MIDLANDS HIKING CLUB

 

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT:  AGM        Dave Sclanders

 

Membership

Our membership numbers have reached a record number again this year , from last year . In July last year we had 144 members, and due to non payment of subs the numbers dropped to 121, and over the year rose to our present level in July of 149 members.  Thanks must go to all those who encouraged new members to join, especially Keith Ashton who “empowered” a number of these new members to join.   I would ask you all to make an effort to get new members to join. I have met a number of people who do not know that we are here. That is despite having our week end hikes in the paper – thanks to Margaret.   So please, tell anyone you know about us.   New members may bring new leaders, and we desperately need new leaders.

Honorary Life members

Warwick and Brenda Keating were made Honorary Life members of the club for there dedicated and high contribution to the club.   On a sadder note Warwick was involved in a cycle accident which has left him and Brenda a great amount pain and suffering. We hope and pray that Warwick will recover fully from this sad accident.

MHC Website

I would like to extend my thanks, and those of all the members of the Club to Rod Hart and his family for the incredible club website that he has put together for the club.   The site is very user friendly, has a great deal of information, and is kept up to date with all the events with which Rod is updated.   Remember – Rod cannot put something on the web if he has no info – so please, if you are on an outing, write a few notes, and send it to Rod.   That way we can keep our site up to date, and possibly attract new members as well.   Some photographs will also be appreciated.   Thanks Rod and Sam for your great contribution to our Club.

Past Years Activities

Going through the last year’s fixture list just made me very aware of the great opportunities to get out into the open, that this club has to offer any club member who wishes to take part in the activities offered.

From the 2 day hikes and longer we have had week ends in luxury, to  week-ends in wet tents and windy caves.  From easy campsite day hikes to the more strenuous adventures.

Mary’s and Keith’s mountain cottages have always proved popular with luxury of a mountain cottage, and good long day walk.   There have been excursions from Cobham camp site, Monks Cowl, a Bushman’s Nek 3-day cave hopping experience,  2 Giants Castle exploration trips to find old long ago used caves.   Cathedral Peak area, Garden Castle, Highmoor a number of times – and  Mountain Shadows camp site.

There have been the longer trips such as the Half Mini Traverse at the AMPHITHEATRE area, incredible sights, and wind.   The longer Mpumalanga  Sabie and Blyde River – where the  buying of a 4 wheel drive vehicle became important, and some of the trail was not as good as expected.   There was Fish River Canyon experience, where wonderful scenery and flowers were seen – but a long trip there and back.  Then the  just  completed Nauklift/Namibia trips.    By the sounds of things, the Nauklift hike was a bit more than expected.  So backing these last 3 trips up we will need to have a few evenings of slide shows so that we can see these new places, and enjoy the experience of the participants.

Mountain Backpackers  2006 – Grand Traverse Hike – South to North.   This ultimate 13 day hiking challenge – the greatest hiking challenge in South Africa –  covers 220 km  across the top of the berg, and in that time hikers will climb twice the height of Everest, have all sorts of nice and nasty weather, and  experience a body and soul testing and  uplifting 23 days.

Keith Ashton and Craig Bekker from this club, were  members of the Traverse team.   Keith  did it last year with Philip Grant, and was now going to do it the other way South to North – the harder route.  However a combination of factors as well as not feeling well before he started put great pressure on him, and unfortunately at the re-supply at Organ Pipes  Pass, he felt it best to come off the mountain.    Keith we salute your effort.  Craig, who was Keith’s tent mate had planned from the beginning to only hike as far as Organ Pipes Pass, then come off, well done to Craig for putting up with Keith for so long.    At the moment Keith is the oldest person to have completed the challenge.  Our congratulations and thanks to those brave and hardy club members who climbed up Organ Pipes Pass in the Cathedral Peak area to re-supply the Traverse Hikers, without these  great people, the grand Challenge would not be possible, thanks to Allison, Teresa and Irene for taking up this re-supply challenge.

