It’s May, the weather has been incredibly warm, the gardens need a lot of water, and we are now into the early winter story. Now is the time to start doing a few hikes into the berg, lovely days, grass is turning brown, there is still plenty of water around, and the air clear enough to get wonderful views of the distant mountains.
I was at Kamberg this past week-end with a client, and from a high point in the back hills of Kamberg we could clearly see Cathkin Peak in the north, the Giant Castle massive staring down at us, and in the far south Hodgson’s Peaks and the Devil’s Knuckles. Then looking east, we could see as far as one could over the hinterland of the KZN Midlands.
Grande Traverse 2007
The Grande Traverse is now a
“Challenge of the past” –“ been there” , “done that” , “got the incredible
feeling of achievement” . Only a very
few special people have the privilege of
attempting and finishing this
endurance hike. I refer to our five
Incredible Iron Ladies of our club, Allison Gunning, Chantel
Beattie, Irene Wisdom, Teresa Whitfield and Elaine Bushell. Who would have thought in July 2004, when a
group from our club did the Amatola Trail, amongst us
some novice hikers like Chantel, Teresa and the organizer of the trip Allison, would
in such a short time have graduated to completing such an arduous trip. Also on that Amatola
To our Iron Ladies, we the members of the Midlands Hiking Club, Salute you
Of course without the back up teams, this trip would very difficult indeed to do. The 1st team went to the start of the hike at the Sentinel, and hiked with them to the top of the Amphitheatre to the top of the Thukela Falls. Had lunch together, and made sure that they actually were pointed in the right direction before waving a final “good Luck and Good Hiking” to see the hikers on their way. Thanks to Brian Henwood, Rob and Dave. Then the 2nd big journey was the actual 3 day hike to get re supplies to the top of Bannerman Pass in the Giants Castle area. Here thanks go to Keith and Margaret Ashton, Brian Henwood, Mark Wisdom, and his brother Andrew. Also Yvonne Engelbrecht, Lyn Gissing, Cecil Hackney and Craig Becker. Keith was in command of the re-supply team from MHC. Well done and congratulations to these re-supply team members.
Keith was also involved with getting the 2nd re-supply up to the Sani Pass Chalet , however he experienced vehicle problems, and had to source another vehicle and driver on the way . However the re-supply point was reached and the rest of the food for the hike was passed on to the hikers.
It is of note that this team actually grew in numbers as they progressed. Having started with 16 hikers, they ended with 18, having “picked up and adopted” 2 French hikers who were trying to do this traverse on their own, had got themselves lost, and short of food . They met our traversers, joined them, and had extra food etc brought up to them with the re supply team.
Moral of the story, don’t play in the Mountains, the “Dragon’s Wrath” is no match for mere unprepared mortals.
We look forward to the Club Evening when these “super ladies” present us s slide show on their great hike. Watch the newsletter Fixture List, and book that evening.
As far as other Club activities were concerned, most of the hikes were well supported. A huge event was the Karkloof Canopy day , when 45 people attended the Slip & Slide day. Probably a club record attendance for any one event. Ages ranged from the well matured down to an 8 year old grandson of one of our leaders. Some anxious moments were had by some members, however they lived to “one day tell us the tale”. To the organizer of the day, as well as the management of the Canopy Tours who made this day possible - A big thank you to all of you.
Two poor turnouts were experienced. The Seven Oakes Week-end turned out rather poorly , with only 3 okes turning up . However it gave the “okes” plenty of room to spread themselves out in the hut. Thanks to Mark and Mary for organizing the week end.
The other No Show was for Graham Cullinan’s Fern Forest day walk.
The last Club Social with the guest speaker on Mountain Rescue was by all accounts a great hit, and well received by all who attended.
CLUB NEWS and POINTS TO PONDER
The Club Web Site at www.gohiking.co.za. Up to now there has been a lot of interest shown by some members of hikes, and “The Rod” had quite a lot of news and stories to put on the web. Please keep this up. I know how much time it takes to put something down in writing - but “You Feel So Good Afterwards” , you become a “World Wide Celebrity” in no time at all.
PRIZES , PRIZES, PRIZES.
Hike Write Ups - Hike photos - Don’t forget the prizes that will be up for grabs at the Annual AGM for all articles, and pics submitted throughout the year for the web page, and our Newsletter.
