MIDLANDS HIKING CLUB

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

 

The year is flying by, March is upon us, and next thing will be the Easter Holidays with long range hiking trip to Mpumalanga taking place.   There is still a spot available on this trip, so if you have an interest in this trip, please contact Allison Gunning, Keith Ashton or myself for more info.   It promises to be a very interesting hiking experience.

 

Probably a highlight of the past few weeks was the very interesting talk given by Franz Prince on the Bushmen of the Drakensberg.   I have had very good feed back from a number of members who were at the talk, so we will have to get Franz back on another evening to tell us more about this fascinating mountain of ours, and its past inhabitors.

 

Those of us who have taken the time to hike over these past few weeks will no doubt tell of the wet conditions experienced in the berg during this time.    Here is where good raingear is a must, not a luxury.   Walking in wet boots, clothes and hiking gear is not too much fun.   Then there is the task of getting everything dry over the next few days to be ready for the next trip.   A really “special treat” for some has been the experience of spending the night in a small tent, in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, with the rain falling on the tent, and the thunder rumbling all around.   To be so warmly tucked up in your sleepingbag, on a nice comfortable “blow up mattress” to hear and feel “Mother Nature” so close to you – is really an experience in ‘Being with nature’.    Quite unforgettable.    Another soul moving experience is to sit by yourself high up on the mountain, just you and nature, and the awesome quietness and grandeur of the mountain.   By shifting your position just a few meters here and there, you can put yourself in a sort of “Silence Vacuum”, where all you can hear is the pumping of your heart, and then great silence of the mountain. Move a bit more and you can hear the trickle of a nearby stream .   The listening to the silence, and just sharing your own company for a while, is something that we have lost in this modern day, where everything is “noise and rush”.   It is a soul building to experience this quiet period now and then.

 

In the next club newsletter I will publish part of a newsletter that a young lady from a school group from Britain wrote after spending a few days in the mountain with me.

 

The next big event that should mean a lot to the club, will be the launch of the club’s new web site.   It was agreed at a committee meeting some time ago that the club should have a website that was easily accessed on the web.   Whilst we had the old site which was run by Rod Hart for a number of years, it was not easy to find, and probably not read by many people.   Our new web site which will be launched  at the club meeting on 7 March by Webmaster ROD HART, will be very easy to access on the internet, and should be a very useful site to promote the club, and hiking in general.   To Rod Hart who has spent many hours getting this site re-vamped and built up, we say to you Rod, VERY MANY THANKS.   We appreciate very sincerely all your time, effort, and dedicated work to get this website up and running.   The site address is      www.gohiking.co.za

 

Remember this site name, tell your friends about it, and keep yourself informed about the happenings by visiting it now and again.

 

One thing about keeping any website attractive and interesting is that it must be up-dated regularly.   This means that we need news items, and write ups about the club’s activities.   This is where you come in.   Your Committee and your Hike Leaders give freely of their time to the club.   The hike leaders spend time in planning a hike, organising it, doing the bookings, sorting the transport details etc, etc.   Whilst leading the hike, they have many responsibilities to the people in the hiking group, getting them safely through the hike, and safely back to the cars.   It would seem only courteous, and hopefully natural that somebody in the party would be able to offer to write a 10 minute story about the hike and send it to the hike leader to have it published in the newsletter and on our web site.   Surely that is not too much to ask.   But, a dentist has an easier job to pull teeth without an anesthetic, than we get volunteers to do a write up.

 

New members, we welcome the following to the club

Mary Boucher;  Wayne Clapham;  Margret Kirsten;  Jeff Mayall;  Barbara Stakes;  Michael Sturgeon and Ashie Thegahi.

 

The next few months up to the end of May are wonderful times to be in the mountains.   The weather is more stable, the incredible Autumn colors are taking over the green grasslands, the cold is not that cold, and the steams are still running well.  Take a good look at the club calendar and plan to spend at least one day out in the fresh air with the club.

 

Only by your efforts, will YOU GET THERE.     See you there.