The day hikes have been busy, with hikes at “Howick Meander”,  Umgeni Valley, Mid Illovo, Bulwer mountain, Bisley, Cedara, Cumberland, Highmoor.   There have been a number of hikes in the Boston area – usually combined with the Mountain Backpackers Club, and we have had a number of outings in the Karkloof area.

Club Evening Socials

Your committee decided to introduce finger and wine evenings to a number of our club social evenings.   This was to encourage members to come to some of our evening functions, as well as to give something back to the members.   We had a number of very interesting speakers at our meetings, as well as a number of slide show presentations on trips done by club members.   Interesting speakers were Professor Michele McLean on the Gorillas of Ruwanda.   Franz Prince on the History of the Drakensberg Bushmen.   We also had an excellent quiz evening organized by Allison and Teresa .   This was a most enjoyable fun evening.

The great Xmas party at Mark and Mary’s house on the farm was another great success, and enjoyed by all who attended.   The weather was great.  The very “hard orienteering” course laid out by Mark and his committee was attacked with gusto and much enthusiasm.   However, it was noticed that the winning team had some members of the planning committee in it – one has to wonder?????!!!

Then we had the magnificent Mother Xmas and her lovely fairy helper arrive to give out the many Xmas presents.   Thanks so much to Bushy and Pat for a wonderful fun filled afternoon.   Then of course was the incredible “secret weapon present” which – no names no pack drill – was unveiled to much mirth and – may I say “naughty thoughts“  by some.   A great day to end off 2005.

So all in all a lot of interesting hiking, walking  sharing, talking, learning time was offered by your club this past year to all its members. 

Club Subscriptions

We will be discussing this is shortly.   However there are certain aspects which we now have to face, and it is starting to affect all clubs who need a meeting place.  Up to now we have held our meetings at venues where we have had the free use of a room at that venue, on certain “unwritten” understandings.  One was that we support the bar, and/or dining room in lieu of the use of that room.   As a hiking club, we have not really done that.   In starting the quarterly “snack” evenings, your committee hoped to show some support to the hotel, however now on two occasions, “our” venue has been lost to us at very short notice due to someone else needing a venue, for which they have paid,  and the supply of food and drink to that party.   One can understand the situation from the venue providers side.   That does not help us with our meetings, and consequently the committee has agreed that in order to have regular meetings at a regular venue, we will have to be prepared to pay for the venue.   So arrangements have been made to hire the Anglican church hall, just down the road.   Here we will be able to bring our own drinks and snacks to make a more sociable evening.   Secondly, we now have the cost of hosting our own website on the internet.   We believe that this site is an asset to the club, and must carry on at this time.   So please bear this in mind when we discuss the sub’s issue later in the evening.

Committee and Leaders

Once again, I  must thank your committee and hike leaders for the time and effort that they have put in this past year to keep the interests of the club up.   We have had a number of committee / leaders  meetings in between our normal monthly functions, and these  have all been well attended.

To all the leaders, who offer their time to decide on a trip to lead, plan and organise the trip, and take the responsibility of leading that trip, a big thank you.    Believe me, in these times it is harder and harder to get folk to volunteer to get involved in any committee, let alone take the responsibility of leading hikes into the “unknown, nature driven environments of our outdoor recreational areas”.    I often hear the remark – I would never be a leader, there is too much responsibility.    In the same vein, I would appeal to one and all, especially those who do not hike that often with this club, please be upfront with your leader – more so on the harder, longer hikes,  be clear on your ability, and hiking fitness.    Don’t tell the leader what you think he wants to hear so that you can join the hike.   Having done the Otto Trail 3 years ago, and nothing much since, does not qualify you as a hiker.   Present day fitness and experience is the most important issue.

The tricky part again is to name and thank certain people for their contribution to your club.

Brian Henwood, for standing in as chair when I was away from certain meetings, and his calm way of summing up situations and offering advice.

