17-18 NOVEMBER 2007
Report by:Howard Townshend
Photos by: Dave Sclanders
Wonder Valley Cave, Injasuti, KZN (Advertised as “A Novice” route). 6 kilometres each way. 3 hours each way. A “Novice” route means that you will simply suffer less than on a regular route with the backpack waist band trying it's best to push your guts up into your chest cavity while the shoulder straps try to shove your shoulders down to meet the rising guts. A chapter can be written on the feet, the calves and the “hammies.”
“Novices.” This does not mean that you walk the poodle around the block a few times the week before the hike, throw a couple of sarmies into a Checkers packet and then set off for a stroll. It means that you train to carry a beastly canvas bag weighing 16 kgs and containing clothing to cater from blistering hot weather to torrential rain, jarmies, food for the two days plus a day's emergency rations, energy snacks, drinking water, toiletries, stove, cutlery, crockery, cooking pot and utensils, bedding and mattress and don't forget the Red Wine/Ol' Brown/Dram Buie.
FLORA AND FUANA:
A large variety of wild flowers was in bloom.(Pink Watsonia, Ericas, Bottlebrush, Tree Ferns, Cycads and purple, yellow, mauve and red jobs with unpronounceable names. Proteas were just starting to open). Malachite sunbird and baboons. Thank you Lord for this magnificent “Blue Planet!”
Saturday – Cloudy, cool and humid. Saturday night. The temperature varied according to whose thermometer was consulted. Between 12 and 15 degrees. Sunday – Light drizzle and mist with zip visibility. This after our leader assured us on the Thursday night that there was a mere 30% chance of poor weather. On Saturday night as we were drifting off to sleep, this same leader (who is a professional man to boot) assured us that Sunday would be good weather. And we think that the TV weather forecasts should be taken with a pinch of salt!!
Comfy level straw sites in the overhang. (Why it is called a “cave” beats me! My Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “cave” as, underground hollow usu, with horizontal opening.) The partitioning between the sites is not sound proof and snoring is interchanged between the sites for the full 12 hours the hikers are submerged in their sleeping bags. The communal bath is magnificent but is a stiff climb up and down a slope as steep as a Gauteng gold mine slime dam. After bathing and hiking back to the rooms, one needs another bath. The geyser did not work during our stay and the water was cold enough for Scotch on the rocks. Toilet facilities are primitive and require another stiff walk with spade (or matches to burn the paper without setting the 'Berg on fire) and toilet paper in hand. Rather unpleasant when it is drizzling. Have you ever tried doing your thing while holding an umbrella in one hand? Relieving yourself is quite easily achieved under these conditions if you are ambidextrous, have good balance (remember you have a brolly in one hand) and if you don't skrik and scream each time a wet blade of grass tickles your under carriage!
CELL COMMS IN THE CAVE:
SATURDAY EVENING ENTERTAINMENT:
Poems recited by Margaret. You will be glad to hear that in the sequel to “Albert and The Lion,” the Lion does a “Jonah” on Albert and spews Albert out of his stomach. The Ramsbottoms and Albert also cross the Mersey in a unique apparatus which was explained by Keith before the poem was recited. We snuk glances at each others' gear to see what interesting and useful items are available. Keith had a Swiss army knife which shows the temperature and the altitude. He also had a small LED “lantern” which was stored in a Panado plastic container. He is not one to miss a bargain and bought a few at a sale price. A foil 5l bladder used in wine and fruit drink boxes is most essential for a steady easy water supply without having to go to the river each time water is needed. Down jackets squashed into smallish pillow cases make marvellous pillows for a comfortable nights sleep. Dave had a very fancy lighter which is powered by standard lighter fuel and which operates under extreme conditions. No hassles with lighting stoves under windy conditions with this beauty. He was sporting and experimenting with a new Fuji camera by kind courtesy of his Insurer. His blow up mattress with 5 separate compartments makes for a comfy sleep. This mattress also allows one to inflate compartments at different pressures to cater for sloping ground. About R150 and 800 grams in weight. A good buy. The air was thick with the smell of Dram Buie, Scotch and red wine. Much discussion on the merits of various boots. Seeing that we had inclement weather, waterproof boots were very much under discussion. Interesting to hear how boot manufacturers shudder when they hear the names “Dave Sclanders” and “Keith Ashton.” For example, Hi Tec have openly told them not to buy their boots because they are not intended to cover the distances these two cover in the short space of time that they do. Salomon have replaced two pairs for Dave but told him not to come back. Jim Green have had boots returned to them because they have not lived up to their waterproof claims. Keith wore his Jim Greens on this hike and although he wore gaiters and over trousers, his feet still were wet at the end of three hours of hiking in wet grass on Sunday.
Brian Henwood – “The Gourmet Chef.” Circa 1953 model.
The Pasta and Sauce packet called for marg and milk. Our Gourmet added a twist to the milk ingredient, Super M Vanilla! Not satisfied with that, he added diced dried apricots and fresh onions provided by Mike. They claim that it was delicious.
Dave Sclanders. - “ The Best 4x4 By Far.” Circa 1944 model.
According to his log on his computer, he is approaching 10 000 kms of hiking in the 'Berg!! Kan jy dit glo? The shocks are starting to wear out and anti inflammatories have to be gobbled before and during a hike. Still not a bad performance for a 1944 model!
Keith Ashton – “The Centurion Tank.” Circa 1939 model.
This edition can go any where any time without showing any strain or fatigue. Because of the weirdest lump of gristle and bone on the top of one of the big toes, it takes time to wear in a pair of new boots. Hence a steady stream of new boots into the house.
Margaret Ashton – “The Entertainer.” Circa 1940 model.
Well known for “Albert and The Lion” poems. Two fresh ones were added to her repertoire. What a beautiful lilt and accent from Lancashire. Keith says that his short term insurance premiums are exorbitant mainly because he has Margaret as a specified all risk item in the policy.
Mike Phillips – “The Mouse Man of Wonder Cave.” Circa 1943 model.
A striped mouse took a fancy to Mike and paid regular visits to his site and pantry. Mike was completely unphased. Each time the mouse visited one of the other pantries, it was shouted at and it immediately scurried back to Mike's Kitchen. Mike hails from Estcourt where he has lived and worked for Masonite for 34 years. (Shame!) Don't get that kind of loyalty in the newer models, do we? His cheque is in the post to join the club.
Howard Townshend – “The Observer.” Circa 1946 model.
Just observed, asked questions and listened.
Thank you Veronica for the hot drinks and biscuits at the end of the hike on Sunday.
NOVICES. There are far far worse and duller ways of spending a weekend. Make a New Year's resolution to suffer the pain and the pleasure on the next hike advertised as “Ideal for Novices.” You will meet some beautiful people and experience the matchless beauty of God's Creation. What a privilege to be well enough to do so!
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