21st November 2010
Leader: Allison Gunning.
Photos courtesy of: Gen James
Report by: Mary Webb (scroll down past the photos for the report)
Participants: Allison Gunning (leader) Peter Wedge, Peter Comrie, Clive Holland, Gen James (Photographer) Annette, Sue Rowley, Carolee, Mary Webb.
Views at the top and down from the top over the Dusi side (initial ones) then over Nagel dam.
While driving to the meeting point for this hike, the madness of such a venture on such a swelteringly hot Natal day loomed large in my thoughts. I am sure most of you reading this were planning activities more in accord with the weather; however nine of us decided to face the furnace and joined Allison’s leadership up Table Mountain, east of Pietermaritzburg.
We left vehicles at the base of the mountain, in the precincts of a local store whose keeper was rewarded for the vehicles’ safety at the end of the day, and set off up the immediate slope which lead us onto the table top. Short and sharp, this was the only real exertion that the day demanded of us, and once up we were met by the most wonderful breeze that cooled us for the duration of the hike left us feeling smug with the realization that this was actually the best place to be on such a day!
The top is a landscape of soft, undulating, green Natal grassland, covered in flowers at this time of year and dotted with cattle belonging to the locals whose dwellings stop at the base of the steep ascent to the top. We spent the day meandering our way around the perimeter of the table top, able to indulge in time to enjoy scrape marks in the rocks from long-gone glaciers, interesting sink holes which sheltered the only trees and bushes that occur up there, insects and plants that caught our eye, and the occasional bird. The mystery of a trail of blood which we had picked up on our ascent was solved with the discovery of a day old calf nestling in some bracken – concerned mother was nearby! A dramatic view out over a somewhat hazy Natal accompanied us all day. Allison was able to plot for us the various stages of the Dusi canoe race, and further round we had a magnificent view of Nagel dam and the Umgeni river. Top marks to Allison for her choice of lunch-spot! This was on a shoulder that reaches out from the body of the table top and into the Umgeni Valley. Lots of exposed rocks set with aloes, it narrowed to almost a knife edge before the punctuation of a single, separated column which would have taken quite some scrambling to get to. We gloried in the views of Nagel dam, in the swifts, swallows and martins .. and the occasional hadeda! .. which were plying the strong winds that swept up from the valley, and generally absorbed the peace of a truly beautiful day … well, beautiful for the nine of us who ventured out into the brilling sunshine that morning!
Back down at the cars by 2pm, back into the swelter and humidity of a Natal summer, we felt that we had scored double in having discovered such a delightful area for hiking, and having cheated the weather at the same time! Thank you to very congenial fellow hikers, predominantly from Howick and added to by representation from Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and to Allison for a fortuously wise choice of venue for this hike. The opinion that it becomes one of the regular routes for the annual hiking calendar was strongly supported by all.