The May Newsletter is to be completed in April this year, as our Editor, Noël Harper, will be away in May, hiking the Whale Trail without a pack this time.  It will be interesting to hear from the club members who are doing this trail for a second time to what extent does travelling light enhance the enjoyment of this very lovely trail.



We had a good turn out for the wine tasting evening on 16 March.   Crossways provided the snacks, and Tracy Unstead brought a selection of red and white wines from the Kleinberg range which went down very well and helped set the tone for a relaxed and chatty evening.  Peter Unstead displayed the range of boots from Jim Greene and offered Midlands Hiking Club members a discount on any boots purchased from him.



Crossways has decided not to make their premises available for any meetings on Tuesday evenings as they interfere with the popular Quiz Night.  The Committee prefers not to change our meetings to another night, as Tuesdays are generally more convenient to most people.  Bushy and Pat approached the Hilton Hotel and they have been very cooperative, allowing us use of the Tudor Ballroom for our social get togethers.   So please note that socials on 20 July, 21 September and 16 November will be held at the Hilton Hotel.  We would like to show our gratitude to the Hilton Hotel by supporting them as much as possible. 



Our next social on 18 May will be our last at Crossways. Brian Henwood will be giving a computerised slide presentation of The Whale Trail.

21 September is the first day of spring.  We would like our meeting on that day to have a Spring Day theme.   Any ideas?

The AGM is on Tuesday 17 August at the Hilton Hotel.   A finger supper will be provided, which will be subsidized by Club funds. 

The Christmas party this year will be held at Mark Nellist’s house in the Karkloof on Saturday 4th December.  More details will follow, but in the meantime diarise this date, as this will be a party not to be missed!



Leaders are asked to remember to use these forms on hikes, and send the completed forms to Keith Ashton , who will then analyse attendance at hikes.  Some forms will be kept in the First Aid Kit, which should accompany leaders on all hikes.



We extend a very warm welcome to Ozzie Deysel, Tomas Ersson, Elize Strauss, Danie Jacobs, Hildegard Lenz, Molly Perrett, Jack and Jeanette Higgs who have recently joined the club.  We wish you many happy hours with the Midlands Hiking Club, and remember that to fully experience the beauty of our country








A belated congratulations to our Web Master, Rod Hart on his marriage in February to Samantha.    The wedding took place in a minute chapel near to top of Van Reenen Pass which we are told holds only about eight to ten people.   We wish them every happiness in their new life together.




The Annual General Meeting of the Club is scheduled for Tuesday, 17 August, at 19h30 in the Tudor Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel.   It is planned to follow the meeting with a Finger Supper.   More details of this will be published in the July Newsletter.   In the meantime please note the date and time in your diaries.  This is your Club and we look forward to your input.

The official Notice of the Annual General Meeting is attached.




We know it is in the distant future, but it is also a very busy time of the year, so please note in your diaries that the proposed date of the Club Christmas Party is 4 December 2004.   More details nearer the time but in the meantime, note in those diaries.



20 – 22 February 2004


Pat, Bushy, Big Matthew, Mike, Dallas, Trish and Little Matthew braved the challenging road up the escarpment to joined Mark and Mary for a very relaxing weekend in an idyllic setting.  Marks comfortable cottage overlooks the 100 hectare lake which is situated close to the source of the Umngeni River.   On Saturday we walked around the dam and over the hills to view the Umngeni Vlei.    Dallas was able to identify many of the abundant wild flowers, and counted several species of Dyerama which were all in beautiful bloom.   The boys went fishing in the late afternoon, and Big Matthew returned with a lovely 2.5 lb trout, which we cooked in newspaper (has to be the Natal Witness) on the lounge fire, and had for a snack while waiting for our braai. 


Margaret and Keith joined us early on Sunday morning.   Mark, Matthew and the Ashtons went on a three hour hike towards Drink Kop.    Bushy and Mike went fishing.    The ladies relaxed!    Everyone departed after lunch on Sunday, relaxed and ready to face a new week.



