Welcome to the Club new members Carl Fatti, Rob Krogh and Max Ramseier. May you all enjoy many years of happy hiking on the various Club outings.
Members are reminded of the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING scheduled for Tuesday,
17 August 2004 in the Tudor Ballroom, Hilton Hotel, commencing at 19h30. The meeting will be followed by a Finger Supper, the details of which it is intended to circulate to all members with the request that either Chairman Mary or Activities Organiser Selven are advised of attendance by Thursday, 12 August, latest. Numbers are needed in order to facilitate catering arrangements. Your co-operation is appreciated. PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND
To Aris Hofland, one of our most active hikers, we wish a fantastic 80th birthday on the 21 June. Aris, we would all wish to be as fit as you.
To Joy Long we wish a speedy and complete recovery from her recent operation.
Members who have indicated that they will be joining the Vergezient long week-end from 24-26 September are reminded that final date for confirmation of their participation and payment is 20 August 2004. Payment may be made by cash or cheque to Treasurer Pat Kirby or deposited into the Club’s bank account at Nedbank, Hilton Branch, Account No 1519007299, with a copy of the deposit slip faxed to Pat on 033 212 3071. Thank you for your co-operation.
This is a new feature to which members are asked to contribute short write-ups on Camp/ Caravan/Chalet sites stayed at during their wanderings, for the information of their fellow members who may be in need such facilities. Our first contribution from the Keating family.
On a recent visit to the Cape to do the Whale Trail, we decided to visit and explore towns “off the beaten track”, so, after leaving the big N1 at the very recently famous Touws River (what a pity we were a month too early to witness Venus scooting past by Sol in her tiny black dot glory!), we headed for Montagu. We found the Municipal Camping ground and having settled in explored the well grassed and treed sites, small swimming pool for the warmer season, duck pond with many noisy occupants and camp sites complete with hen and tiny chicks, all very rural and pleasant. The ablution facilities are more than ample and comfortable. There are also wooden chalets available for those not in camping mode. The camp is within easy walking distance of the town and the Information Bureau, as also are the hiking trails which start at an office near the Old Mill where there is a parking area. There are huts ±1,3 km from here that can be hired and are at the start of the Trail to Cogmanskloof and Bloupunt. The hikes traverse the mountain reserve and offer wonderful views above the rugged mountains that over-shadow the town. From Montagu it is an easy drive to De Hoop Nature Reserve and the start of the Whale Trail at Potberg.
Contact details are Montagu Tourism Bureau, P O Box 24, Montagu 6720.
Tel: 023 614 2471, Fax: 023 614 3137, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,
web page www.montagu-ashton.info.
9 – 13 April 2004
Irene Dickin got landed with the Berg Cottage weekend write-up, so as leader of this long weekend I “volunteered” to do this write-up. Highmoor has become a particular favourite of ours as it is so close to Howick and we discover something new every time we visit this magnificent spot.
I had reserved two campsites (each officially allowing for 6 campers) but due to various reasons some participants had to cancel, so on Good Friday only three of us arrived at Highmoor, Irene, Margaret and yours truly. We quickly claimed the best two campsites (No 5 & No 4) and first erected Irene’s small dome tent on site no. 4 . Then we erected our tent, plus gazebo and large beach umbrellas etc., on site no. 5. After setting up the gas fridge (to ensure a good supply of ice cold beer) we were on our way hiking in beautiful weather. As Irene had spent a “very comfortable” New Years Eve with us, out in the open in thick mist and rain throughout the night on Mount Lebanon (New Years Eve had been planned as her first cave experience) we decided to try to find the “sleeping” spot for sentimental reasons, whilst we now had perfect hiking conditions. We hiked across the front of the first dam and headed the direct route towards Mount Lebanon, then headed south-east towards my estimated position of our “sleeping spot”.
