Rose, Christie, Libby, John F, John S, Max, Brian, Dave S, Jenny, Astrid, Darryl & Melissa, Harry & Stella, Brigitta & Chris.
The weather forecast promised that the weekend ahead was to be an icy cold one. And it was at night. In spite of the cold weather predictions, Saturday proved to be a glorious sunshine day which increased the level of enthusiasm amongst the hikers. Some members of the “team” had arrived the previous afternoon at Pholela hut and so Rose, Christie and Max already had a solid hike under their belts.
But no firewood or gas at Pholela hut, and no water at the campsite! During the afternoon we hassled the camp staff for firewood and in the evening we moved the campsite gas bottle to the hut in Brian's car, and everyone showered at the hut. The hut of course is "beautifully maintained" and the showers are a sight to behold - recommended for hardy hikers only.
On Saturday morning 16 hikers set off. Brian informed us that the hike, which one could describe as a rollercoaster hike, would only be 17 kilometres! He led the team at a comfortable pace, ensuring that everyone could keep up, and so a jolly hiking day commenced for all.
We left Cobham in warm sunshine, heading for Boundary Rock. The trail initially took us gently uphill with some glimpses of the Pholela river down below. As we progressed further up the mountain, we were greeted with some spectacular views of the Pholela river valley. Dave S and Chris swiftly moved higher up to capture some breathtaking sights on their cameras. Next was Siphongweni cave and now the trail became steeper and steeper .
Some hikers opted not to go to the cave which is a Ukhahlamba World Heritage Site. It was a steep and tiring climb, but well worth it once we came face to face with numerous Bushmen paintings. We spent quite some time there, viewing and photographing the paintings and deliberating as to what they meant and represented. Then it was downwards, joining the others and shortly slogging once again steeply uphill and over the top towards Mzimkhulwana hut. Brian showed us the way down the other side, crawling and sliding amongst proteas and brambles to the river down below. At Mzimkhulwana hut we met the two international visitors (Esther and Bastian) who had shared Pholela hut - and our table in front of the fire - with us the night before. Then it was once again up, up, up … and onto the Giants Cup Trail … then home to our sparkling clean Pholela hut, where it was established that we had in fact walked 18.9 kilometres.
The campers said they would make a braai fire for all that night, and Chris wandered down to the tent area after showering to cook our meat. On arrival he was confronted by a Michelin-Man look-alike contest, and was berated by a few contestants for being unsuitably dressed for the occasion - he won’t make that mistake again! After dinner the rest of the evening was spent in front of a monster fire, under the moon and stars.
Once again Rose and Christy chose to sleep on the hut verandah, but this time the wind pumped, so not as comfortable as the night before, but the starry sky must have made it worthwhile.
Sunday morning was a much shorter hike for 8 hardy souls, up By-pass Ridge and back down part of the Giants Cup Trail, about 8 kilometres in all - a short walk as dark clouds were threatening. So a nice soft landing for a great weekend.
Thanks to Brian for leading a great hike, tiring though it was.
Thanks to Parks Board for a lovely hut.
Brigitta and Chris Simpson
Brian catching up to Rose
Pholela river valley
Last leg to the top
Now where am I
Moving out after lunch
Mzimkhulwana hut & eland
See my hat floats
Still a way to go
This feels heavier
This is the life
Top at last
Waiting on top
Winter sun is lekker