Keith Ashton for all his time in keeping the clubs membership data up to date, his in depth organising and reporting structures, as well as all his efforts in organising the many – far away hikes that he has organised.

Then especially to Allison Gunning who has stepped in as a new leader, and led a number of trips this last year.

To Noël, Irene, Ossie, Margaret, thank for the work thank you have done for our club .

Also to our leaders Mary, Graham, Philip, Bushy, Mark and Selven – without you guys the club could not operate – thank you.

All that remains now is to thank you all for coming to share and contribute to this AGM this evening.  The club looks forward to your continued participation in the new club year, whether it be hiking, club socials, introducing new members or whatever, your contribution is important to the continued social role of this MHC.

May our new hiking year be happy and fulfilling for all of us.   

 

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2006/7 MHC COMMITTEE

Chairman

Dave Sclanders

Vice Chairperson

Allison Gunning

Secretary

Keith Ashton

Treasurer

Ossie Deysel

PRO

Margaret Ashton

Activities

Irene Wisdom

Editor

Noël Harper

Website

Rod Hart

Member

Brian Henwood

 

 

 

MEMBERSHIP SUBSCRIPTIONS

For those of our members who were unable to attend the AGM, membership subscriptions are now due for the year 2006/07.   As approved at the AGM these have been increased to R90 for family membership and R60 per single member.   They may be paid either by cheque mailed to the Treasurer, Ossie Deysel, or by direct deposit into the Club’s Bank Account at Nedbank Hilton Branch, Bank Code 151-925, Account No 1519007299, with a copy of the deposit slip, including your personal details, to Keith Ashton at 033 330 3763.   Thanks members for your co-operation.

 

SOCIAL EVENINGS  :  PLEASE MAKE A SPECIAL NOTE

Please check the Fixture List at the back of this Newsletter for details of future Social Evenings and the new venue.   To reach the hall from Crossways follow the road past the Hilton Quarry Centre, through the robot, towards Hilton Village.  Pass first left turn-off to St Anne’s College, pass the next left-hand turn to the Church, turn left at the next turn-off signposted Church Hall into Brindy Lane, second entrance gate to the left.   Bags of parking available.   A collection of R2 per car for the Car Guard will be made.

 

CHRISTMAS PARTY

The Christmas Party is scheduled for Sunday, 3 December, at Mark and Mary’s home, “Chiarella”.   At this function apart from various events, the prizes will be awarded for the best photograph submitted to our Website, and the most interesting write-up appearing in the Newsletter over the past year.   Folks you still have time until the end of October to get your photographs in for judging.   Please submit either on a disc with your digital entries or prints, to Rod Hart for inclusion.   In the meantime watch this space in the November Newsletter for full details of activities and mark your diaries.

 

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HIKING IN MPUMALANGA               Peter ‘PEG’ Wedge

31 March – 9 April 2006 (continued ……..  )

 

All meeting for coffee and then to Paradise Hut for the start.   This was a total misnomer.  Alcatraz would have been more appropriate.  There wasn’t anyone on duty – although some evidence of a caretaker’s presence at the back.  The building was in very poor shape. Decision taken by all 4 drivers to take the vehicles to the end of the trail – old Mine Hut at Bourkes Luck Potholes and hopefully get a taxi back – about 35 kms in total.

Whilst the drivers were away – a young German couple arrived and after a brief introduction and search for the start of the trail – not at all clear by any means – they got away by around 14h30.   Drivers back shortly afterwards and then on our way.   This was a very short 4 km – actually nearer 5 although the trail blurb said 3!

Arrival at our overnight stop – Watervalspruit Hut - we called this C. Max.   It had a look of a prison cell arrangement.   Not too bad inside but toilets grotty and the dorms not really clean.   The site itself could be delightful if the grass had been cut.   However not to whinge too much.   A guy appeared suddenly with a barrow load full of firewood.   (Presumably the caretaker).   Peter immediately engrossed again.   Whilst majority of party to a waterfall and pool close by.   Noël losing her watch (and finding it again).   Theresa leaving her cellphone at the pool (and retrieving it later).    Murphy thwarted on this occasion!    A pleasant evening meal and fire retiring as usual around 20h00.

