A third of the year has now passed, where has the time gone too??   In my last newsletter I referred to Easter being around the corner, well the corner has been turned, the long range hike to Mpumalanga has been  done, and hopefully we will enjoy a feedback story, as well as an evening slide show at the Club from the participating parties.   As I write this report, our secretary, Keith Ashton, is loving , hating, sweating, freezing, enjoying, wondering what life is all about as he, with 11 other hikers from the Mountain Backpackers are doing another Grand Traverse.   This time the South to North traverse.   This is the ultimate hiking challenge.   It proved to be an arduous task, with freezing weather every night and during the first four days mist, cold and rain, followed by sweltering days and freezing nights.   A few days later a further cold front moved in to add to the discomfort of the hikers.   Conditions being as severe as they were only half the team eventually made it.


Also busy over the week-end were our brave ladies with Allison, Teresa, and Irene helping with the daunting task of climbing up to the top of the escarpment via Organ Pipes Pass to re-supply the traverse team with food for the last 5 days push to finish the traverse at the Sentinel.   Without the re-supply teams, this traverse is not possible to do.

Allison, Teresa, Irene, the Midlands Hiking Club Salute you.


Also this long week-end a group of our members, under the leadership of Brian Henwood were camping and hiking at Monks Cowl.  We look forward to their report and pics.


We still would like to have more folk attend our day walks.   We need people to come forward to help lead some hikes for us.   The bad news is that Lawrence Bates, Chairman of the Mountain Backpackers Club for over 30 years is now hanging up his hiking boots.   To all hikers his wealth and knowledge of day hikes,  and overnight hikes will be lost.   A great loss indeed as Lawrence lead many day hikes in our areas.   These will now be lost to all hikers as there are no new leaders to fill this gap.   More about Lawrence later.


CLUB NEWS and POINTS TO PONDER  -  The Club Web Site at  www.gohiking.co.za, was officially launched last month.    Again we must thank Rod Hart for all his work and effort in getting this site up and running.    I ask you to visit the site, use it, and keep it updated with the news of the club.   The site will be up-dated as and when Rod gets “stuff” to put on.   At the club’s last committee meeting a long discussion was had as to how to keep the website alive.   No News Is Bad News – so we need news to keep the site running.   In order to do this your committee decided on the following.



Hike Write Ups

After any hike, any member of the hike can volunteer to write a short account of the hike.   Send a copy of the write-up to your hike leader, and a copy to your newsletter editor, Noël Harper, by e-mail, fax, runner, telegraph, whatever, for inclusion in the Newsletter and for onward transmission to Rod who will put it on the website.   The author of any article published will have their name put into a “lucky jar”, at the Annual General Meeting each year, a draw will be made, and the lucky author will win a substantial prize.    The author is not limited to one article only, the more you write, the more times your name will appear in the “lucky jar”.

If the hike leader does not get any “Volunteers”, he may write the article himself, and go into the “lucky jar”.   So don’t be sorry, write that story.

Hike photos  -  The same applies to hike photos, day hikes or outings or longer hikes.   Send pictures to Rod, they will be put on the web site.    At the end of the year, prior to the AGM, all photographs published will be sent to an “outside the club photo specialist” who will decide on the best pic of the year.   Here we hope the specialist photo shop will come to the party with a worthwhile prize.   We are working on this prize at the moment.


TOO  EARLY !!!!!!!!    The Club’s AGM is just around the corner – in August.   Your committee would urge you as members to be fully participative in the nomination and voting in of the people who make up the committee.   In the past, nominations have been made at the meeting – last minute rush ???? .   We would ask you to give early consideration to who you would like to vote for, and support during the next hiking year.


We also desperately need hike leaders, just day hikes, our present leaders need some help.   It is getting harder to put together the hike fixtures as in some cases, if the present leaders are not available for any reason, the hikes must be put on hold.   For a club our size we should have more than the small handful of leaders we have at present.   If you feel you may like to lead, but not sure of what to do, or expect, please contact any one of the committee, and they will help.


In my last newsletter I said I would publish parts of a report done by a young British School leaving lady, who came to KZN on a learning expedition.   We spent 5 days hiking in the berg – first time hikers, first time out in the wilderness.   I will just pick a few of her thoughts  about her trip.


There are no words I can use to describe camping in the wilderness.   Every night as I fell asleep beneath the stars I felt a completeness I have never felt before.   Every time I watched the sun enter and leave the sky I felt more alive than I could have imagined possible”.


“The silence was amazing.   It was like being in a kind of airlock that no noise could penetrate – all there were were the stars and the roving peaks and valleys”.


We ran into some very foul weather, rain, mist, ice, extremely cold and horrible –  “Going to the “toilet” has never proved so tricky as you struggle out of the tent, putting on waterproofs, thermals, and boots and tried your best not to lose sight of the tent in the closing mist-----“-


“The last sunrise in the Draks was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen …….”

