CHAIRMAN’S REPORT                                                                                         Dave Sclanders


On opening my e-mail yesterday, there was the message from Noël saying “time for the January Newsletter again”.   Being so early in the year, I felt at a loss as to what to write, so I turned back to last January’s Newsletter, and wondered as to what would happen if I re-submitted that newsletter – I mean it is only nearly 365 days old.


From your Committee and Leaders, we hope and trust that you all have had a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year period and that good times were shared with family and friends.  Hopefully in the reminiscing, some good times with your Hiking Club were chatted about.


Once again the main feature of the past few months was our Christmas Party at Mark and Mary’s place on the farm. A very hot day greeted us all – no rain, no clouds.  As usual the day was a great success.  For me one of the highlights was the orientation race/walk.  Teams were made up, all the hike leaders were declared “undesirable leaders” – by me, and told to sit out.  Then the teams were redrawn, and leaders were nominated from within the teams. With our “New Leaders” in place, the event was started. Some amazing new leader talent emerged from the ranks, all teams finished the course, the first team in record time, whilst one team went on a “Walk About”, but also found the finish line a little later on.  The very hot afternoon made the walk a bit more difficult, nevertheless, our congratulations to all leaders and walkers on a magnificent achievement, with great spirit among  them.   Then there was the prize giving for the best Hiking Write Up sent in over the past year, and the best photo sent in with the  articles over the year.   Moira Filmer won the best article submitted, and yours truly managed the best picture submitted.   See the Club web site for more info. Thanks to Peter Gunning for judging the Write Up competition, and First Photo in Howick for judging the picture competition and sponsoring the prizes.


Our graceful  Mother Christmas and her Hairy Fairy assistant did a magnificent job again at the Christmas party.  Albeit that Mother Christmas had to get rid of her beard due to the heat of the afternoon, while hairy fairy was more lightly dressed in a much cooler outfit.   Thanks Pat and Bushy.- you were great.


Thanks to Mark and Mary for a superb venue and day out on the farm.   Sadly

this will have been our last event at this lovely venue, as Mark has sold the farm.   Next Christmas party will be at a new venue.


A big thank you to all the helpers, and food and cake suppliers.  Without

everyone joining in, the day would not have been as enjoyable as it was.   The Christmas poem, written and read by Irene Morris, gave food for thought about the meaning of Christmas in our  very commercial world.


The next big achievement was our group of intrepid hikers, led very ably by Allison Gunning our Vice –Chair, who headed for Mount Kenya, and amidst wet and cold weather climbed Mount Kenya.  Congratulations to you all.  There will be an evening at the club early in the New Year to show pictures of this trip.   Please make an effort to come to this evening to show support for our High Mountain Hikers. This will be on the  20th February, so diarize  now.


We have a very full and varied calendar for the next few months, so watch the fixture list, and let’s see you all at an event.   All information is available on our website at www.gohiking.co.za, and from time to time new snippets of information are added.  Make time to visit the site at regular intervals to see what is going on.


May I wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year, and may we see you at a club event sooner rather than later.


MHC Christmas Party                               -                                                                            Irene Wisdom

3 December 2006


Like the past few years the Christmas party was held at this stunning venue - Mark and Mary’s farm, ‘Chiarella’ in the Karkloof area, and like the previous years the weather was beautiful.  Hildegard and I arrived late morning and the braai fires were already burning.  People sat about chatting, enjoying the lovely view of the dam while others had a refreshing swim.  On arrival we were given labels for our orienteering team and a number for lucky draws and Christmas presents.  We enjoyed a leisurely braai lunch then arranged ourselves into three teams for the orienteering competition.  Some members had set the game up earlier and sat out.  There was a different colour pen at each mark we had to find and we had to prove we’d found it by marking our paper with the pen.  Each team elected a leader and was given instructions to take so many paces south, west, etc to find the marks.  It’s a big help in this game if you know south from north – not my strong point! – luckily our leader, Margaret Usher, was a star at this.  We came in second, not too far behind the winning team.  The third team seemed to have gone AWOL – search parties were sent out, but they turned up none the worse about half an hour later – some wrong turning taken along the way which gave them a bit of a longer walk than the rest of us.  The heat was taking it’s toll and we were ready for a well earned swim, and a few refreshments.