 

Hiking regards   -   Dave

 

SWEETWATERS COTTAGE WEEK-END

 

Due to circumstances beyond the control of Keith and Margaret, the cottage week-end of 19 – 21 May has had to be postponed.   The next cottage long week-end will be from Friday 18 to Sunday 20 August 2006.   Those members who had already booked and paid for the May week-end will be given first option for the August week-end.  Please let Keith know whether you will be taking up this option.

 

CAMP SITES VISITED – MEDOLINO                                                                            Noël

 

Medolina Caravan Resort in Port Alfred has to be one of the most tranquil and picturesque camp sites in the country.   Thank you to Graham and Grethe for recommending this venue,

 

Across the Kowie River a sign indicates a left turn towards the sea to behind high sand dunes.   Each camp site is individually screened from its neighbour by hedges and beds of seasonal flowers a splash with colour.   Thick lawns make tenting a pleasure and every site has a tap located in the corner providing water for rinsing plates, etc.   Spotless ablution blocks and tanks of rain water for drinking are strategically placed for easy access.   A small shop is located in the office from which such things as ice, wood, etc., but no perishables, are sold.   A Recreational area with DSTV, pooltable and other gaming facilities is on site, as well as a small library.

 

Down through the park is a large dam, a paradise for birds and bird watchers alike.  We sat and watched weavers busily building nests while calling for the approval of their various partners.   A large swimmingpool adjacent to a Boma provide abundant space for children to play, braais or just relaxing with sundowners.   For the energetic the beach can be accessed from the park by walking over the sand dunes and then down towards the sea.

 

Camp sites cost R55 per person with a discount for pensioners.   Wooden chalets, some of which are situated on the banks of the dam, are available for those not in to tenting or caravanning.   Contact details of the Park are Tel: 046 624 1651 / Fax: 046 624 2514 or mail address P O Box 420 Port Alfred 6170.

 

KARKLOOF FALLS                                                                                                   Aris Hofland

5 February 2006

 

Leader: Mark Nellist, Mary, Libby, Tessa, Jack, Campbell, Terry, Sandy, Rae, Shirley, Mike, Linda, Lynn, Barbara, Mary and Aris.

 

At approximately 09h30 we got together at Chiarella Farm, where Mark and Mary warmly greeted us.   We were more than happy with the arrangement that the braai and picnic things would be transported by road to Karkloof Falls.

 

Soon we were on our way following a beautiful route along evergreen forests, open fertile land and farm dam.   Our leader told us how he grew carrots successfully here.   He made a stop for a break near the Sappi Fire Base and Airstrip.   We then proceeded and crossed the tarred Howick/Karkloof road onto the gravel road leading to the Falls.   Meandering further through many acres of plantation we passed an old control point and after an 8 km walk arrived at the main picnic site.

 

Words of admiration were expressed when we came in sight of the mighty Falls, yet still one kilometre away.   A massive stream of water thundered over the edge to drop down, splashing where it hit the rocky bottom of the Karkloof River.   This view was the highlight of the day.

 

Meanwhile Rob and Colleen had offloaded all the necessities for the braai and picnic and in no time Rod had a fire going.   At this stage Ozzie arrived from home and joined our group.   Libby, Linda and Jack couldn’t resist the temptation and went further upstream for a refreshing river swim.

 

We enjoyed in almost perfect weather the eating of our meat, salads, buttered bread rolls and other goodies while sitting under the huge, shady trees.   A really social get-together.

 

Feeling relaxed that another 8km walk was not part of our outing, we boarded the two 4X4’s for the return.   I like to mention that Mary’s friendly dog, Chinta was the 20th member of our picnicking group.

 

To Mark and Mary, Rob and Colleen, a big thank you for a super day.

 

ZULU FALLS …. A hike to be …                                                                          Roseanne Dix

 

I had heard about “Zulu Falls from a birding/flowering friend, so decided on a recce to see if it was worth taking a club hike there.

 

Here are my findings:

Tenting – room for 8 small tents.

Boma – there is a nice thatch boma with a little room attached with some mattresses .. could sleep 3.

Shower – in a tree with photo opportunities!

Loo – Flush toilet with a view.

Hikes – one walk of 9,5 kms – flat bushveld with lots of animals – giraffe, eland, zebbies etc … lots of shorter hikes ideal for birding.

Waterfall – the camp site is right next to the amazing Zulu Falls where there is a breeding colony of Bald Ibis.

