Mares Tail Falls (Karkloof)
29th September 2013


Report and photos by Rod Hart

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]



Our group of 9 hikers met at Bushwillow Park just off the Karkloof road some 23km outside of Howick for what was described as the Mare's Tail Falls Day Hike - A cool walk in the forest with the hope of seeing wild Clivias in bloom. The clear cool day turned out to be perfect weather for this hike, which while shaded by the forest is quite a steep climb for a lot of the way.

The waterfall which was our destination on this hike is described on the Shawswood Website (www.shawswood.co.za) as "Grey Mare's Tail" Falls and stands 101m high on a 300 Ha reserve of natural forest and grassland overlooked by Mout Gilboa. The path up to the falls is an original foresters path which has been reopened.



1. The Bushwillow Park Convention Centre overlooking the pond - well maintained grounds for tenting or caravaning
2. Azalea add a splash of colour in the Park gardens
3. Group photo - Neville Lee, third from the right was Hike Leader



4. And we are off...
5. up the well defined path...
6. which leads towards the forest...
7. and then as the path gets steep, trekking poles come in handy
8. Regrouping and breather at the top of a steep section



9. The path is well defined and has either green arrow markers or bright orange tags to confirm that you are on the right path
10. Extremely moist inside the forest with lots of moss, some very interesting looking, on the trees
11-14. A fungi hunters paridise - all shapes sizes and colours
15. One of the bright orange route markers can be seen to the right of our group and another of our "take a breather" stops
16. Felled tree trunk disolving naturally back into the ground, showing wear from the tread of passing hikers
17. Interesting! The trunk of a tree having grown around and now enveloping an obstructing rock
18. Fallen trees show damage apparently from snowfalls last year
19. We branch off to the right onto the path "To Waterfall" and take a snack break



20. The first sighting of the anticipated Clivia in flower
21. Uniquely this Clivia is growing some 2 or 3 metres off the ground in the crook of a tree branch
22. Photo shoot - little did we realise the spectacle of Clivia that awaited us further down the track



23. Forward and onward around the moss covered environment
24. A monkey skull seen along the path
25. Tree stem doing a 360 degree twist



26-31 Then the spectacle of flowering Clivia - SPECTACULAR!



32. A worn down tree trunk takes shape as natures work of art
33. Then we break out of the forest
34. A cluster of young grasshoppers/locusts huddled together alongside the path
35. We are now out on the grasslands, Mount Gilboa is on the left of this pic
36. We make our way, now off the path, towards the top of the waterfall



37. The path over the stream is just metres above the point at which it plunges over the rockface
38. I get this pic of the top of the waterfall by lying on the top and stretching my arms with the camera over the void
39. The rockface stretching into the distance
40. Looking down below the escarpment
41. A memorial plaque to Roan Dales who died at the age of 5 yrs of an inoperable,untreatable brain tumor, I assume his ashes may have been scattered overlooking this wonderful setting. According to reports Roan had a courageous heart and was brave and stong, an inspiration to those who knew him.
42. We take our lunch on the edge of the escarpment
43. After lunch a short trip further along alows us to look back at the thin sliver of water cascading over the falls
44. Photo opportunity with the falls in the background
45. On the way back I spot what looks like an owl in a nest just off the edge of the rockface, difficult to get near it and even with the camera zoom extended to the max I can't quite make it out - see what you think!



46-49. On the route back we can't help but take more pics of the Clivia spectacle
50. A fairly substantial tree trunk which looks as if its growth was strangled by a vine

The hike back down the hill was, as expected, heavy on the knees and slippery on the steep sections, trekking poles definitely recommended. A lot quicker going down than up and as we followed the same route back there was no need to dawdle taking photos (other than of the Clivia display). A great hike, thank you to Neville for stepping in and ensuring this hike went ahead - if you missed it this year look out for it next year in September. I personally would also like to see the falls, during summer, from the bottom which according to the Shawswood website "is as spectacular as the top, with its rapids and pools of water in dappled shade and natural monkey ropes hanging from various bush trees, including yellowwoods."

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