Mother Christmas and her Christmas Fairy were due to arrive next to hand out the Christmas presents.  Each member brought a small gift for ±R15 which all went into a sack.  When your number was called you could choose a gift and after opening it if you preferred someone else’s gift you could swap and give them yours.  There was much hilarity with this game as present’s did their rounds.  Next was prize giving and lucky draws.  The winning orienteering team won a bottle of champagne. There were various prizes - Moira received the  prize for best write up, Dave Sclanders won both first and second prize for best photo – (bit dodgy sounding? – but judged by outside photo shop!).  Next there were lucky draw prizes, don’t remember them all but Lyn won a MHC golf shirt and Tony and I were lucky to win free tickets for Karkloof canopy rides.


Afternoon tea/coffee followed with a selection of goodies brought by members to share.  Some of us had another swim or a go on the foofy slide.   Grethe went first and did her trapeze act right to the other side of the dam with much applause.    A few others had a go dropping off for a swim in the dam.  Gradually people were leaving, and it was time for goodbyes after a very enjoyable day.  Thanks to Mark and Mary for the use of their beautiful venue once again, and to Keith and Margaret and everyone else who helped set things up.


NAUKLUFT HIKING TRAIL (continued)                                                                                Peter “Peg” Wedge


Very cold in the early morning, -2OC just outside the shelter.   All away by 07h30.   A small herd of Hartmanns zebra seen about 2 hours into the day.   These zebra have quite distinctive wide and evenly spaced black and ivory stripes on their rumps.   They looked in good condition.   Then a mini-chain descent (not marked on the map) and a difficult scree descent to a river bed with a 200m waterfall close by.   This would be a great sight in the summer when full.


Then a seemingly endless dirt road to our next overnight at Tsams Ost.   This is the East Tsams River and a replenishment point for the next 4 days.   Keith and Margaret had kindly taken our provisions to this overnight stop on the previous Friday.   This meant we could have a mid hike party – beer, wine, pudding


This was the best shelter so far.   A nearby well provided much needed showers and with plenty of wood around we had a great fire.   Julian now becoming a serious contender for camp Fire Master. Good craick around the fire (apologies for possible incorrect Gaelic spelling to Brendan!).    Relatively warm night – 17kms covered today.


All away by 07h30 again.   Very steep climb to start with for about 45 minutes – then an equally stiff descent and a 2nd stiff climb of about 150m.   This led us to Fontein Pomp where we had expected water.   The pipes were disconnected and no stream water so this proved to be very difficult for all of us later.   Most of us were carrying 1˝ to 2 litres of water but at this lower altitude the weather was hot.   Generally we were drinking 2˝ - 4 litres per day.   Andrea taking some strain and not feeling well.   However she insisted in carrying her full back pack and wouldn’t hear of us sharing the load – quite courageous.


Brendan, Stuart, Julian and Luciano went on ahead to get to much needed water – the rest of us had difficulty in finding the track, due to unusually long grass covering any marks, and ended up walking the dry river bed – hard going.   With Keith’s compass bearing and the map we knew we were walking in the right direction and eventually came up to the off road track – actually quite a good road (as most are in Namibia).   By now we were all dehydrated – all our water gone and with around 4kms to walk – not an easy situation.   Fortunately, the smaller party realised what had happened and Brendan and Stuart brought us much needed water – bliss (they had also had lost any signs of a track) – you don’t realise how wonderful the H˛O is until you really need it.


