Winter is now well on its way, and the temperatures have started to drop. Those of us now contemplating overnight hikes will have to plan carefully for the cold, as well as long cold nights.   Supper time will move earlier and earlier which means longer times in the sleeping bags.   Remember to plan your night time gear carefully.

For our day hikers, the days will be colder, and afternoon chills will be in before we get back to the vehicles.   So hike with extra warm clothing in your day pack.   Hats and  beanies now take on the dual role of sun protector and head warmer.   Rather look at hats in place of light caps etc.   An extra bar of chocolate for nibbling on the way home can help to keep energy levels up. Good lunches are advised.  

Club Happenings

 The fixture list has been has been full, and in most cases very well attended. The 5-day Giants Cup Trail was fully subscribed, and the trip enjoyed by all. The day trip to Karkloof Falls organized by Mark and Mary was very well attended with a record crowd enjoying the day.   Keith’s Drakensberg Garden  cottage was also well attended.   However some of the other week-end hikes, as well as day hikes have been poorly attended.   Please give a thought to our leaders who put themselves out to organize trips for the club.  

Happenings of note

Congratulations to Keith Ashton and Philip Grant.

Mountain Backpackers 2005 Grand Traverse has just been completed by Keith Ashton and Philip Grant.   The Grand Traverse starts at the Sentinel at Royal Natal, 13 days and 220 kilometers later it ends at Bushmans Nek border post.   The challenge was a tough one, with some unfriendly weather experienced at times.  However I will leave them to tell the story, and show pictures once they have sorted out their lives.

Congratulations also to Chantel Beatie, Irene Dickin, Allison Gunning and Teresa Whitfield who were part of the Grand Traverse re-supply team.   They braved the long walk and climb from Giants Castle camp to Bannerman Hut then up Bannerman Pass to the summit of the berg to carry re-supply food for the main Traverse Party.   Believe me, a very arduous day for any hike, especially as one has to carry your own tent as well as your food.    Well done to all these club members. 

New Members

The club continues to grow with new members joining all the time.   We welcome these members to our club, and trust that we will enjoy their company on many day hikes as well as overnight hikes.

For new members, your hike leaders have a wealth of information about hikes, clothing, food etc., so please feel free to ask any questions, any time – they will be only too happy to help you enjoy your outing. 

Welcome Jenny Aitchison and family, Antoinette Harris, Tony Moreno, Mark, Keshni & Danielle Peters, Victoria Treland and Paul & Lorraine Welch. 

Future Events that need attention now.

Giants Castle 4 days 3 nights – 16 – 19 June -  I need to know who is interested as I have made a  provisional booking of the mountain huts and now need to  pay the hut fees.   ASAP please.   The huts can take 8 people. 

Social Evening at Hilton Hotel – Tuesday 19 July.   Please see the newsletter. The organizing committee will need to know very soon whether to go ahead with this event. 

NB>   Drakensberg 5 day High Altitude Mini Traversefrom the Sentinel to Cathedral Peak.   This trip requires carrying all your food, tents and clothing for 6 days.   Mountain physical fitness is an essential requirement.   The area hiked is one of the most scenic in the berg.

Dates set were from 23 – 27 September, however as the trip starts in the Northern berg, an extra day’s traveling is needed, so actual dates will be from 23 – 28 September.   I must be back on the 28th, as I start another 3-day hike on the 29th with overseas guests.   So the time frame is rather tight here.

Names as soon as possible please, this hike need not be closed to club members only, other fit hikers are welcome if numbers from our club are short. I have also offered this to Lawrence Bates of the Mountain Backpackers. Numbers will be limited to a smaller group so that transport can be arranged to the best advantage.

Good hiking and we look forward to hiking with you on day hikes, and the longer ones.                                                                                                                                                                                             Dave


The Annual General Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 16 August at the Hilton Hotel.   The meeting will be followed by a Finger Supper to be subsidised by the Club.    Full details will be published in the July Newsletter.   WATCH THIS SPACE AND  PLEASE NOTE IN YOUR DIARIES.



