MIDLANDS HIKING CLUB

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT                                                                                  Dave Sclanders

One keeps on hearing the same lament “where has the day gone?” It just seems that everybody is in the same boat – too much to do and not enough time.    As far as our club goes the year has already been very busy with trips to Mount Kenya, and already many week-ends to the berg.  The most gratifying part about it all up to now has been the great increase in club membership and  with it an increase in the number of  the more serious overnight hikers.   It is great to share the berg with these new people.   Also very satisfying is the increase in the number of members who are submitting articles and photos to our web master Rod, for inclusion in the club web site www.gohiking.co.za .   New articles and photos tend to make for more people visiting the web site to see what is happening.   This also gives the club a better chance to attract new members.

Grand Traverse

The highlight of any serious hiker’s dreams is to do the “GRAND TRAVERSE”, the ultimate Drakensberg hiking challenge.    For this 240 kilometer – 12 day hike, climbing up and down - in all a total of  nearly 12000 meters, or 12 kilometers or, nearly twice the height of Mount Everest, a hiker needs to be superbly fit, have a very strong constitution, and a mind of steel.    This traverse can only be done if one has the back up of friends, relatives, and anyone else who is prepared to carry a re-supply of food up the mountain to replenish dwindling supplies of the hikers.  The re-supplier also needs to be very fit  as they need to carry their own food for the week-end, their tents and normal hiking kit, as well as a spare parcel of re-supply food for the Traversers.   This extra weight could be as much as 3 extra kilograms of food.   On the re-supply day, timing is of great importance.   The full re-supply team, with all the food needs to make the trek up to the top of the escarpment – this re-supply is at the top of Bannerman’s Pass in the Giants Castle area.   The traversers have to be on time to meet the re-supply team at the appointed hour, day and place, to get their  re-supply of food.    For both parties,  fair weather or foul,  sickness and in health, blisters or not, suffering or weak, the meeting must take place.   Quite a challenge for all.   This year the club has  a number of ladies who will be doing the traverse, these are Allison  Gunning, Teresa Whitfield, Chantel Beattie,  and  Irene Wisdom from the club, and dual membership with  Mountain Backpackers are Jenny Owen – leader - , Craig Bekker,  Elaine Bushnell.

 

Past members of the club who have done the Grand Travers are Craig Bekker, Keith Ashton and  Dave Sclanders. 

 

For the last few months  our lady members have been doing a great deal of hiking in preparation for this big event.   Many kilometers of mountain hiking, and kilometers of tarred roads in around Maritzburg have been walked.   I am sure that they are amongst the fittest hikers ever to have prepared for this hike.

 

To the members of the club who are prepared to do the re –supply, we thank you.   Without your help this tremendous hike would not be possible.   The Traverse starts at the Sentinel Car Park on 1 April, and ends at  Bushmamn’s Nek on 13 April.   The re-supply will be done at Bannerman’s Pass on the evening of 7 April. Please bear a thought during this period for all our hikers in the berg at this time.   Special thoughts go with the leader and sub leaders of the hike, may it go well.  We wish you strength and clear thoughts for the duration of the trip.

 

From the club , we wish our hikers “ A GRAND TRAVERSE” , may they enjoy it, and have a wonderful walk in the majestic Drakensberg.    Our wish for you all is this:

MAY YOU WALK IN SAFTEY

MAY YOU HAVE THE STRENGTH OF 10

MAY THERE BE NO BLISTERS

“MAY THE WEATHER BE EVER ON YOUR SIDE”

MAY THE UP-HILLS BE FLAT,

THE DOWN-HILLS BE GENTLE

MAY YOU SLEEP WARM AND CONTENTED

MAY YOUR TENTS BE DRY IN THE MORNING

MAY EACH DAY BRING JOY AND HAPPINESS

MAY EACH NIGHT BE FILLED WITH CONTENTMENT

MAY YOU SHARE SPECIAL TIMES WITH SPECIAL PEOPLE

MAY YOU GO IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT FAMILIEIS AND

FRIENDS ARE PRAYING FOR YOU

GO WELL IN NATURE’S CRADLE    

We look forward to sharing your stories and photos in the not too distant future.