Campsite – Rustic indeed !  Lots of firewood and a nice braai.

Vehicles – best for Bakkies.   Cars can be left 2kms away behind a locked gate – if necessary.

Cars are not a good idea in the wet season.

 

Club Hike - Keith Ashton has agreed to lead a combined Club hike – numbers will be limited as there isn’t a lot of space.

Private Hikes – if anyone is interested in forming their own group I will give you all the details.

Price – R50,00 pppn plus R100pn for the “boma” (10 people = R60pppn)

Situation - Mooi River/Greytown area.

 

5-day hike over adjoining farms:  There is a 5-day hike in the pipeline – cost will be R1 000 pp (R200 per day) fully catered, guided, and “slackpacked” –- this will be done as a combined Club hike

OR

you can makeup your own party if you wish (10 minimum) contact me for further details

e-mail:  rosedix@telkomsa.net    Tel:  031 209 4420

 

 

BIRDS OF NAMIBIA                                                                                                         Noël

 

On the trip along the road towards the border-post suspended from telephone poles hung huge nesting apartments, the homes of thousands of Sociable Weavers.   Each bird knows exactly through which hole to enter to gain access to its particular nest.

 

On entering Namibia the first birds seen were the Rosie Cheeked Lovebirds, Swifts, Swallows and of course, the inevitable Doves roosting on the wall above the waters of Hardap Dam.   A pair of Martins were cuddling up on a steel girder.

 

The Black Eagle made his presence known early in our stay at Etosha, while the beautiful Lilacbreasted Roller obligingly posed for a photograph.   Grey Loeries, Egrets, Guinea fowl, Francolins and a variety of duck all showed themselves.

 

From Namutoni Campsite the road took us north towards the Andoni plains teeming with a variety of game.   The Tawny Eagle eyed us from the height of a dead tree together with a large grey bird with orange beak and legs which we were unable to identify.   On this excursion also seen were the Western Redfooted Kestral, Blue Cranes, Lilacbreasted Rollers, Hornbills (yellow, red and black), Crimsonbreasted Shrike, Whitebrowed Robin, Forktailed Dronga, more Grey Loeries, the snooty looking Kori Bustard, Crowned Plover and the Blacksmith Plover.

 

At a Blou Wildebeest kill/death a Marabou Stork in company with about 50 Whitebacked Vultures all sitting facing the same way, and a few blackbacked jackals encircling them, were patiently waiting, so we were told, for the arrival of the Lappetfaced Vulture, the only one with a  strong enough beak to break through the skin of the wildebeest.

 

Further along the road we spotted the Pygmy Falcon, the Marico Flycatcher and Guinea Fowl.   A Serval streaked across the road, so quick that it could easily have been missed.

 

The next day off in a different direction viewed a Tawny Eagle in flight, the Whitequilled Korhaan and Egyptian Goose

 

From Namutoni moved on to Halali – the middle camp of Etosha, where a female Sunbird (possibly a Whitebellied) took great delight in trying to view itself in the windscreen of the vehicle, only to end up on the bonnet as it skated down the glass.

 

From there found a Lesser Kestrel, again the superior Kori Bustard, the Whitehelmeted Shrike, the inevitable Pied Crow, Gobar Goshawk and a most beautiful Bateleur cooling itself in the waters of Goas waterhole, a real find.

 

At the camp in the vicinity of the restaurant during the day lived a Whitefaced Owl, clearly seen, while in the campsite above our tent roosted a lovely Scops Owl, very difficult to see as it was so well camouflaged against the tree trunk.   The next morning when we arose it was back on its daytime perch, eyes slits against the glare of the morning.

 

There were numerous LBJ’s (little brown jobs) which are extremely difficult to identify especially as most the time they won’t sit still for longer than a second or two.

 

 

HIKE GRADES/

RATINGS

1       Very easy

2       Easy

3       Moderate – physical fitness advisable

4       Moderate to severe –  physical fitness necessary

5       Severe – physical fitness essential

 

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.

Day Hikes – Please try to inform the relevant leader a week, or at least 4 days, before the hike of your intention to participate.   Week-end 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 participate.

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 great deal of effort into hiking arrangements.