After filling our water bottles at a delightful small crystal clear stream we reached the western side of a gorge overlooking our estimated “sleeping spot”, then settled down for a rest and lunch. Photographs of the “sleeping spot” were taken and one will appear on our website with Irene and Margaret pointing towards it. We made our way back to the campsite via the top of the escarpment which provided magnificent views of the valley below and many waterfalls. Back at the campsite many more campers had now settled-in and campsite (no. 3) next to Irene’s was full with about 6 tents and six vehicles, far more than the permitted number. Irene’s tent looked like a pea on a pod with oceans of room (however we were saving a spot for Selven and Prema – due on Sunday morning).
It was a brilliant star-lit night on the Friday but as we arose on Saturday there was very thick mist and drizzle. However, after a good breakfast (comfortable under our gazebo) we set off in the mist to Caracal Cave. After hiking past the three dams in mist and rain through soaking grass towards Caracal Cave we eventually reached the turn-off point to Fulton’s Rock (from this point the track peters out and the terrain is extremely steep with sheer drops in places). We re-assessed what we should do and Irene, having so much confidence in me, “insisted” that we include Fulton’s Rock even in rain and mist (what a dedicated hiker!! – please don’t check the truth of this with Irene). However, although it was extremely tricky on this steep terrain with neck high soaking grass we gradually negotiated a safe descent and although we could not see where we were going, with a bit of help from the compass we hit the exact point we wanted to cross a stream south of Fulton’s Rock . From here, although still very wet and misty, it was fairly easy going to the Rock (Fulton’s Rock is not shown on any of the new maps). It is well worth the effort and was most rewarding for Irene to see these paintings for the first time. Although Margaret and I have visited this spot many times we still enjoy viewing the beautiful paintings on this isolated rock – amongst many paintings of antelope and human figures several exquisite paintings of elephant are depicted. (See our website for photographs). From this point we made our way to Caracal Cave, took off our dripping waterproofs, and enjoyed lunch in the relatively comfortable shelter of the cave. Suitably sustained, we made our way back to the camp (still in mist/rain) by the standard route and felt invigorated at having completed a fairly demanding hike in such conditions. We rounded the day off by braaing in the rain under the beach umbrellas and enjoyed our meal and drinks under the Gazebo.
It was a beautiful day on the Sunday and Selven, Prema and grandson Nadim arrived early. Greetings exchanged, they started to unpack and erect their large substantial tent and enclosed awning. They decided to take their time and have a fairly relaxing day, so three of us (Irene, Margaret and I) set off to Ka-Dedakushe Falls, first bearing left along the old jeep track near Kamloops and Salma Dams (both beautiful trout fishing dams, but the daily rod fee is R80 and the bag limit is only 2 trout). We then climbed gradually for about 3km until we reached a track junction at ±2080 and bearing right we continued for another 3km to the “Plaque” with lovely views of Giant’s Castle and beyond. The “Plaque” marks the spot where history was made on 18 May 1973 by S P Botha (Minister of Water Affairs & Forestry) declaring this reserve the first wilderness area in a state forest (Upper Mkhomazi & Mdedelelo). KZN Wildlife is now keen to keep wilderness areas as such and I understand the plaque may also be relocated at some time, closer to the office. The old look-out tower has already been demolished.
From the “Plaque” we descended along a ridge for about another 1,5km, the track eventually disappearing) until we reached the falls. We had a leisurely lunch at this beautiful spot at the top of the twin falls (about 80m high) and there was a lot of water coming over. After lunch we retraced our route but took a left turn about a kilometre past the “Plaque” to descend by a narrower track (the “short cut”) back towards the dams. After an enjoyable days hike of about 15km we returned to camp and enjoyed drinks. In the evening we enjoyed a braai in the open around a campfire with Selven, Prema and Nadim, joining us.