Berg Fires

The berg grass is starting to dry out and with that the EKZN Wildlife teams will soon start to burn the start of the winter fire breaks – please take care when you are out for fires. There should be no burning over the week-ends, however a fire may start  from a recent burn which was not put out properly, or from a smoldering log.   Please be careful not to start accidental fires in the berg – from dropped matches, cigarettes, or any other man made causes.

Mountain Safety

 It is in your interest to have your cell phone with you when you do a day or longer hike in the berg.   Make an effort and get the phone number of the EKZNW office from which you leave – so in any event you have a contact number at the ready.

(For more information on Mountain Safety – for anyone going into the mountain, see my web site  www.bergfree.co.za - and look at the section on “Mountain Safety” – it may save your life)

New Members

As already mentioned, we have a number of new members who have joined the club recently , and who have already  done a number of hikes with us.    We welcome the following to the club and wish them many hiking hours in our company: 

Sunette Davel;  Lindy Fforde;  Cecil Hackney;  Bronwyn Jones;  Cornelius & Petro Mostert;  Sandra Murphy;  Alvin & Iris Stevens;  Bill & Charlotte Street;  Stewart & Maya Sutherland and Lorna Swan.

 

As I reported this time last year, 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 a re 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.

 

HONORARY LIFE MEMBER

Adrian Flett, one of the founder members of our Club, has been nominated an Honourary Life Member of the Club.   We look forward to seeing you Adrian attending our Social evenings and perhaps joining us on one of our day outings.

 

THANK YOU

Thank you to Laurie Butlin of Photo First for the prizes donated for the photographic competition.   They were very much appreciated by both the Club and the winners.

 

CLUB BADGES

Your Club has arranged to have club badges available, suitable for fixing to backpacks, daypacks and hats.   Club logos can also be embroidered onto your tee shirts.  Both these items will enable you to be identified as club members and help to promote and publicise the club.   Badges will be available at R15 each and to have the club logo embroidered on a t-shirt, etc., will cost R10 – for identification purposes please mark your tee shirt with your name.

 

NAUKLUFT HIKING TRAIL (continued)                                                                       Peter “Peg” Wedge

DAY 7 OF HIKE – FRIDAY 21 JULY - Away by 07h30 again from Tufa and into a canyon with a climb of about 1½ hours to the “big one’ – we saw fresh leopard droppings on the trail.   Approaching the big chain was a bit mind blowing and the Parks Board spiel about “people with an acute fear of heights should not attempt the trail” is realistic.   This chain climb is 28m with a difficult 5m or so to get onto the approach area for the main chain.   Decision by Brendan, Stuart, Julian and Luciano to assist the ladies and senior members of the group by carrying their packs up the chain so ascent somewhat easier although still a bit nerve wracking.   Margaret A showed a lot of spirit – clearly very nervous but took her time.   All safely up but with a minor scare with Margaret K swinging out on the last 10m section or so.   She would have been OK as there is a bit of a flat area at the top of the main chain but nevertheless all of us very happy to get to the top and feeling a bit euphoric after the experience.

 

Generally, with the various chain ascents and descents, each group should have at least 2 younger guys with some climbing experience.   Ladies only group should at least have 2 with similar skills.   Also the parks authorities should be contacted about the “big chain” ascent as the first section uses a light chain only and should have at least 1 or 2 more anchor points

 

Nonetheless – this is a great experience adding a degree of acceptable risk to the trip and the above comments/observations are meant to be helpful and not negative.   Anyone with good hiking and Berg experience will find the hike very enjoyable and challenging.

 

On to the plateau at around 2000m for the final 5kms and Worlds View looking out over the plains below – quite spectacular.

 

Our last shelter Kapok Vlakte was a welcoming sight under a huge camelthorn tree.   No personal washing as the very limited water supply – 2 x 200 litre tanks was for drinking and cooking only.

