Cannibal Hiking Trail
15-17 February 2020

Report by Anne Price, Photos courtesy: Alistair, Cathy, Andy, Marlise & Anne

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

Thirteen of us arrived on Friday afternoon at St Fort Farm, five kms from Clarens. We settled into the hikers' cottage. where there are eight bunk beds, loo and shower facilities, a large open verandah and braai facilities. Most of us then decided to hike the 2.5kms to Mushroom Rock, clearly visible from the farm. As the weather was warm and dry we agreed with our leader Andy's suggestion to take the 'Steep and Slippery' route, rather than the 'Leisurely Route'. Interesting hike through beech woods, across wooden bridges, into and through a cave with ladders (Fig.1), then up some easy scrambling to the impressive Mushroom (Fig.2). The inevitable conversations ensued about how long it would be before it fell, or was pushed, over!!

A convivial braai followed, once charcoal was added to the reluctant wood, followed by our evening entertainment with Andy serenading on guitar, and Mary's accomplished singing.

The Cannibal Hiking Trail is situated on the St Fort farm, in the beautiful Maluti mountains of the Eastern Free State. The name is derived from the legend that some cannibals were active in the area in the early 19th century. They kept captives in one of the many caves, where they were fed for later consumption. The well marked two-day circular route of 9kms, and 7kms passes through differing landscapes; stunning mountain views, with many impressive sandstone rock formations, some with fascinating San rock art, boulder hopping in and along gorges, forest ambles, and open grassland, (Fig.3). We had regular tea stops during the four and a half hour hike, the first at the aptly named Batwing Falls, superbly sculptured by nature.

Mike's Cave, commonly called Cannibal Cave is huge, (Fig.4) with space to sleep at least forty people, so we had ample room to spread ourselves out on the mattresses supplied by St Fort. These are kept in a building below the cave, where our bags were dropped off - one bag each, and the slackpacking was much appreciated!! (Fig.5). We had a well-deserved lunch (Fig. 6), and later all enjoyed a candlelight dinner, (Fig.7),far from any thoughts of load shedding, and settled down to sleep peering up at the clear sky, perfect for stargazing.

Next morning we marvelled at the rock paintings at the western end of the cave, particularly the large eland (Fig.8), and then set off for the hike back to St Fort on another clear, warm day. There is a gradual ascent out of the cave to a range of hills and valleys, with lots of walking on rock slabs. All of us were most grateful that they weren't wet and slippery.

A wonderful two days and great to be part of such a sociable and fun crowd of people.

Anne Price
Pictures: Alistair, Cathy, Andy, Marlise & Anne

1 The 'Slippery steep route' option!!
2 Mushroom rock
3 Sandstone rock formations
4 Spot the people
5 Sleeping setup in the cave
6 Lunch in the Cave
7 Candlelight dinner
8 Rock painting in the Mike's Cave