“We left the mountains that morning with heavy hearts…….”


Other worthwhile comments.


“No one who walks these mountains will forget the feeling of being in an ancient place”


“……clear icy cold torrents tumbling from the heights, the tawny grasslands reminiscent of Scotland sometimes, the steep screes and rock outcrops, the wooded hangers and deep dells, left impressions that will remain with all of us forever”


We have all this on our doorstep, why not take the time to enjoy it?   


I have taken many overseas “day wanderers” to the Little Berg, and had the same reaction.


Disgusting Behavior  -   On a sadder note, just this past week I was on a hike in the Giants Castle area.   We spent a night at Bannerman’s hut.   What a terrible experience.   A largish group had been there for a day or 2 earlier in the month, and left behind the most disgusting mess of junk and rubbish you could ever imagine.   A huge pile of rubbish was left in the hut.  People with such a bizarre attitude to our wilderness should be brought to book for their total lack of ethics and disgusting behavior .


New Members  -  We welcome the following new members and trust they will enjoy many a good hike in our company:   Gerhard & Alice Dippenaar and Yvonne Engelbrecht.


Mountain Weather – take care to hike with warm gear in your back pack, even day hikes, cold winds can drop temperatures drastically in a short space of time.   A “warm hat or a beany” is a must at this time of year. 


Mountain Fires  - KZN Wildlife has started burning tracer lines, and shortly will commence with burning fire breaks.   Watch where you hike, watch wind direction, and watch for smoke – early evasive action is of paramount importance for your safety.

The rule to be followed now is not to smoke whilst hiking – mountain fires are terribly dangerous events


Events to watch out for.   At our next slide show evening I will show the 2003 Backpackers Grand Traverse Hike.   This is a really tremendous slide show set to wondeful music.   If you really want to see beautiful mountains, don’t miss this evening.   Hiking regards.






Your Secretary and Newsletter Editor have been experiencing problems in communi-cating with members via the e-mail.  It would appear that some addresses on our records are either no longer in existence or have been changed.   Please would members who may have changed their addresses over the past year or so please advise Noël Harper on nfh@satweb.co.za in order for our records to be updated and to ensure that you will be in receipt of your Newsletter and other items of interest in the future.



CAMP SITES VISITED                                                                                                 Noël


This past week-end several members of the Hiking Club gathered at the Monks Cowl Camp site.   A fairly small camp it must be one of the closest sites to the mountains.   There are both electrical and non-electrical sites all situated in well maintained grounds on cut grass, in parts undulating, but nonetheless most picturesque with beautiful views.   An ablution block consisting of a bath and shower, 3 toilets and 3 wash hand basins is available for ladies plus a similar set-up with two showers instead of the bath, for the gents in the camp.   There is also a small toilet block with basins.  The water heated in a donkey boiler is scalding hot.   Smoke can be seen rising from the boiler in the early hours of the morning, and it is kept regularly stoked throughout the day.   For the peckish there is a cafeteria serving teas, cold drinks and tasty lunches at reasonable prices as well as a kiddies’ playground.

A definite plus is the condition of the paths in the area.   All are clearly marked and well-maintained, so one should not get lost.   A booklet with the walks is available from the office should one need something to give guidance.   Being a long week-end the camp was extremely busy but despite this we did not feel crowded out.





After the usual adjusting, putting on plaster, sunscreen and any other vital rituals before the start of a hike we set off to find our ‘lost’ cave.  Unfortunately, 500m down the track our wise leader decided much to the relief of all in the party, that the waist deep Bushman’s River was too dangerous to cross.   So we did a smart U-turn and headed off in the opposite direction.


Now we were going to find another ‘lost’ cave.   We had a lovely morning walking in the shadow of the Giant along rapidly disappearing paths.  At lunch time the rain came down so we decided to set up camp and the rain rather accommodatingly stopped for a brief while so that we could get our tents up before the real deluge started.    By that time we were sipping tea from the comfort and dryness of our tents.


Later in the afternoon we did some exploratory walking while trying to orientate ourselves and the possible location of our cave.    The rain was not as accommodating but since our tents were up and dry inside we did not mind too much.


Early in the evening the gals had a delightful bath in the nearby stream while the gentlemen of the party kept a careful eye on the Giant.    Then it was time for sundowners and dinner.


The next morning we set off to find our cave.  Dave decided to guard the packs while resting his ankle and the rest of us headed off down into the next river valley.    After a couple of false starts, Margaret spotted a possible cave and Keith bravely headed uphill to ‘check it out’.     We were in luck because this was our elusive cave but the biggest excitement was the family of porcupines that fled on our approach. 


Simons Cave was used by game guards many, many years ago but is rarely visited nowadays.