 

Good fire again with Luciano foraging successfully.   Amazing how the semi barren plateau has so much life – we heard jackals calling and the night sky is spectacular – the star fields and Milky Way exceptionally clear.   Margaret B identifying the “coal sack”.   This is an area - seemingly clear of any stars and another galaxy.   All in bed by 20h00 and looking forward to Hikers Haven the following afternoon.   Cold tonight.         

DAY 8 - FINAL DAY OF HIKE – SATURDAY 22 JULY - Frost this morning.  Very chilly for the first 2 or 3 hours over the aptly named Never Ending Plains. This is the plateau at 2000m approx – gravel and stunted grass, occasional small shrubs, quite hard going on the feet.   Herd of springbok and Chris saw a wild horse.   This could have been a descendant of the German Schutztruppe who ruled the old SWA at the turn of the last century.   Incredible how nature compensates and survives in a hostile environment such as this.

 

After approximately 3 hours we began the descent into the Naukluft river canyon.  This was quite a steep decline with loose gravel – we descended about 400m and then the Tufa pools and waterfall.   This is exceptionally welcome and refreshing after 2 days on the plateau with hardly a hint of water.   The younger members decided to have a dip – some serious mooning again!   Older members making a beeline for Hikers Haven which came up around 14h15 – great feeling!   Beers, wors, hot showers – bliss – what we had all been waiting for.

 

Nice braai party in the evening and luxury of a mattress again.   All of us into “feel good” factor and a challenging 8 days overcome and behind us.

 

Restful sleep and the journey home ahead of us – all of us going separate ways and means to get there;

Keith & Margaret taking their time – firstly to Richtersveld for a few days meeting Noël & Morris Harper and then home via Cape & Free State.

Julian & Stuart to Swakopmund, Windhoek and then home.

Brendan & Andrea to Windhoek – she flying back to Johannesburg that day – Brendan staying on in Windhoek for a few days business and then home.

Chris & team via Sossusvlei, Seeheim, Northern Cape and Bloemfontein (another story – check out with Keith & Margaret Ashton!) and then KZN.

 

Highlights of the 8-day experience:

Hyaena in river;  Leopard kill;  Gemsbok;  Chains!;  Fires;  Nightly reading of “Spud”;  Groot Hartseer; 

Craick around fire;  Vastness of Namibia;  Comradeship generally;  Germoline!!

 

Some accolades are due!

§                     Keith “Germoline” Ashton – for his unlimited stocks of the pink ambrosia and his general leadership of the 8 days.

§                     Brendan “Are we nearly there” McGuirk aka “Give it a hiding” for his cheerful disposition, help for the aged and infirm at “the chains” and his nightly reading of “Spud”.

§                     Stuart “Hollow Legs” Dawsett aka “Tarzan” – for his clearing up of everyone’s leftovers and his singular ability to appear on the horizon 200m above everyone else!

§                     Julian “Cool Jules” Hitchcock aka “Fireman extraordinaire” – for his fire making skills under intense competition from “the Capo di Fuego” – Peter W.

§                     Luciano “Hand Wash” Colombo for his wood gathering activities and general support for the less physically active.

§                     Margaret “Swinger” Kirsten – no – not referring to social activities but to her ability to hang from trees, chains, you name it.

§                     Margaret “Rolling Pin” Brown – she alleviated most of the groups aches and pains nightly with the “traditional weapon” she had skilfully secreted in her back pack.   She also helped calm the nerves of the more anxious amongst us as we approached “the chains”.   She had undertaken the Naukluft hike about 7 years previously.

§                     Chris “The Pope” Dobson – he had a papal air about him as he was assisted down a rock face – unforgettable.   Also for his stoic performance generally. He was normally in the sweeper position and had the unenviable position of being last on the “Big Chain”.   Good stories around the fire too.

§                     Margaret “Chains” Ashton – she showed a lot of courage and character negotiating all the chains – particularly the big one and stood up to her fears head on.   Also for her rendition of Albert and T’lion.   Even if you’ve heard it before – it’s still a classic.