Monday was another magnificent day and we all set off early, in a southeasterly direction from the campsite, towards Cleopatra, but along the top of the escarpment which has awe-inspiring rugged views down into the valley below. The Impofanyana River winds its way in this valley to eventually join the Little Mooi River. If one is adventurous enough to descend extremely steeply into this valley and to explore, there are many wonders to discover. From our lookout I was able to point out “Grotto Cave” (my name for it) which has unique Bushmen’s paintings and there are many others to find in the valley. We continued on our way to have lunch at the Cleopatra cairn. A Berg Adder disturbed Prema’s lunch but I was able to take a lovely photograph of the beautiful snake. (See our website).
A leisurely return to camp via a different route and once back at camp Prema provided us with well earned cups of tea and home-made goodies. Our last dinner was held around a roaring campfire. During our long weekend we saw many animals, including, Blesbok, Eland, Mountain Reedbuck, Baboons and Mongoose plus loads of birds including Secretary Birds and Jackal Buzzard. Thanks everyone for your wonderful company and enthusiasm. Keith Ashton
18 April 2004
A large group of 16 Club members plus a family of four Belgium's who have recently purchased part of the Davidson’s farm and have immigrated to the area, met at the Anderson’s house for the start of the hike. The road up to the Anderson’s was a lot improved since the last visit.
Again we had the services of a local guide, the farm manager who led the party down through the forest to a small waterfall before climbing up a valley along the side of the stream. The path has been re-aligned and requires less scrambling as was the case on a previous hike. However this still could be an issue in summer when the forest is wetter.
Emerging from the trees the party traversed to an outlook known as Breakfast Rock where lunch was declared and all relaxed enjoying the spectacular 180o view. Lunch over ten stalwarts clambered down the cliff face via an unstable ladder to inspect some small, disappointing caves.
1 – 9 May, 2004
The Whale Trail is fast becoming one of the top 2 or 3 long hikes in South Africa with an
“occupancy rate” of over 80%. Keith & Margaret Ashton and Peter Wedge were to have undertaken the 1st of 2 hikes planned for Midlands Hiking Club in September 2003, but due to an unfortunate vehicle break in and theft of Keith & Margaret’s hiking gear and supplies the latter three had to cancel their trip. The next available period was May 2004 and with accolades thick and fast from Midlands members who did make the September hike, Keith had no difficulty in getting another party of 12 together. They were: Keith & Margaret Ashton, Campbell & Lorraine Downie, Warwick & Brenda Keating with Kerry, Morris & Noel Harper, Hildegard Lenz, Selven Nyker and Peter Wedge.
All are experienced hikers, some more than others! Most people travelling down to the SW Cape individually with several already in the area on holiday before the hike. Details of experiences, events, evenings around the fire, follow.
SATURDAY, 1 MAY (relates to the Ashton Group) Workers Day! But all up around 05h00 for take off at 07h00 – Keith & Margaret picking up Peter at said time. Down to PMB to pick up Hildegarde and then on the E. Cape via Richmond and Umzimkulu. The road into Ixopo never fails to wonder. This of course is the road described by Alan Paton in ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ and is probably still as spectacular as when he decided to open his famous novel with the line “There is a road………”.
Through to East London and our first overnight stop on the way to S W Cape. Keith had booked “Niki-Nana” Backpackers – bizarre name but quite comfortable accommodation. Noel & Morris had arrived earlier so a walk to the beachfront and a beer in the local O’Hagans. East London is not the most fashionable place in the E Cape and looks a bit run down – particularly in the beach area. However there is character there (somewhere!). Niki-Nana is in a street predominantly black but well kept and with youngsters playing with a rugby ball – not round! You hear about local E Cape Africans playing rugby with some disbelief – it’s true!
An early night for all of us – relatively undisturbed.
SUNDAY, 2 MAY - On the road to our next stop at Nature’s Valley via the N2 Garden Route – this never fails to be of interest. We stayed over at Hiker’s Haven – a well-known backpackers, 4 or 5 star quality (in backpacker parlance of course!) for people on the Otter Trail. Quite a few of the party had stayed here before. A young Yorkshire lass pitched up a bit later, visiting South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in her post graduate year. Nice to see young people travelling the world.