Then it was time to head up the very steep hill to pick up our packs and head for home.


Once again we had a wonderful weekend of hiking and thanks to the leaders who are prepared to take us to these special places.



CEDARA – SWARTKOPS DAY HIKE                                                               Harold Rees

2 April 2006


The weatherman was wrong again!  He forecast a cool to warm day, but it was already hot when leader Graham gathered his group together at the Cedara Farm.  Mike, Dino, Aris and Joan were old hands; with Barbara, Mary, Christine, Harold and Theresa new to the Club.


The initial section of the hike was through the College and ffarm buildings.  Our first water stop was at the last of the buildings, from where the view opened out over a small grassy valley up to the plantations clothing the flanks of Swartkops.  The grassy slopes proved to be a long hot slog, but a tea break in the shade of some large pin oak trees, beside a small dam, was a welcome and cooling reward.  At this point Barbara and Mary decided to take a shortcut back to the cars.


A gentle breeze eased the climb up the steep grassy slopes beneath the electricity pylons.  In places the grass and brambles were rather high, but on the higher slopes the grass was short and the walking easier.  After reaching the ridge, Graham took us into the pine and bluegum plantation on tracks used by the motorcycle brigade.  We even heard some – fortunately not on our piece of the mountain.  A last steep scramble up a rocky slope brought us to the top of Swartkops with magnificent, if somewhat hazy views.  Midmar, Impendle, Karkloof and Edendale were all visible.  Aris pointed out Bleak House – apparently on a different day walk route.  An early lunch break was declared to enable us to enjoy the scenery, the cool breeze and some shade.


Immediately after lunch we passed by the trig beacons and radio masts occupying the topmost positions on the kopje.  A washed away 4x4 trail of loose gravel took us almost straight down, with views over Sweetwaters on our right, and then all too soon we were back into plantations which cut out any views.  From there it was a fairly even gradient through the forests back down to the cars.


Thanks to all for an enjoyable hike.



WEEKEND AT COBHAM NATURE RESERVE                                                 Brian Henwood

February 2006


Cobham is situated 13 km north of Himeville in the Mzimkhulwana Nature Reserve. The KZN Wildlife camp site is on the banks of the Pholela River and incorporates the Pholela Hut which is the first overnight stop of the Giants Cup Trail.


There are many hikes that one can do in the Wilderness Area adjoining the Nature Reserve but I always favour the circular routes and it was therefore a simple decision when our group agreed on an all-day hike despite the threat of rain.


Having pitched our tents and achieved a basic level of order in the camp we headed off in the direction of Hodgeson’s Peaks.  The twin peaks that rise to 3250m above sea level  are a well known landmark on the berg escarpment as they form the feature known as the Giants Cup.  We walked up along the right bank of the swiftly flowing Pholela River for about 5 km and after passing Whale Rock we started climbing steeply up eSiphongweni. Once we reached the plateau we decided to bypass the eSiphongweni Shelter National Monument as we had all seen the interesting rock paintings on previous hikes.


As a rainstorm was gathering on the far hills we picked up our pace across the plateau and set our direction on the Little Bamboo Mountain in the distance.   Some seniors in a large community of baboons foraging in the grasslands expressed their displeasure at our presence and reluctantly allowed us to enter their territory.   We followed them into the Siphongweni river gorge, descended steeply down a sandstone band of rock and down a gentle grass slope where we found ourselves a quiet pool.  The sun broke through the clouds momentarily to light up our lunch break.



It has not been possible to send via e-mail to our

approximately 60+ members this document including

a colour Photograph.  The good news is that it can be

viewed on the Club’s Website.


Keith giving Libby, Margaret Usher and Margaret Ashton a lesson on map reading.


It was a short hike down the valley to the Mzimkhulwana Hut, which is the second overnight stop on the Giants Cup Trail.   From there we headed back to the Cobham Camp Site along the Giants Cup Trail path passing Bathplug cave and Tortoise Rocks. About 2km before our final destination the heavens opened.   We clambered down the last descent with rainwater cascading down the slope all around us.   The thought of that hot shower at the camp site kept us going to the end of our 18km hike.


Ossie, the camp guard, welcomed us home and despite the rain that continued throughout the night, the fire in the Pholela Hut boma proved an ideal venue for our sundowner drinks and braai.   We unanimously agreed that we had a great hike.      




Blisters are always an uncomfortable possibility on a long hike.  The recommended procedure for dealing with them is that one should only puncture a blister when it is apparent that it will burst if the pressure is not released.   Before doing so wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, apply antiseptic and insert a sterilized needle through the healthy skin near the edge of the blister into the fluid.   A needle can be sterilized in a little boiling water and antiseptic.   Apply a little more antiseptic, gauze and plaster to keep the area free from dirt.