Luciano somehow had somehow survived on ˝ litre of water all day until he came to the road and a passing Namibian government vehicle.   All very relieved to arrive at Die Valle overnight shelter.   The only water was from a tanker parked about 100m from shelter.   This was probably the least comfortable and attractive of the shelters so far.   But the water was very much appreciated.    Further reading of “Spud” by Brendan lightening an otherwise difficult day.   17kms covered but probably 19 – 20 by the main party.   Andrea now feeling quite a bit better.


From our overnight shelter Die Valle – a very steep and difficult climb up a canyon and river cascade – this is known locally as Die Groot Hartseer – nearest translation would be Big Agony.   This is an accurate description.   600m and over boulders, rocks etc at an approximate average incline of 70 – 75 degrees.   This all took about an hour and then onto the plateau where we saw a lone gemsbok – brilliant.   Also a recently dead snake, Margaret A identified this as a skaapsteker.   We then had a gradual descent over 5kms or so to our next overnight shelter Tufa.  


This relates to the soda in the water – basic calcium carbonate.   This shelter was in quite a pleasant setting with a water pump by the dry riverbed for drinking water and showers.   Again a nice fire courtesy of Julian, Brendan and Stuart – Peter now almost on the point of surrendering his position as Chief Fire Master!  About 16kms today.          (More in March)


EMBOTYI                                                                                                                                                             Clive Brickhill
15/19 September 2006


I had not been to the Transkei Coast since 1990 when a group of us walked the Port St Johns to Mbashi Trail.

When Noël's fixture list arrived by e-mail the word Embotyi seemed to stand out in stark relief!!  With Jean's encouragement I was lucky not only to be included in the party, but also to meet and be driven by Mark and Mary safely and companionably.  Mary explained that her intention was to strike a balance of hiking and relaxation during our Wednesday - Monday stay as they had not had a holiday break for some time.   She need not have worried as the weather largely dictated and evenly split the 2 activities.

It was a coincidence that we met up with Keith and Margaret, Morris and Noël en-route at Kokstad, but we were all happily ensconced in the Scott's cottage by 2 pm, including Michael, Dallas and Bushy.  Mary's carefully planned bedroom allocation was not communicated and I found myself living in state in the largest bedroom!  Bushy joined me on the second night and we shared many old memories of the Richmond days where Jean and I had lived for 9 years - way back!

The Scott's cottage, recently refurbished and extended, is typical of the beach cottages found on the coast, unprepossessing but functional and comfortable.  It is one of a dozen or so cottages on the north bank of the lagoon overlooking the development on the south bank, which is dominated by the Hotel consisting of 5 or 6 blocks of bungalow accommodation.  The beach and sea, unseen, is a short 200m walk away

Wednesday afternoon was cloudy and saw us on the beach and generally getting our bearings.  Three of the more adventurous went in for what seemed to be a chilly dip!

On Thursday we all set off on a stroll on the hiking trail heading south, clad only in 'Strops' or similar footwear.  We returned by an inland route and were not surprised to learn that we had, according to Keith's GPS, covered 13.6 km, because although the weather was good the path underfoot was often wet and tacky and the going was tough.  We were delighted to see from a vantage point, two whales quite close.

After supper we played Trivial Pursuit (genius level I think!).  It was fortunate that the two geniuses among us (no names, no pack drill) were on opposing sides and the outcome was closely contested on each of the two evenings.

Friday it rained - a chatting, reading, sleeping and generally laid-back sort of day.  Some of us went for a circular walk in the afternoon to inspect a rather alarming stretch of road we would have to negotiate on our return and to visit the local 'shop' where we also purchased the necessary to make pancakes.  We returned via Embotyi and the beach.  Thanks to Dallas and Mary we enjoyed a delicious pancake and tea.    Saturday saw us off early on the major planned walk to Waterfall Bluff up the north coast.  As the route took us inland we had the cottage's general factotum Siyabonga accompany us.  Michael (not feeling well) Bushy, whose knee was 'playing up' and Dallas remained behind.  The weather was good and we made good time, arriving at Waterfall Bluff soon after 11.00.  The area is scenically stunning and the rock formations and pools just amazing!!!

