clouds, and the whole area, as far as could be seen hidden under a white blanket of cloud and incredible sunrise colours bathing the sky above.   All this lasted only a few minutes before all that magic and colour was gone .

 

After a quick breakfast, a smaller party consisting of  “Galloping Allison and Teresa”, Cathrine, Keith and myself headed for the top of the Knuckles.   A 600 meter climb, some heart stopping moments as part of the climb is “not very niceand nearly 3 hours later we reached our objective, the top.   In reaching here we had climbed 1326 meters up from where we had left our cars.   For once there was no wind on the top, so after a bit of a rest, looking at the incredible 360 degree view, and for some to see how rugged the top of the mountain is, it was time to turn around and head down hill to our cave, kit and the rest of the party.   Halfway down, we looked back up to the top of the Knuckle, from where we had come, and I am sure inside each of us there was a little tingle  of – “been there - taken the challenge”.

Back to the cave, pack up and start the long trip home.   The weather started to look nasty, we could see rain all round us, and it was a bit of decision time as for each one of us as to whether to put rain gear on or not.   The down hills never seemed to end,  the flat bits carried on and on for ever, the front runners were running, and the back markers were ……….?

Thank goodness for the river crossing, take the boots off to cool the feet in the deepish cold water - for those who chose to go bare foot – it was a bad choice – feet were soft, tender, sore, tired, bruised and ugly. What a relief to put the boots on again ??? - for the last few steps back to the car

 

We were lucky with the weather, and enjoyed a week-end with spectacular scenery changes.    A soul reviving experience.

 

Thanks to all for sharing this magical experience.                                                   Dave

 

OUR WEEKEND AT KEITH AND MARGARET’S COTTAGE IN THE ‘BERG.

 

Leaving Maritzburg at 06:00 on Friday 4 February we [Molly-Anne and Paddy] set off on our first Berg adventure with the Midlands Hikers.   We were the first to arrive at the Ashton’s Cottage, ”Sweetwater’s”, Morris, Noël and Mike arrived soon thereafter. Margaret had tea and delicious cookies waiting for us.   With Margaret as our leader we set off on our first walk on Friday morning to Pillar cave and the annex.

 

On the way we were startled by two small snakes, the walk was energetic and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves ending with a visit to the Mermaids pools.

 

Saturday, Philip and Christeen joined the group.   Despite the drizzling, wet and damp conditions our spirits were high as a few of us plodded along the river, near lake Navarone.

 

On Sunday, Philip lead us along the Giants cup trail “backwards”, in the direction of the Mzimkhulwana starting at 1050m and finishing up at 2089m.   We then walked as far as the Petrified tree and Crane tarn where we stopped for breakfast.       

                                                                                                                                                                                              In a rock shelter on Bamboo Mountain we saw dinosaur footprints and rock paintings; from there we walked along the ridge to the summit.   We then stopped at a cave for lunch, where in the distance there were eland grazing and baboons acting like baboons.   After a well-deserved rest, but, with bated breath we descended the grassy spur, that led us back to the Giants cup trail.   The walk was about 10km but took us a good seven hours with our breakfast and lunch breaks.

 

What a walk, with a most awesome view.   Our weekend finally ended as it had begun with our hostess making lovely warm waffles and tea, and a demonstration on what exercises to do so that we would not be too stiff the next day.   Thumbs up to Keith and Margaret for a most enjoyable stay.

Molly-Anne and Paddy.

 

 

WAGONDRIFT DAM

19/20 February 2005

 

Wagondrift Dam on the Bushman’s River lies to the south-west of the town of Estcourt and was completed in 1964.    To access Wagondrift Nature Reserve one needs to enter the town of Estcourt and from there follow the Giant’s Castle road to the turn-off to the dam.   The dam which covers 500 ha of land holds 60 million cubic metres of water and is a water-sports and fisherman’s paradise for local inhabitants and visitors alike.  The entire reserve covers an area of 980 ha.

 

Some members of the Hiking Club lead by Brian and better-half Veronica arrived latish on the Friday and set up camp for the evening.   Unfortunately for them a windstorm of some strength blew itself into a frenzy and drenched campers who had to escape to their tents for some semblance of protection.   Morning mists welcomed the Saturday arrivals who soon had vehicles unpacked and tents erected, ready for the activities of the day.

 

Brian had towed his speed boat and once in the water transported six passengers at a time up to the top of the dam, thirteen in all, from where we walked up to a gravel road which led to the Moor Park Nature Reserve.  Along the way wildebeest, zebra and a variety of buck were seen browsing in the grasslands.    Following the track into Moor Park a picnic site was found on the banks of the river where weary hikers took a break to enjoy drinks and packed lunches.

 

Back along the track, through the gate and down to our right towards the banks of the Bushman’s River where we followed the Old Furrow Trail.   The furrow which was constructed over a century ago is still visible in places along the path and was used to channel water down into the valley fields now beneath the waters of the Wagondrift Dam.   Below along the river is a weir said to have been constructed in 1838 to provide irrigation for early settlers.   Ten points in all are listed along the trail with interesting bits of information on each.

 

Back in camp relaxing drinks and hot showers were the order of the late afternoon before members got ready for the evening braai.   Some of us proved not too adept at making braai fires but in the end everyone was fed, watered(!!) and happy while tall tales were aired amidst gales of laughter.

 

Sunday morning ten members headed off in the direction of the Dam wall.   We had hoped to be able to have a tour of the interior workings of the dam but this was not to be.   The Dam wall is unusual being built on what is known as  “a multi-arch design” which has also been used in Europe.   We made our way down to the bottom of the wall where Keith had a wonderful time taking photographs from every angle, including that of a fish lazily gliding around in the waters near the wall.

 

Following a leisurely early lunch members started dismantling tents and packing up ready to return to their homes.   It was a great week-end, informative, enjoyable with wonderful company.   Thank you Brian.

 

NEXT COMMITTEE/LEADERS MEETING

The next meeting of the Committee/Leaders is scheduled for Tuesday, 10 May 2005, at 19:00 at the Hilton Hotel.   Apologies to Keith if you are unable to attend.