§                     Andrea “CD” Gutfreund – for her determination to see the hike through even though she had incubated a severe cold and flu.   She also had to contend with a very tight travel schedule to get to the Naukluft.

§                     Lastly, Peter “Pyro” Wedge – erstwhile fire master and hike scribe.   He now has serious contenders to take over the coveted title.

A truly great experience for us all and one to be remembered for many years to come.   Great company, great scenery and wildlife and a fantastic challenge.   Well done to everyone and thank you again to Keith for making it possible.

 

WHALE  TRAIL                                                                                                                     Libby Deysel

21 October 2006

Midlands Hiking Club Members – Irene Wisdom, Libby Deysel, Joan Birch, Sally Brown .   Guests:  Susan and Steve (Irene’s sister and friend from Scotland), Moira and Glynnis (Pmb Ramblers), Ann, Sharon, Rose and Jay (Natal Parks Board).

 

I was chief baggage handler for the journey down, having the luggage for Irene, Sally and Ann.   Fortunately, there were only the two of us in the car (Ossie and myself) and one oxygen machine which occupied a seat!    Ossie and I parted company at Riviersonderend – he joined his brother and carried on to Cape Town and I drove to Stanford where I spent a very pleasant afternoon and night with Sally and her son and family.    The following day Sally and I did explored Cape Aghullas and Arniston before making our  way to Potberg.

 

We had an anxious time when by 5.30 Irene, Susan and Steve, who were driving from Cape Town had not arrived.   However, having made arrangements for the gate to be left open for them, they did arrive in time for the briefing.   We were told that we may be taken off the trail on the Friday as OTB may be doing missile testing.   The weather was a bit suspect that evening, but we took a chance and Jay took control of the braai fire.   It was early to bed for us in preparation for an early start the next day.   Sleep eluded me for most of the night – probably because of the talk about the snakes we may encounter – and I don’t think Susan slept too well on the top bunk as she thought she might fall out.

 

We were up and ready to go by 07h30.   Unfortunately, the weather was not kind to us and we hiked most of the first day in rain and mist.   We had a bit of an anxious time as having climbed part of the way up the mountain, we came to a fork in the path and there was no white foot print (the mark of our trail).   At the briefing, we had been told – if in doubt, head up the mountain.   However, with the poor visibility we couldn’t really see the way up!!   We hiked for quite a distance and tried several times to make cell phone contact without success.   We also were quite concerned when we lost sight of Joan.   She had gone marching on ahead thinking that part of our group was in front of her.   We had to re-group and make sure that we kept everyone in sight – easy with Sally and Moira who both had yellow raingear!   There was total relief and jubilation when we eventually saw a marker and realised that we were on the right track after all!!   We had a vague sighting of the Breede River valley through the mist and rain (a bit disappointing) and had to negotiate quite a narrow ridge in very blustery conditions.   I eventually had to remove my glasses – needed windscreen wipers!!  Luckily the weather cleared for us to sit down (for the first time) by the river for lunch.

 

That evening the house at Cupidoskraal really looked like a Chinese laundry.   Steve had made a huge fire inside so we were able to hang our clothes to dry while we were braaing our supper.   As it was a bit cool to have a swim in the dam, a few of us played Glynnis’ version of canasta – certainly different to Moira’s and mine!!

 

The weather looked more promising the following day and soon cleared.   We had a great day’s hike, the flowers were superb and as we neared the coast there was some disbelief from some of the group as one or two of us decided that we had spotted the whales. The climb down to the Noetsie huts  was a bit tricky as the wind had become a blustery.   I decided it was safest to keep as close to the ground as possible, and descended on my bum.   We arrived early enough to have plenty of time to explore and just to sit and watch the whales playing so close to shore.   There were plenty of birds on the rocks – giant cormorants, terns and black oyster catchers.