We welcome new club members Clive Holland, Nicky Leigh, Beverley Bloem and Arnold Haywood may you all enjoy many happy hiking hours in our company.
OOPS - calamity
Our Secretary, Keith, has experienced a major problem with his computer, hence no Hiking Schedule for the moment. As soon as he has disposed of the gremlin the Hiking Schedule will be
e-mailed to all those on the ether and hard copies will be available at the June Social evening. In the meantime consult last month’s schedule for hikes up to the end of June.
Those of our members who have been unable to attend our last two Social Evenings, really missed excellent presentations. At the March Social Mark Brown gave a most interesting and informative talk and slide presentation on the birds of the Drakensberg. We all gleaned an amazing amount of information about our feathered friends.
At the April evening we were given a talk and slide presentation on mountain rescue in the Drakensberg. The speaker managed to make a topic which could have been rather dull, both informative and at times amusing.
For our members the number to enter into your cell phones for mountain rescue or any medical emergency is PHOC 0800005133. Keep this number handy you never know when you may need it.
MARYS COTTAGE Jenny Sleed
3 - 5 November 2006
Leader Keith, Margaret, Lisa, Casper, Liz, Hettie, Anitha, Jenny.
Mary’s Cottage is definitely one of the best venues on the fixture list. The rocky road that leads to the cottage demands that one travels in a 4 x 4. Thanks to Casper’s expert driving skills we arrived safe and sound at 4pm on Friday afternoon.
Lisa, Margaret and Keith arrived Friday morning and had already done a hike past Makhulumane Rock and the Makhulumane valley, past the largest mountain cabbage tree in S.A. and a lovely waterfall.
It was my first visit, and I certainly was not disappointed. The view is outstanding, and there is a variation of accommodation to suit everybody, from regular bedrooms, an attic, to the ‘open air’ bedroom, all with magnificent views
Friday evening was spent getting to know each other and sharing hiking experiences over a candlelight dinner.
Saturday we were all up bright and early to prepare for the days hike to Stable Cave. We separated into two parties – Keith, Margaret, Hettie and myself were the team that were keen to go to the Cave, while the others were happy to go at a slower pace and to turn around when they felt they had had enough.
The paths part way along our route have had a tremendous amount of maintenance done to them, they have been widened and cleared and it certainly made walking along them far more pleasant.
One can liken a hike to an abbreviated version of our lives. There is always a beginning and an end. Those are set. The part in between is totally up to the individual as to what they get out of it. As with life, there are always rocky paths, up hills, down hills, beauty, warmth, cold, gentleness, harshness. Sometimes the going is easy and we have time to hear the birds sing and notice the exquisite beauty of our surroundings. Then we hit a rough patch, and we have to withdraw and concentrate on our strength to pull us through.
As we experience more trying and difficult hikes, the easier they become, as we get stronger. So that is why we need to go through trying times in our lives, so that we can find our true strength.
The role of a leader is extremely important. He has to be in control and we have to put our trust in him. Keith fills his part as a leader without a doubt. To hike with him as leader is a pleasure. He is a very confident, experienced and knowledgeable man who commands my respect.
The hike to Stable Cave was very scenic and we tested our knowledge on identifying some of the numerous wild flowers that carpeted the hills. Margaret told me the name of a fragile white flower that was scattered all over the bright green grass – Rhodohypoxis baurii. I said to her that it looked as if they were stars that had fallen from the sky, and she told me that they are commonly known as ‘white star’.
It is a fairly easy hike, except for Jacobs Ladder that is a bit of a pull as it zigzags its way to the top. We climbed around 600m and the distance from the cottage to Stable Cave is 10km. Keith, always on the look out for an interesting subject took a photo of a bright orange butterfly on a stem of blue Scilla natalensis flowers.
Our route, after an uphill section from the cottage, contoured just below Makhulumane Rock and later below Steilberg. We then turned leftish to Van Damm’s Cascades (A route downhill to the right leads to the Blue Grotto) and after a gentle rising section, climbed up Jacob’s Ladder (a zig-zag route). The last section to Stable Cave passes near the top of Verkykerskop (not to be confused with the other Verkykerskop above The Sphinx).
The views from the Cave make the 10km worth every step.