 

FRIDAY 7 APRIL

Relatively long hike today of about 14 kms so off by 07h30.   Some spectacular vistas en route today.   Some climbing but also some nice flat areas to put a spurt on.   Good to be able to stride out a bit for a change.   Lunch by River Treuw (a tributary of the Blyde River).   Some souls braving the water again and then Clearstream Hut (we named this Stalig 17).   Again an unfortunate likeness to a prison street but slightly cleaner although the bog leaked.    Two bats had taken residence in the shower room and took a shine to Theresa (Shrieks from cell No 2!).

A superb swimming pool close by on the river – fast flowing but very refreshing, very deep – probably 7 to 8 metres and at least 20m wide.   Two attendants and a fair stock of wood but what do these chaps do all day?!

Some stargazing after the evening meal.   Quite magnificent in these parts with no urban light pollution.

 

SATURDAY 8 APRIL

Last day of the hike but longest so off again by 07h30.   Lots of prospecting claims in the area (gold rush c 1900).   You can picture the scene with dozens of camps and miners panning for the yellow stuff.   Presumably some still around if you have the time and inclination.

We saw an old miners hut near one of the waterfalls en route.   The rivers had been in full flood earlier in the year with debris at least 3 – 4m above the existing river level which was running quite strongly anyway.    Lots of termite mounds around – fast pace through open veldt to Bourkes’ Luck Potholes – hundreds of tourists and then the old Mine Hut with our last overnight stop.

All wanting a shower but again water supply playing up and ladies bog overflowing.   We managed to get water and a call to the Mpumulanga people in Bourkes Luck resulted in two guys coming out to further consolidate our efforts.   Nice accommodation which could have been so much better with a bit of effort by the relevant authorities.   Generally, the trail was spectacular marred unfortunately by poor management of the facilities.   Could be so much better.   Perhaps a not too polite letter from MHC might be in order!   Good fire, alcohol (at last) and a latish night.  Theresa coped quite well!) made for a nice convivial end to the trail.

SUNDAY 9 APRIL

Dave and Pooven off early – around 05h30 – the rest of the party having an earlyish breakfast and all away by 07h30 to their various destinations.

 

SUMMARY

A great 10 days with some superb scenery and great company.   Most of the party had hiked together before but good to have new people with us in the shape of Dave and Pooven.

The 3 day break in between the 2 hikes was a real bonus and afforded a mini break in Kruger and surrounding area.  At the price we paid for the privilege this was a steal.   Many thanks to Mark and Mary for this.

Another very well organised 10 days by Keith – this was really a training exercise for his 2nd Grand Traverse about one week later – most of us quite happy to have accomplished the two trails relatively unscathed.   Thanks to Keith (and Margaret for her unwavering support for all of us) and to all members of the team.   Great company, great experience.   Can’t wait for the next one.

 

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RICHTERSVELD TRANSFRONTIER PARK          Noël Harper

20 July – 10 August 2006

 

Left Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, 20 July, headed for Bethlehem to stay with ex-Pmb friends, on to Kimberley and Gum Tree Backpackers Lodge (one of the better of its kind which also boasts an on-site steakhouse), to an excellent Upington B&B overlooking the Orange River and so to enter the Richtersveld at its central town Springbok.   Springbok was ablaze with colour as the  semi-desert flowers put on their annual show.   What a welcoming sight!

 

Proceeding north via Steinkopf to Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay the road bridge crossing the Holgat River has been completely washed away leaving a yawning chasm with absolutely no sign that a concrete structure had ever existed.  Nothing bar a few road rails!  With the heavy sea fog which rolls landwards in these parts, it could get a trifle scary for the motorist.