It is proposed to organise a 4 day /  3 night backpacking hike in the Giant’s Castle area.   The route will be Bannerman Hut to Centenary Hut to Dave’s Secret Cave, returning to the parking area.   All interested parties are requested to contact Dave Sclanders on 033 386 5622 as soon as possible as numbers are limited.   Also please note that backpacking physical fitness is essential for this hike.



The proposed dates for this trail are between 25 June and 1 July.    This is Wild Coast hiking at its best, locally guided and all food and accommodation included.   Accommodation is in pre-erected tents or village huts.   Canoes are provided for river crossings and to canoe up selected wild rivers.   At present the local people are not doing the linear route due to some logistics but hope it will all be sorted out towards the mid/end June.   A provisional booking has been made.


In the event of our not being able to undertake this particular trail, an alternative

6-day option is available.   This is a return trail back to Mazamba or a 4-day return trail.   Cost for the 6-day linear or circular route is R1710 and for the 4-day return trail R1160.   There would be further transport costs for the 6-day linear route.   The maximum hiking distance in a day is 20 km but most are shorter than this.


Members who are definitely interested in undertaking this trail are asked to contact Keith/Margaret as soon as possible on 033 330 3763 as Keith needs to assess interest before he makes a definite reservation.



25 – 29 March 2005


The Giants Cup Trail, as the name implies, has a view of an enormous cup shape against the horizon (on a clear day!) bounded by Hodgson’s Peaks within the Lesotho border.   This is visible for up to 50% of the trail.   The trail itself is fairly strenuous over 60 odd kilometres and 5 days.


Elevation is around 1800m, peaking sometimes in excess of 2000m.   The terrain varies from alpine type meadow to rocky outcrop with quite steep ascents and descents on a daily basis.   The Midlands Hiking Club had 16 people partaking in the adventure over the Easter weekend.


The following trailists assembled early on Good Friday morning: 

Keith (Leader) & Margaret Ashton,  Noël & Morris Harper,                 Chantel Beattie, Theresa Whitfield,  Trish Middlebrook, Alison Gunning, Jenny Aitchison, Antoinette Harris,  Fiona Bell,  Moira Filmer, Elmarie Crous, Rod Hart, Mike Kirby, Peter Wedge (Scribe).


Day 1 – Friday, March 25 th  was an early rendezvous at Peels Honey in Merrivale with people coming up from Maritzburg to meet the Howick contingent, then on to Underberg where Keith and party were stopped at a roadblock.   This was the start of the annual trek by 15 000 odd people from 16-60 (or thereabouts) to Splashy Fen.   Clearly they have a reputation for bringing in consumable items which are probably less than legal – however a peep into Keith’s vehicle by a police officer revealing grey hair, receding hair and generally should we say “maturity” resulted in us being waved through to the amusement of several younger Fenners.


Rendezvous at one of the local tour operators where most of us relaxed for an hour and a half or so whilst drivers of the vehicles went through to Bushmen’s Nek Parks Board offices to park for 5 days (this was the end of the trail).    All then back to Underberg when we all piled into a Kombi type vehicle with trailer for the journey to the start of the trail at the bottom of Sani Pass – close to the Sani Pass Hotel.


Elmarie had an unfortunate incident earlier when one of the dogs at the Tour Operator’s had snapped at her, bruising her face and lip.   Thankfully nothing too serious but leaving her a bit shocked.   Nothing like a long strenuous hiking day to remove such stress!


The day began with fine sunny weather but as we approached a lunch stop in a cave the weather turned to rain, which rapidly became quite heavy.   A wispy waterfall just outside the cave became a torrent within 25-30 minutes or so.   We left the cave and then started to climb, walking in intermittent rain - streams which would have been readily fordable had become swollen and very fast flowing.   Most of us now drenched and all of us having given up any faint hope of keeping dry feet.