On the way home, Hettie’s nerves of steel were very impressive as she stopped in the path and called out “snake”. I was behind her, and saw a black snake wriggling past her feet and into the grass. I take my hat off to her in remaining so calm. We all took a wild guess as to what it could have been – it could have been a black mamba, berg adder, night adder, we will never be any the wiser. As far as I’m concerned anything without legs is deadly. 20km in one day is a fair walk and we were grateful for a relaxing hot shower, cup of tea and crunchie.
Sunday was a coolish day and we set off for Nandi’s Falls – again it was Keith, Margaret, Hettie and myself that were the keen beans for a long walk.
The route via Hlatikulu Loop led us through forests of huge trees that made canopies of shade for moss and toadstools. Ferns grew in abundance in the coolness. A stream gently winding through provided the moisture that they thrive on. It is truly a magical place where elves, fairies and gnomes were definitely watching us pass by. The smells from the forest was pungent and mellow, and the nostrils twitched excitedly as they were exposed to whiffs from the undergrowth, warm and mature smells.
At the end of Hlatikulu Loop we crossed the Sterkspruit (iMpofane) stream and then climbed towards the falls. After arrival at Nandi's Falls we climbed up onto a ledge behind the curtain of cascading water. This was our lunch spot, and as usual, we had walked up an appetite so our sarmies went down well. Sitting there with the water tumbling over in front of us made us feel as if we were sheltering from a summer storm.
Our return route was on the far side of the Sterkspruit, eventually having to cross it before our steep climb up to the beginning of Hlatikulu Loop.
It was a 12km hike in total and as we approached the cottage on the last stretch of our walk, we spotted a very unusual dragonfly. Keith managed to get a couple of close ups of it – it had two completely different sets of wings. The top set was yellow with markings and the lower set was black/gray. It was very delicate and beautiful.
We finished the weekend off with a last cup of coffee and it was with regret that we had to leave the little paradise that had been home for the weekend.
A special thanks to Mary and Mark for allowing us to stay in their cottage, and to Keith and Margaret for being such good hosts, to Casper and Liz for transporting us and to Lisa and Anitha and Hettie for your company
We left with the mountains in our hearts. And we were happy.
UMGENI VALLEY Jack Long
19 November 2006
It was a little disappointing when we pitched up for this walk to find that there would be only five of us. Perhaps it would be fair to say, however, that it had been raining heavily and the morning had started misty and drizzling. People who would otherwise have come, were no doubt put off by the prospect of slipping and sliding on rain sodden paths. They needn’t have worried as the paths in the Reserve are well maintained and are not badly affected by rain.
The group consisted of Margaret as leader – substituting for Keith who was suffering from the effects of flu – Libby, Sally, Aris and myself. We started off from the office and after a companionable walk along the road, were soon at the path going steeply down to the river. I was quite enjoying the downhill and was hoping we would carry on to the bottom, but this was not to be. We shortly took a path to the left (the Sunset Trail) to meet up with the Inkonka path at the saddle. We had not been on this long when Libby announced that she wanted to stop “to take her pants off”. I waited in anticipation, but it proved to be not as interesting as it sounded – she merely wanted to unzip the lower part of her pants as the day was starting to get warm! In fact it turned out to be a beautiful day for hiking – blue, blue sky with billowing white clouds and a gentle cool breeze. I have hiked in this valley for many years and I thought I knew every path, but Aris ushered us along a path I didn’t know existed and we ended up after a short walk at a lovely spot overlooking the valley with a concrete table and benches where we had our first drink. This is at a dead end and we had to retrace our steps to get back to the Inkonka Trail.
In anticipation of a hot day, Margaret had decided on the Black Eagle Trail in the upper part of the Reserve rather than in the heat of the lower valley. Although the weather was cool, Margaret wisely chose to stick to this plan, much to my delight as I think the Black Eagle Trail is decidedly the most beautiful walk in the Reserve. We thus proceeded along this trail at a relaxed pace, stopping whenever to look at a pretty flower or an interesting tree or feature. This is one advantage of having a small group. We eventually reached the two cottages where we proposed to have tea, but both were surprisingly occupied. We bypassed these and carried on to the Mhlangeni cottage where we stopped for tea.
After tea we proceeded along the trail above the Dwarfs Dawdle, stopping on the way to look at some giraffe in the valley below until we came to the picnic site where we had lunch. We had hardly finished lunch and were settling down to have a kip when we were visited by two large Hartebeest who were not aware that lunch was by invitation only! After clattering through our lunch area they ran off.