29 February 2004


Sixteen members of the Midlands Hiking Club met at Mark’s farm in the Karkloof on Sunday morning.  From there we drove 15 kms to the bottom of Lebanon Pass in the Sappi Demagtenberg Estate.  The hike took us up the pass on the dirt road, and along a detour to a picturesque dam where we had morning tea.  After a good rest we walked along the top of the Karkloof escarpment to the Sappi hut for lunch, then down the grassy slopes back to the vehicles.  The hike was 13.5 kms and took us six hours.


The weather was overcast but clear, ideal for hiking, and the views from the top were spectacular.  This hike uncovered a whole new world to explore on top of the Karkloof range.  We look forward to doing more hikes up there in the future.



Sunday 28 March 2004


Warwick and Brenda collected Libby, Keith and Margaret and Irene and we all set off to the Bow & Arrow in Nottingham Road where we teamed up with Tessa and Grethe and Graham.   We then drove to Sussex Farm for the start of the hike.  


From the farm we had to climb through a fence rather than venture into the paddock where there were some threatening looking bulls!   We climbed a small hill to a rocky outcrop to some Bushmen paintings – one painting was quite clear, but the others were a bit weathered.   There was a smallish cave above the paintings and with a bit of persuasion, Keith clambered up to see if it really was Alladin’s cave and maybe he would find the magic lamp and the Genie.   However, the entrance was very narrow and he could not get through with his backpack.   There was a natural seat with backrest at the entrance to the cave and he did pose for a photograph as King of the Castle!


From the top of the hill we had a clear view of Kamberg and in the distance, Giants Castle and Monks Cowl.   We were fortunate with the weather as although there was a slight haze, we had a good view of the mountains.   


Having had a slight rest under a tree on the side of the road, we continued our hike across a meadow to a small dam.   It was a toss up as to whether we were to swim across or skirt it.   The water did look inviting, as it was quite hot, but we decided to walk round.   As we were walking along the edge of the dam we disturbed a lot of tiny, almost transparent frogs, sunbathing on the banks.   We refilled our water bottles from the stream leading into the dam.


We then proceeded to climb up to the beacon where we were to stop for lunch.   On the way we saw Blesbok and Reedbuck and an eagle circling overhead.    From the top of the hill we had great views of the mountains again and overlooked Steybraes, the game ranch.   We had a leisurely lunch and there was a nice breeze to cool us.   On the way back to the cars we saw a large herd of Blesbok – very pretty with their white faces and white socks.   The round trip was approximately 15 km and it is a pity we did not have a few more hikers joining us.


We completed the day with a very welcome cup of tea at Margaret and Keith’s home and sampled some of Margaret’s high energy, homemade muesli muffins – delicious!! 


Thanks to Warwick for a well organised hike.                                                                              Libby Deysel




Boots and hiking gear on (brand new waterproof boots in the case of Keith) Keith, Margaret, Morris and Noël piled into Keith’s 4X4 and headed in the direction of the Garden Castle Conservation Office.   Once through the Hotel entrance, ticket clasped tightly in hand, we registered at the office and set off in the direction of Sleeping Beauty Cave, a hike of some 8 km return.   It was a pleasantly warm day, not too sunny but humid.


The Southern Drakensberg had experienced a fair amount of rain during the previous weeks and it had rained through the night.   Fortunately the rivers had subsided as they had been running in full spate and been extremely difficult to cross.   The grass was wet as we started along the gently undulating path moving steadily upwards.  This hike is graded as ‘Strenuous’ and as we stepped it out along the path we thought, “This isn’t too bad for a strenuous hike”.


After the dream there comes rude reality.   The path follows the Mashai River which has to be crossed six times up and the same number of times on the return.   Because the river had gone down somewhat we could negotiate the crossings without having to remove boots.