About 2 kms from our first overnight stay we had to wade across a very fast flowing stream with a chain arrangement for our backpacks – Keith waist deep in the middle, Peter perched precariously on a midstream rock and Alison on the opposite bank handing the backpacks to the next in line – a good team effort.   It was now getting dusk – we arrived at Polela Camp almost in the dark, in dribs and drabs, only to find that the overnight hut (house) was almost full with most just there for the Easter weekend.   We did have enough beds but with space at a premium.   Nonetheless – fires in the main dining area and bedrooms were most welcome allowing some relief for our sodden clothes and boots.   A long tiring day but with hot showers – so all to bed and a welcome sleep.


Day 2 – Saturday, March 26 dawned bright and sunny with a good opportunity to further dry out.   Trish suffering some quite nasty blisters – but she courageously decided to carry on, walking in trainers and later in Angel sandals – this must have been quite painful.


A shortish day today of around 9 kms but with some climbing.   Notable view points – Tortoise Rock looking like a gigantic reptilian of the same name, Bath Plug Cave which we unfortunately missed.   This was behind a rise when we had to wade across another stream and with all the activity of drying off afterwards it somehow eluded us.


Early arrival at Mzimkulwane hut at around 14h00.   This is a long wood/stone structure – very comfortable with a magnificent view of the mountain opposite.


We all had a nice leisurely lunch and then a few hardy souls to a pool about 2 kms further up the valley for a swim.   Balance of the more gentrified taking an afternoon kip.


Cold showers tonight, but refreshing.   Raining again (quite heavily later) – arrival of another party from Polela camp later.   Peter eagerly dishing out snacks and goodies to try and reduce his backpack weight starting at around 19 kgs.   Fifteen kgs is generally quite comfortable – amazing how a few extra kgs above this weight can be quite telling over the day.   More relaxed evening tonight with the camp being quite isolated.


Day 3 – Sunday, March 27 – anotherr clear  bright day with a slight nip in the air early on.   We were away by 07h30 – Keith realising that with a big party we would inevitably be stretched out over quite a distance between leaders and laggards and all of us wanting to get to camp by mid afternoon if possible.


Notable view points today were Bamboo Mountain – a stunted form of bamboo does actually grow at this altitude, around 2500m.   We could also see the Titty and the Pimple – much to the amusement of the ladies.


After some climbing we arrived on a plateau, around 2000m with an attractive tarn. Again most people electing to have a swim - Moira always in first!   We spent about

½ an hour here with the smaller party also arriving and similarly having a dip.


Long winding descent from here – quite heavy on feet and ankles until we arrived at the tar road (R ?) from Drakensberg Gardens.   Then about 1-1½ km to the overnight hut turn off with a steep climb to the top of a hill with Winterhoek visible in a clump of gum trees about 2 kms away.


The track virtually disappeared with quite heavy going over swampy ground but now raining again.  In camp by 14h00 again and Peter now drooling over a potential camp fire.   Mike and Theresa appointed asst. fire chiefs and after lunch a sortie into the copse of gums for dry or near dry timber.   By 17h00 we had a good fire going which provided good cheer and companionship later on.


Evening meal in the “boma” with about 8 or 9 gas stoves burning.   Peter getting rid of further food and booze stocks.   Good “crack” from all participants with a full moon occasionally showing through the clouds.   We all went to bed feeling quite pleased with our progress so far.


On day 4 Monday March 28 a full moon at dawn with fascinating ebb and flow of mist in the valleys beneath Bamboo Mountain in the distance.   Breakfast in the boma and then a hard climb of about 2 kms at the start of the day but well rewarded with a magnificent clear view of the Drakensberg and the Giants Cup.   The overnight rain (and preceding rainy days) had washed the atmosphere with a remarkably clear horizon.   We also saw a troop of baboons in highly excitable mode – they can make a tremendously raucous racket, also mountain reedbuck and their characteristic olive coloured coat.


Onto a plateau at a brisk pace – Keith noticed a freshwater crab near a stream – amazing how varied wildlife can be in virtually treeless montane country.