 

Day three was great – perfect weather and a beautiful hike along the cliffs with plenty of sightings of the whales.   We were lucky enough to have a clear sighting of the Albino calf (dalmation) with its mother and also a school of dolphins.   The rock formations were spectacular as was the colour – they looked almost rusty.   There were beautiful views of clear rock pools with turquoise water and a cave with just a slight opening through which the light filtered to reflect on a pool of water.   As the tide was perfect for us, we were able to descend the chain ladders and spend quite awhile swimming in the rock pools at Stilgat.   The sea was a bit chilly and I only managed to go in waist deep, but most of the others braved the cold water.    We arrived at Hamerkop with plenty of time to walk on the beach or just relax in “the mansion”.   Concensus of opinion – we would all have liked to have stayed there forever – great accommodation with just the sea, beach, whales and birds for company!

 

Unfortunately, there was an unpleasant notice awaiting us at Hamerkop – we had to be ready to leave at 7 the following morning.   They were coming to take us back to Potberg as they were going to do the missile testing.   Three bakkies came to collect us the following morning – quite an exercise as they had to remove the hikers from each of the huts.   OTB showed us a video of the missile testing and the Cape Nature staff also showed us video’s of what they are doing in the area – clearing alien vegetation etc.   It was interesting, but of course we all would much rather have been on the trail.   We were given lunch and as there was  a delay before the transport took us to the next night stop, four of us joined the group following us for a fun session of cards.

 

We arrived at the hut at Vaalkrans in time to take a short walk back along the route we should have hiked that day.   Unfortunately, after a wonderfully sunny day, the mist had started coming in so we could not venture too far.   This was the only hut that had no electricity due to some trouble with the solar panel.

 

We started our last day’s hike bright and early to make the most of the little time we had left.   Another superb day with great sightings of the whales, rock formations and rock pools.   Again the spartan ones in our  group braved the water to have a swim at Koppie Alleen while the rest of us either lay on the beach or did a bit more exploring, but we were now back in civilisation and there were quite a few day visitors on the beach.   When we arrived at the car park to catch the bus, we were nicely surprised to find a cool box with drinks and beers for sale – Steve and Sharon had waited 5 days for a cold beer!!  

 

Back at Potberg, we quickly unpacked and repacked our cars to all head off home.   So ended a fantastic trail, with great company and only one disappointment – having missed out on one day’s hike.   Steve, the only male in the group, was an absolute star – preparing the fires every night for us, leading the group most of the time and putting up with 11 females.   Ann, Rose, Jay and Sharon were the most well organised with their cuisine – main course and pudding each night!!   Consequently Steve was also well fed with whatever they could not finish!   There were no serious mishaps, although Sharon slipped and had some very nasty grazes on her leg.   Rose and Glynnis managed very well in spite of Rose having back problems and Glynnis having knee problems.

 

BACKPACKING WEEKEND TO WHYTE’S CAVE                                                              Brian Checkley  10/11 February 2007

Our group of 10 met at Bushman’s Nek KZN Wildlife base for the hike led by Graham Cullinan.   In our group were Grethe, Keith and Margaret, Irene, Howard, Andrew, Cornelius, Petra and Brian.   We set off at about 08h30, in the reverse direction along the Giant’s Cup Trail from Bushman’s Nek, climbing steadily until we reached Painters Cave (named after the many Bushman paintings) and there had lunch.   Following lunch was a steep climb. quite a pull, then down to White Horse Cave (again named after the paintings). The day was very hot as we made our way along the contours to Whyte’s Cave.   After the hot day comfortable sleeping areas, the waterfall and cool pool close to the cave were really appreciated.   The evening’s entertainment came from Margaret with her rendition of “The Lion & Albert”.

 

After a night’s sleep and breakfast we departed back along the contours to then cut across the valley, bypassing Painters Cave and eventually down to Langalibalele Cave (with more paintings) where we had lunch.   The day was much cooler than Saturday and we appreciated the coolness.   A good variety of Bushman paintings were observed and appreciated in three of the caves we visited.   The outward distance on the Saturday was about 9.8 km while our return hike on the Sunday was about 10.5 km.

Thanks Graham for your excellent leadership and a great weekend in the outdoors.