MHC- Sherry-Whyet’s Caves
Bushman’s Nek
Southern Drakensberg
8 – 9 February 2014

Report and photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULL SIZE]


Keith had organized a hike at Bushman’s Nek for members of the MHC and MBP, and a group of 14 had gathered at the EKZN Wildlife office for this hike. Most exciting was the number of young hikers who had joined the party. This was good. Due to the large group, we would have to sleep in 2 caves , a fair distance apart. Sherry Cave was a small open cave high on a cliff face , very exposed, and no water , so water would have to be carried a long hard climb from the stream to the high cave.

The weather was good, but hot, and the weather forecast advised of a small rain in the late afternoon, and more for the next afternoon. The climb is a long ongoing climb, but with good weather, no rush – no rain !!, an easy pace was taken. Rest stops were frequent, and ample time given to admire the view far away, and some beautiful water plants in pools that would soon be dry. There the seed would lie and wait for the next rainy season to come, germinate, and bring forth life again. However , up in the sky, the clouds continued to build, and soon to produce a great mid summer day storm – of which were did not take any cognizance over.



Pic 2 – 6 Up and up , with the building storm
Pic 7 - Those magical rock pools ( click on the photo to enlarge it)
Pic 8 – 10 - On the way to lunch

Lunch was taken in the shade and protection of a huge band of sandstone rock, with a little stream nearby – the stream from which we would have to fill our extra 5lt water bags to take up to the cave. Also in this rock band is a Bushman rock art site , with many pictures depicting horses.



Pic 11 - 13 Bushman Rock Art

The stream was gurgling with crystal clear cool water, and once we had packed the extra 4 – 5 kilograms of water into our back packs, the hard, steep climb began.



Pic 14 – Beautiful water
Pic 15 – The Climb.

Halfway up the hill, we were all given a great adrenalin rush when the first clap of thunder rang about our ears. Huge storm clouds rolled in , and it was everyone for themselves to get over the crest , and hopefully to the first cave before the rains came.



Pics 16 – 18 - Mid-summer thunderstorm

There was no way that anyone was going to get to any cave before being drowned, or struck by lightning. Fortunately, just off the top of the summit was a huge rock formation which we made a dash for, and just got into some shelter before the rain with hail came pelting down. As with most mid –summer storms it was dramatic, short and sweet.



Pics 19 – 21 - Waiting out the storm.

It then looked as if was going to clear, so the party going to the further cave took off at speed to get down off the mountain to the lower area as quick as possible. As we set off for the high cave, the weather turned a great big blanket of mist rose from the valley below. Fortunately we were close to the cave, but the narrow slippery entrance caused a little alarm, as the drop off on the left was a bit extreme.



Pic 22 – 23 Clearing mist- cave on the top right in the cliff face - pic 23.
Pic 24 – 25 Mist comes back
Pic 26 – 28 Entrance way to the cave

The cave was damp, wet, cold and misty – not the ideal place to sleep. The damp mist kept on rolling in , and all our clothes and gear was damp and a bit wet. Views from the cave were nil.



Pic 29 - The sleeping area
Pic 30 - Settle in as best you can
Pic 31 - What view ?

The next morning broke beautifully clear, mist in the valleys, and great sunrise above. The early bird catches the most lovely sunrise, and two of us did, getting up at 05h00 was well worth it. A climb to a higher vantage point offered commanding views of the new day arising. Tops of high mountains jutted out of the morning mist like islands in a white sea.



Pics 32 – 37 Catching the sunrise (pic 36 omitted)
Pics 38 – 40 On top of the world ( Click on the pictures to see them better)

Meanwhile back at the cave the late risers were enjoying a slow breakfast time, and some great scenery from the cave. After packing we setoff up the valley, across yesterdays summit, and down the other side to meet the rest of our party that had gone down the previous afternoon.





Pic 41 – 43 - From the cave
Pic 44 - Valley of clouds below
Pic 45 – 47 - Going up and going down

We were to meet the rest of the party below the other painted shelter, they were a little late, so there was time to inspect the art, have a rest , and look at the few flowers still showing some colour. Then, down to the path to meet the others, before turning for home. They had apparently not suffered the wet mist as we had, and by all accounts had enjoyed a good night.



Pics 48 – 49 Some incredible art work on a stone surface
Pic 50 - Enjoying a quiet moment
Pics 51 – 52 - Some colourful flowers
Pic 53 - Waiting on the path above cloud valley

The valley remained in a thick blanket of mist or cloud all morning and time was taken to sit and watch the cloudy mist rolling up and down the valleys. Some of the party went with Keith to a further cave, and a few of us headed back to the cars. As we walked the mid-day thunder clouds built up over the far mountain peaks, and shortly after thunder claps could be heard heading our way. So with renewed flagging energy levels – and once again – every man for themselves, we sped on our different speed levels home. We made it in a dry state, a few of the very fitter second group suddenly appeared , and some of the back markers received a small smatter of rain before arriving at the car park ahead of a good rain shower.



Pics 54 – 56 The rolling misty clouds in the valley
Pic 57 - Storm ahead and moving our way.
Pic 58 - Back at camp all was green and calm .

Certainly a good week end, with an ever changing set of weather conditions that would have given our new hikers some idea of how quickly the berg weather can change.

The motto of any mountain hiking should always be - GO PREPARED FOR ANYTHING !

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