Highmoor Nature Reserve
Central uKhahlamba Drakensberg
12 - 13 October 2019
Report and photos by Dave Sclanders (Moonlit Group pic courtesy Alistair Nixon)
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
"By the light- of the Silvery moon,
I'll walk with you
Thro the mountains at night,
I know my friend
You won't forget it soon"... .
Yes you have guessed it, a night hike on the Full Moon at Highmoor. Not many people have had this opportunity to walk at night.( We did it some years ago, and it was an experience for those hikers then , I wonder how many have done it since ??)
With this night hike, one is really well and truly in the hands of the weather makers. Hiking on the full moon is much easier and rewarding than trying to walk by torch light. One cannot appreciate how much difference there is, but also to really appreciate the experience the path should be reasonably good, and the leader should know the route intimately.
Well, the night hikers arrived at the Highmoor Camp site on Saturday afternoon and set up their tents at leisure. With the hike not expected to be over until much later in the night, driving home after, was not an option . It was a slow enjoyable affair, with a bit of a niggle in the backs of our minds as to the behavior of the weather. Clouds were building in the East, drifting cold air put a bit of a bite into the afternoon, and that inevitable question, "Would the sky be clear ?". Our hopes were a bit dashed when a burst of rain blew over the camp site, then seemed to disappear, but the clouds persisted. As planned an early supper was had, everyone producing a home cooked meal that just had to be warmed up.
After supper, all we warmly dresses and ready, then faces turned to the cloud laded sky to see if the moon would magically pop out from behind the clouds.
Well, the moon did "pop out" the clouds did disappear, and the night walk did take place. A 3 hour round trip, from the campsite to where some of us call "Windy Knoll" . At first a few hikers wanted their torches on see the path, but with the full moon shining so bright, all lights were soon doused, and the walk was done in the light of the clear, starless moon filled night sky, in silence as one put all ones concentration into where your feet were going..The Path follows the old road to the West of the buildings, past 2 dams close to the path, then swings left onto a high plateau that overlooks the great valleys of Giants Castle that lead from the river right up to the foothills of the Giants Massive and to the far off Monk's Cowl and Cathkin Peaks.
Here at the top, we spread ourselves away from one another, sitting alone and in the dark and silence , just contemplating. To the West, a dark mysterious area of the Giant's brooding domain, to the North as far as one could see, the thousands of pinpricks of light from the myriad of house in the huge tribal settings between here and Estcourt. Such a contrast was hard to imagine, visualize or explain. Sitting in the warm night air, with the moonlight drowning the stars, absolutely no wind, no sound of any sort, just you and your thoughts absorbing this incredible privilege, was a minute precious moment in one's life.
30 minutes later we were on our way back to camp, an easy walk, just a bit of chatter now and then, then it was across the footbridge, up the hill, and into camp. What an experience.
Sunday morning arose with a cold misty weak sun. The plan was to retrace out steps of the previous night to see what we could not in the dark, then branch off and do some more hill and dale walking. Well, suddenly our numbers dwindle as hikers did not feel the urge to do the walk, and soon left for home.
We had 2 hikers coming in for the day from Howick, so as soon as they arrived, and with two hardy hikers from the previous night we set off to Windy Knoll. Passing the points we had discussed as we walked past them in the night.
At the top of Windy Knoll, we rested to take in the incredible views offered from this vantage point. The day had warmed up a bit, but mist still hid the high berg from us. Nevertheless , thewide valley views were very impressive.
We cut a large circular walk heading towards the old radio tower hill that used to be a marker for the path to Aasvoelskraanz Cave, then dropped down to the river and took the path up homewards. Before we dropped down the hill, from our high vantage point we could see a most amazing Meandering Stream winding across the valley floor. A great view point from which school children could see what a Meandering Stream or river looks like.
Down at the river a small waterfall trickled down stream. We waited for another party of day trippers to walk ahead of us, then we set off for camp, had a late lunch, packed up and set off for home.
NOW THE UGLY BIT, WHY< WHY< WHY, do people who profess to be interested in nature NOT HAVE THE DECENCY, to carry out the remains of the stuff they carried into a Wild area.
At Highmoor, the Kamloops dam, the dam nearest to the offices, has a Fisherman's near the spillway, it has short sidewalls and a roof, and a camp table and fixed benches. A group of young people with a SO CALLED GUIDE, were allowed to spend the night there as part of a school outing. They left absolute chaos behind, all their food remains, tins, packets, junk were left behind. Absolutely appalling, unfortunately no action was taken at the time. TO my mind , as a retired Mountain Guide, that Educator Group should have been taken to task. What a disgusting example for the school group.
To make matters worse, local baboons have not helped the situation.
Nature is all we have to keep our planet in balance.
CARRY OUT WHAT YOU CARRY IN - FOR ALL OUR SAKES.
Or stay at home.!!!!
AGAIN A PLEA TO ALL BERG HIKERS - PLEASE FILL IN THE MOUNTAIN WALKING REGISTER PROPERLY AND ACCURATELY,AND GET THE EMERGENCY NUMBER OF THE OFFICE FROM WHICH YOU LEAVE.
- IT IS IN YOUR BEST INTEREST AT ALL TIMES.
Don't see it as a nuisance, see it as your insurance in a time of emergency