The valley narrows as the path enters the sandstone portals of the Little Berg and gradually begins to steepen.   Up on our right we passed Swiman and further on up The Monk, while dead ahead beckoned the majesty at 3 313m of Mashai Peak.   The steepest part of the path is in the last 1,5 km.   Altogether one climbs some 400m to the Cave which in all fairness to it is not anything really to write home about.   The surrounding scenery up at the base of the sandstone cliffs however makes up for any short-comings in the large, noisy Sleeping Beauty Cave.   Not very aptly named in view of the roar created by the river rushing through it.


We took a break and Keith removed the brand new boots, tipped out a generous supply of water and squeezed another cupful out of his socks.   He was understandably singularly unimpressed with his so-called waterproof boots!   Having got rid of as much water as possible we then proceeded further up with the intention of locating Engagement Cave.   With the exception of Keith this proved to be a daunting task which we declined to try.   Keith however managed to negotiate an extremely deep, steep gully, recced some 700 – 800m further on and eventually called from across the river that he had found the cave which is in fact quite small.


The return trip was slowed by the steepness of the terrain and also because the ground was still wet in parts where the sun very seldom reaches.  


Altogether a beautiful hike but one must be prepared for the stiff upward climb.




Graeme, Grethe, Hildegard and I arrived at Sweetwaters Cottage mid morning on Friday 2 April.  The cottage is very comfortable with all modern conveniences set on 10 acres with lovely views of Garden Castle.   After having a look around we set out on a hike to Hidden Valley via Swiman Hut.   Weather was perfect for hiking, this is a really beautiful part of the Berg with unusual rock formations, like the "Rhino' and others newly and aptly named by Hildegard like 'Twin P.......!' - (sorry, censored I'm told by Keith).  After a most enjoyable hike we headed back to the cottage where we met Elize and Danie who looked very relaxed enjoying a glass of wine each while they waited for our return. 


The next day we hiked to Bushman's Rock to view some interesting paintings and then had a break at one of the many lovely streams and pools in the area.  It wasn't long before Grethe braved a swim.  I tried to fill my water bottle at the top stream and managed to drop the top which disappeared down a small waterfall to the pool below - but Keith and Graeme were quick to the rescue managing to hook it with a stick before it disappeared downstream.  We stopped for lunch at another lovely rock pool Champagne pool.  Grethe again was first in, followed by Hildegard, me and eventually the male representative - Graham.   It was freezing cold but refreshing.  After a good long nap in the sun by all we eventually set off again having a look at a small campsite in the area and visiting the beautiful Mermaid Pool where you could almost have a jacuzzi.   Later on back at the cottage the guys watched the rugby (Sharks vs Cats, I believe) but I think the lasses had more fun sitting watching the sun go down sipping champagne - courtesy of Hildegard.  Once the game was over we all enjoyed a braai, weather was warm enough for us to eat at the table outside.


Unfortunately the next day Elize and Danie had to leave early to sort out some problems but the rest of us set off to visit Pillar Cave which has a beautiful outlook and then Pillar Annexe Cave which was very cute - like 2 small rooms - better one for sleeping in.  We had lunch outside this cave and then it was almost time to head back to the cottage to prepare to pack up and drive back to reality.   Before leaving though, Margaret kindly made us waffles which went down well with Hildegard's cappacinos.  Thanks to Keith for some lovely hikes and to everyone for the great company. 

Irene Dickin





Very Easy





As always a gentle reminder in order to assist our hiking club leaders, please adhere to the following procedure when intending to join hikes.



Moderate – physical fitness


Day Hikes – Please try to inform the relevant leader a week, or at least a few days before the hike of your intention to participate.

Weekend Camping/hiking or over-nighting in Caves – Please try to inform the relevant leader 2 to 3 weeks before departure date of your intention to participation.





Moderate to severe – physical

fitness necessary

Severe – physical fitness essential

Long Week-end Trips & Longer Trails Please contact the relevant leader as soon as possible after publication of the hike in the

Newsletter Hiking Calendar.   The above is to assist the leaders in making or confirming the necessary arrangements, some of which have to be made and paid for by the Club a long time in advance.   The leaders have to put a lot of effort into hiking arrangements.