We were all delighted to meet up with Bushy and Pat Kirby who had driven from their home in Richmond to meet us – Mike clearly very happy.   Bushy and Pat had also been on to the first day’s trail sector to try and meet us but with the heavy rain and our obviously late arrival at Polela, had wisely gone home.


We had a magnificent view of the Drakensberg Gardens Resort, Lake Navarone, River Bend chalets and coyly behind a copse of trees, Keith and Margaret’s Drakensberg house.   We were probably 300-400m above the valley and could also see Swiman’s rest camp about 4 kms away.   Again a quite steep descent and then to Swiman’s for our last overnight.  


This is well equipped – hot showers again to the delight of all – and the Parks Board shop about 1 km away.    Pat K had brought along an enormous chocolate cake into which all the “Noodle People” tucked with great gusto.  Delicious!  Heavenly!   Thank you Pat.   The thought of cold beer had the men folk all hot footing it to the shop – several hardy souls again electing to go to Mermaid Pool and a swim – others back to camp for some serious drinking!


Another fire (inside) with Margaret giving excellent renditions of Albert and t’lion, A & C II and the Widnes-Runcorn Ferry – also featuring the Ramsbottom family.   Theresa wanted to know why Widnes caused so much hilarity amongst the Lancastrian contingent! – apparently her father was Widnes born.   Very convivial final evening – but rain again overnight.


Day 5 – Tuesday, March 29 - The final day with Keith setting a brisk pace from Swiman’s Camp.   His GPS registered 3,3 km in the first 45 minutes – this is hiking at the breakneck speed of over 5 km/hour! – not sustainable.


The trail then descended down to a river where we rested for a while – Moira in the water again – the only water babe this time.   A stiff climb to Langalibelele Cave for a lunch break, with a hint of rain again.   The cave is very extensive with several Bushman paintings and would be a worthwhile short hike from Bushman’s Nek for the day.   Finally, a long descent to Bushman’s and the vehicles.    All a bit tired and sore at the end of a memorable hike with great company.


Again, accolades are awarded as follows: 

ï      Keith – for his leadership, knowledge of the Berg and his sharing of this with the team and his consideration for slower trailists.   Nothing worse than playing catch-up all the time.

ï      Margaret – for entertaining us on the last evening and also for being tail end Charlie – this is a  serious responsibility.

ï      Trish – for her courage in completing the hike under severe foot discomfort.   How    she kept her feet wearing just sandals is a mystery!

ï      Theresa – for her enthusiasm and for her fire making skills – Peter under some pressure here!

ï      Moira – for being the water babe of the party – always first in the water and last out.  Considering this was her first serious hiking experience she is up there with the best.

ï      Noël – always hanging in and a marvel with her medicine chest – she kept several blisters at bay.

ï      Morris – on equal terms with Theresa for fire skills – also his stories are always entertaining.

ï      Alison – always helping and encouraging – very bookish too!

ï      Rod – for his photographic skills – we can’t wait for them to be on our website Rod.

ï      Mike – always supportive and good company around the fire.

ï      Elmarie – for bringing a touch of glamour to our group – she always looks as if she’s just returned from the hairdressers.

ï      Chantel – very fit and enthusiastic – when do we start art classes for the group, maybe sketches of the Berg to go next time!

ï      Fiona – for her knowledge of the Berg generally.

ï      Jenny – at the back of the group but always cheerful and never really showing strain, and last but far from least

ï      Antoinette – she battled a bit on the climbs but really takes first prize for effort and tenacity. 

A great experience with like-minded people – we can’t wait for the next one Keith. 

Peter Wedge




1       Very easy

2       Easy

3       Moderate – physical fitness advisable

4       Moderate to severe –  physical fitness necessary

5       Severe – physical fitness essential



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

Day Hikes – Please try to inform the relevant leader a week, or at least 4 days, before the hike of your intention to participate.   Week-end 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 participate.

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 great deal of effort into hiking arrangements.