On arrival – a walk along the beach to the only restaurant in town for some of the “amber nectar” and then back to Hiker’s Haven for a short rest before returning later for an evening meal. Nature’s Valley continues to grow – but in a sedate manner. Many of the properties are quite delightful, some bizarre, some not really in keeping with this quite beautiful area. A pleasant overnight stop.
MONDAY, 3 MAY - On to Potberg via George where the party stopped over for a while to buy meat for a braai in the evening – Peter now beginning to drool thinking about the attendant fire to come. Beautiful clear weather – George is an attractive town with a lot of recently added facilities, plenty of restaurants, arty shops and malls,
Arrival at Potberg in the De Hoop Nature Reserve around 14h00, at the same time as Campbell & Lorraine who had been in Cape Town to see Campbell’s son before the hike. Warwick, Brenda and Kerry arrived shortly after at about the same time as Selven, who was with Prema on holiday – Prema relaxing in their time share for the week whilst Selven joined the hiking party.
Now all together as a team we set to for the braai – Lorraine taking on her usual mantle as
No. 2 Fireman – Peter jealously guarding Fireman No. 1’s position!
The Potberg hut was in good shape – we were to find that overnight hut accommodation on the Whale Trail was by far superior to anything we had experienced thus far. This is not to say that we were cosseted but each hut has plenty of room, comfortable bunk beds, loft sleeping accommodation, hot water for showers, flushing bogs and a great kitchen.
A very welcome braai with Hildegard pitching in with her special “Deutsch Apfels”, roasted in the fire with raisins and brandy. Almost a fistfight amongst us to get a share of this treat!
A great first night with everyone looking forward to day one on the trail the following morning.
TUESDAY, 4 MAY - All off by 08h00 after self-catering breakfast. Quite a hard pull for about
3 kms climbing around 400m with a dramatic view of the Breede River and valley below.
The fynbos in the area is quite spectacular. The S W Cape area is one of the planets 6 floral kingdoms. This is an extremely small area in comparison with the others but boasts an incredible variety of proteas, ericas, alpine type flowers etc. Almost beyond belief. We saw the orange-breasted sunbird, which is only seen in this area. At the next lookout point we saw Cape Vultures soaring overhead. This is their only breeding area. Cape sugarbird seen on the way down to the river.
Most of us feeling a bit tired as we approached our 2nd overnight stop at Cupidos Kraal. Morris & Noel had done the trail in September 2003 and both remarked that when you eventually see the hut it never seems to get any closer. Quite true! Arrival around 14h30 after about 17 kms. We had all taken advantage of the porterage option, ie our backpacks being taken on ahead by National Parks Board staff so we only had daypacks to carry – apart from Warwick who was carrying almost a full back pack with quite a lot of gear for the family.
There is a subtle change in the type of flora after the downhill route from the summit.
Another good fire followed by our first “choir practice” – Hildegard giving a sterling performance of Lili Marlene. Most people opting for an earlyish night around 19h30/19h45. A good first day on the trail.
WEDNESDAY, 5 MAY - Another stiff climb immediately after leaving the hut for 450m, again - magnificent flora and some small proteas none of us had seen before.
A long walk along the limestone headland and then a steep descent into the Ecozone. This is again quite different from the earlier and higher zone. Cape rock jumpers seen in this area. Margaret had a bit of excitement seeing a snake – but it was too quick to be identified. We were now approaching the sea and Noetsie came into view below – quite a setting with a magnificent coastline. 16 km today.
Peter now going into raptures with a round fire in front of the hut looking on to the beach. Some serious firewood collected here with a conflagration of note in the evening. Another good evening – Brenda getting quite philosophised saying that she had a feeling of real privilege to experience such country and sight and sounds – a feeling with which we all were in total agreement. Third night on the trail and an excellent evening.