Having lunched and feasted our eyes we set off upstream to find an overhang and pools where I had stayed with a group of 14 in 1990.  We then went in search of Cathedral Rock, which is the other famous rock formation some little distance south.

The hike was uneventful - (if you exclude a green mamba &??, unseen by everyone except Siyabonga in front) but altogether most pleasurable and not as tiring (for me!) as the 13.6 km Thursday walk.    For all that - a beer and shower after 26,5 km was the cherry on the top of a wonderful day.

I think no one was too stressed that the rain and wind kept us indoors on Sunday.  All, that is, except our two intrepid heroes, Keith and Margaret, who had to visit a spot where Keith had fished/camped a long time ago.   Although we were a little concerned, they breezed in at 5 pm happily clothed in raingear, as if they had been for a stroll around the block instead of a grueling 22 km. hike!!

As it happened the mud-patch proved no problem on the way out and after we reached the plateau (approximately 10 km) Mike, Dallas and Bushy turned off to view the Fraser Falls, while the rest of us headed for home, totally unaware that they (Mike, Dallas and Bushy) had been accosted at the Falls at gunpoint and had had their money, cell phones and video camera taken – a harrowing experience that undoubtedly spoiled what would otherwise have been a wonderful holiday on the Transkei Coast.


DRAKENSBERG GARDENS - COTTAGE WEEKEND                                                                                    Astrid Fraser

27/20 October 2006 


Keith and Margaret Ashton;  Astrid Fraser;  Tess Ker-Fox; Hettie Randall; Chris Dobson;  Margaret Kirsten;  Pat and

Bushy Kirby.


Tess, Margaret, Chris, Hettie and I  left Pmburg about 15h30 after much picking up and dropping off like a taxi!!  An enthusiastic bunch with Chris having the privilege of the company of and being chauffeur to five noisy ladies.  The overcast weather led to much debate as to the weather forecast for the week end.  On arrival at Sweetwater's Cottage Chris exposed us to some adventure with his 4X4 skills maneuvering round sharp bends up the muddy, slippery driveway.


Up early the next morning to an overcast but warm day ideal for hiking we set off for Hidden Valley en route to Sherry Cave passing Swiman Hut.   Walking at a leisurely pace we were able to admire the spring flowers and of course "natter".  After 9kms we reached Sherry Cave, the scenery en route and the view from the cave was food for my "city" soul.   After lunch Chris found a little nook in the cave  to have his siesta while we enjoyed the shade from the midday sun.   Chris decided to try his new boots and ended up limping along back while we hurried hoping to miss being caught in a threatening storm.   The evening was enjoyed having a braai and partaking in  a glass or two........


On Sunday we woke to clear blue skies after being serenaded the night through by the frog chorus.  Setting off to Three Pools ( by now overcast and humid) to view Bushman's paintings Tess and I lagged behind photographing every different flower we came across.   I have never seen so many different species and different to those in Hidden valley.   Keith led us to one of the best  Bushman painting sites  I have seen passing waterfalls and deep emerald pools.  On the way back most of us enjoyed a refreshing swim and  lunch stop before making our way back to the cottage.   Margaret treated us to some waffles and tea before our trek home.


Thank you Keith and Margaret for a lovely weekend leaving me rejuvenated to face the "Corporate Financial world"!!


TO ALL OUR CONTRIBUTORS:                                                                                                             Noël Harper


I have received so many write-ups recently that unfortunately I have not been able to include them all in the current Newsletter.   But please do not stop writing – THEY WILL BE PUBLISHED – even if a little later than sooner.   My thanks to you all and may you enjoy many interesting hikes, trails and journeys during 2007.    We look forward to reading all about your adventures, and perhaps even seeing a photograph or two.