Our return was along the same route although there was a toss up whether we should go via the Black Eagle Trail or the road. The lure of the Eagle Trail won, but Aris decided to take the road. As we approached the Indulo car park, Sally and Libby were surprised by a large Bushbuck which suddenly appeared out of the grass where it had been resting and then bounded away. We met up with Aris at the Inkonka car park and thence back to our cars. A lovely day – thank you, Margaret.
BUSHMAN’S NEK – WHITE’S CAVE HIKE Petro Mostert
9-11 Feb 2007 (Emotional thoughts)
Before you begin your reading, please note that I start and end my story, as I did the hike, with a smile hoping the grinding and groaning on route were not that obvious. A big thank you towards a great hike leader and his patient team for dragging me along this weekend and applause to my husband for his ever lingering concern and care (sorry ladies, I saw him first!)
The story from the horse’s mouth that is, if the donkey thinks it is a zebra or a hiker from Gangster’s Paradise innocently joining the Banana Boys in the mountains you know where we come from, we think a weekend backpack hike, means following the white footprints on Saturday and the yellow footprints on Sunday, mean, that now, anybody can do.
Look, all was familiar to hiking for me up to where the decision was made to step off the path into the great unknown with 50/50 difficult options that now, as far as the Drakensberg inexperienced (read : I am ) is concerned as to which interesting “ little” challenge shall we take today? Straight up this little hill or crab-wise contouring around that little bend until only the “little” inexperienced is a “little” tired!
Amazing how all these similar looking hills all around me, can have different names and more amazing how these people just follow their noses or so it seemed to me… And whoops! there we’re having lunch in the shade of an overhang full of age old rock paintings as easy to them as if we were strolling through their back gardens and all that went through my mind is how did we get there and how are we going to get where we’re supposed to be going?
Slept in caves before, yes, but surely not in one with the hospitality of the shower running non stop just in case the visitors feel like a quick freshening up in the heat of the night. Must say I’d donate my half of the Salami to anyone tough enough to brave that waterfall straight from a warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night - my fresh, clean sleeping bag versus a day’s sweat, the only motivation for me to enter! Only afterwards we were informed that we really are spoilt to have our first overnight in a Drakensberg cave, being in Whyte’s cave. Private rooms and even the beds were made when we arrived !
Yours truly had to create some excitement on day 2, doing a quick off road summersault, head over heels backpack and all but graciously overruled by the fastest jump any fully loaded hiker could ever perform, and then so tenderly nursed back on the feet that only a husband’s loving care can do!
Yip ! that’s what hiking is all about, a good hike leader, a friendly bunch of people, a good sweat for spectacular views, a good lunch spot and something nice to eat, sweet mountain streams to drink from and a good place to drop your weary body for the night.
And if you are in the top margin of blessed people to be able to have all of this you could call yourself a very very happy person. Thank you Midlands Hiking Club !
BANNERMAN RE-SUPPLY Margaret Ashton
It was a wait for the leader at Giant’s Castle Reserve on Friday, 6 April – he’s late. Select a re-supply pack from the huge pile and hope that I’ve for a light one. Across the river and up the valley to the contour path – very hot – all sweating. A herd of Eland pass by and at last the contour path. A sign shows 4,5 km to Bannerman Hut – lunch time at last – weather now cooler, clouds building up - quickly along the path to Bannerman Hut. Some of us cram into hut, the rest pitch tents to shelter from the rain. Some play cards in the hut – others attempt to rest on the lumpy terrain – stiff limbs. Morning dawns fine with clear views – packs on and now for the steep assent up Bannerman Pass. Snake skin on the path reminds us to be vigilant in case of live ones. What was it? Steep, steep, steeper with large boulders to scramble over. Hard work – mist coming down and the rain starts. How much further? Near the top, hurray! Pitch tents as the rain starts. Much mist, no views. Wait anxiously for the traverse team – late – at last here they come looming out of the mist and rain – much hugging – everyone in good spirits. All pitch in to help to erect the tents - a Tent City of 52 people. Unfortunately steady rain so not much socializing. By morning the rain has stopped presenting lovely clear views and glorious sunshine. Group photos before Traverse Team sets off amidst much cheering. Re-supply team start off down – seems steeper going down – very slippery after yesterday’s rain. Mist comes swirling up the pass to meet us accompanied by heavy drizzle which continued to Giant’s Castle Reserve – cars – dry clothes – all safe and happy. What an experience!