 

In Alexander Bay visited the Diamond Museum featuring the history of diamonds in the area plus that of the inhabitants, all overseen by a most knowledgeable Mrs Mostert who appeared to really enjoy her job.   Outside  Alexander Bay left the tar for a good gravel road, reaching Brandkaros Camp site after 40+ km where we met up with Keith and Margaret joining us from the Naukluft trail in Namibia.   Camp sites are grassed, with a nearby gazebo, spotless ablution blocks and loads of hot water.

 

After a somewhat chaotic entrance into the Trans-Frontier Park – nobody really seemed to know what was going on - we were on our way.   Perhaps a bit of in-house training would do the trick!

 

Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is an experience never to be forgotten,   The scenery is awe-inspiring, the tracks (definitely not roads) terrifying having largely been washed away by the recent heavy rains.  The more robust Nissan followed by the CRV handled the off-road conditions like champions, climbing over rocks, crawling between them and driving down river beds inches thick in sand, steep uphills to crest with no forward view to know where the track went or whether in fact there was a track at all, followed by even steeper downhills.   Many of the roads were closed because they were in such a poor condition, so we were somewhat limited about where we could camp.   42 Kilometres and 4 hours later arrived at De Hoop campsite alongside the Orange River looking across at the Namibian mountains, here we elected to stay.   From a perch on the branch of a tree overhanging the river on the island bank opposite a Grey Heron watched our arrival with interest.  Ablutions, cold water, were adequate and clean, quite an achievement in itself considering the condition of the roads.   The birds were friendly sharing our meals and even sitting on feet, particularly the white eyes, although they all appeared to have no fear of humans.   An African Pied Wagtail spent the entire time on the sun-roof of the CRV trying to bath in its reflection.  Heard the African Fish Eagle but were not lucky enough to see them.  A Black Crake regularly paddled along the river’s edge past the tents.   The peace of such solitude restored the soul.   Took long walks, one 20 km to the Richtersberg campsite where we were supposed to have moved, but were glad that we had chosen rather to stay where we were as it was overrun with monkeys.  De Hoop is a far more restful and peaceful place.   Keith, Margaret and Morris climbed a 450m steep koppie next to the campsite and had a bird's eye view of the campsite far below and the scenery for miles around.   Most of the time we were alone although part of the time there was one other couple camped some distance away.    A large fellow and seven women in three vehicles came past.   We wanted to know how an “Old Rooster” coped with seven “Hens”!  He went into great detail to explain, one was his wife, one his sister, one his aunt, etc. etc.   All we could say was “Brave fellow”.    Otherwise - solitude.   Each day apart from investigating our surrounds, spent some time hunting down broken bits of trees for that night’s enormous bonfire around which we sat before supper and partook of our favourite tipple.    Both helped to keep us warm.  

 

Because of the impassable tracks we were unable to exit the Park through the southern gate and had to make the return trip back to Sendlingsdrif.   It seemed to be a little less arduous only taking 3 hours to complete the 42km  although we did have some slippery times creeping among rocks along a wet, gravelly river-bed.   Keith spotted leopard spoor on the banks of a sandy river.

 

Travelling south stayed again at Brandkaros only to be kept awake until 02h30 Sunday morning by a large ongoing noisy party adjacent to the site.   The moral of the story – don’t camp there on a Saturday night!!!

 

From Springbok onwards the flowers were magnificent, colour as far as the eye could see.    We were told by the landlady of the Elkoweru Lodge that they were a month early because of the rains and the best seen for many years.   I cannot believe that having never been to that part of the country we were so lucky to inadvertently strike it right.  From the Richtersveld TFP right down the west coast to Langebaan, where we celebrated Keith’s birthday, across to Strand and then north through the Karoo on the N1 to Karoo National Park and Sunnyside Guest Farm near Clarens, it was flowers, flowers and more flowers all along the road.   An experience never to be forgotten.