THURSDAY, 6 MAY - Heavy mist in the morning but clearing quite rapidly. Full moon, quite dramatic even at 07h00 in the morning. We had a more leisurely start today with a somewhat shorter hike of around 10 kms. Some climbing early on but rewarded again with dramatic views of the coast line. Very interesting limestone caves and indentations in the cliffs. Port Jackson willow in strong evidence – this is an alien invader of note – originally brought in from Australia – makes a good fire when dry. Stilgat about halfway accessible only by a chain ladder. Brenda, Kerry and Hildegard taking advantage of the very calm water and cooling off with a swim. Some interesting rock pools teeming with marine life – Margaret totally absorbed.
Several ascents and descents again with dramatic coastal views. Close to the next overnight stop at Hamerkop we saw the memorial stone laid in memory of one Daniel Stephanus de Wet who was swept out to sea from these rocks in 1933. Quite sad to think of a 20-year old losing his life in this way.
Several dolphins offshore “surfing” – they actually enjoy it! Arrival at Hamerkop around 14h30 again – 10 kms probably understated – our hut was still being cleaned but no problem. Peter getting his wood collecting team under way for an even bigger conflagration this evening. Would have been seen for miles out at sea were it not for the fact the Hamerkop is in the dunes, back from the beach.
Hamerkop is an attractive stop over with a big sleeping loft upstairs and a great verandah look-out.
FRIDAY, 7 MAY - An earlier start than our usual 08h00 with quite heavy going on the beach. Nice cool overcast day to Lekkerwater – ex President de Klerk’s coastal hideaway, now open to anyone. A team of fishermen on the beach from UCT led by a young Prof. was conducting a scientific study of fish populations, movements and breeding habits. They were all very forthcoming and this is an annual study -–all fish caught are tagged and put back into the water. Over 12 years over 37 000 fish have been caught, tagged and subsequently studied. The surprising thing is that most are very parochial in their habits, not moving much from their breeding grounds. Not too surprising therefore that beaches which once teemed with fish are now becoming less and less populated due to over fishing. Fascinating stuff and extremely important for the environment. They get paid for doing this as well!
Some very unusual rock formations further along the beach with many rock pools. We saw dolphins surfing again, which is good for the soul.
We arrived at our last overnight stop at Vaalkrans around 13h30. This is probably the most dramatic siting of all for a hut, literally perched on top of a cliff with the sea all around. Most of us just spent an hour or so just watching the sea, surf and bird life.
A bit of a hiccough with our backpacks which only arrived at 16h00 but this really wasn’t an issue with so much to see and do. On arrival we saw a group of people – who moved out very quickly when they saw us approaching. When the official cleaning crew arrived Lorraine swung into effortless Afrikaans and the crew said they would investigate and pass on to the authorities. This was really the only potential sign we saw of intruders (if that’s what they were). Our last campfire and choir practice tonight.
SATURDAY,8 MAY - Our last day on the hike with a short walk along the beach for about 2½ Hours. Again some fantastic rock formation – notably “Duck Rock”. This actually looks like a gigantic swimming duck just at the surf level.
We noted a lot of rubbish and pollution on this last section. Presumably dropped by day walkers who can access the beach from Koppie Alleen, being the information centre for the Whale Trail. A classic example of “civilisation” (?) meeting nature head on.
Whilst we waited for the bus to pick us up for the journey back to Potberg we had an entertaining half hour watching a small family of striped mice feeding on scraps of food left by visitors. They are almost tame if you stand still.
Back to Potberg and then each of us on our separate ways.
A great experience with great company. Although we didn’t see whales – and probably didn’t expect to – this in no way diminished our enjoyment of the Trail. Not to be missed. Roll on the next one. Peter Wedge
PRE-HIKE / TRAIL PROTOCOL
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
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.