Write-up from Howard Townsend (minor edits made to this version - Webmaster). Photos contributed by: Dave & Irene
If you read the January newsletter, you will know the identity and a little about “The Best 4x4 By Far,” “The Centurion Tank,” “The Entertaner,” and “The Observer,” are. The four of them together with “Ms. Perseverance,” “The Flying Scot,” “The Mensch,” and “The Apprentice,” made up the party of eight for this hike.
“Ms. Perserverance.” (Margaret Kirsten.) A very experienced hiker who has completed hikes in various parts of the world including, in the American Rockies, Mont Blanc, Mount Kenya and all over the 'Berg. The pace of the leading pack and the altitude on this hike started messing with her brain less than two hours into the hike and she was on the verge of retreating and spending 36 hours at the car park while the remaing seven hikers continued. However, enter “The Mensch.” He quickly removed her bedding roll from her backpack and strapped it to his own and proceeded to carry it for the remaining 6 hours on Saturday and the return trip on Sunday. A highly embarrassed Ms. Perseverance plodded on at the tail for the rest of Saturday, but by Sunday she had acclimatised and was fit and ready to climb to the top of the 'Berg.
“The Fly Scot.” (Irene Wisdon.) When she starts pumping her Black Diamond ski poles, smoke rises from the soles of her boots. Best that one does not try and keep up with her when she is in that mode. Completing the Grand Traverse last year is not enough of an accomplishment for her and she is in training (with some other daft Amazons from a certain school in Pmb) to tackle a cycle trip of several hundred kilometres to Rhodes in the Eastern Cape. Kan jy dit glo? One can only place a ? mark over the sanity of some of the members in this hiking club!! (Hope that they do not Gun for me after this comment.)
“The Mensch.” (Mark Wisdon.) Could not believe my eyes when the Ashton's Nissan bakkie arrived at Giants Castle entrance. Squashed together with 5 backpacks in the canopy portion (not the cab portion, the canopy portion) of the double cab were “The Flying Scot” and her husband, “The Mensch.” Is being uncomfortable for an hour and a half on a bumpy, twisty road part of the training for the cycle trip to Rhodes? Not only did “The Mensch” come to the rescue by strapping Ms. Perseverance's bed roll to his pack, but once he had reached the summit of a severe climb in searing heat, he dumped his pack and then descended about 50m to dispossess Ms. Perseverance of hers and to carry it to the summit!! What a 'boytjie!'
“The Apprentice.” (Brian Checkley.) This is the third (all 3 have been with the club) overnight hike that the 62 year old “The Apprentice” has done and he is already getting quite cockey! After spending some time in conversation with “The Centurion Tank,” “The Apprentice,” he qoute, 'Will give serious consideration to helping with the re-supply for the next Grand Traverse.' This will immediately tell you that we hiked in exceptionally hot weather and that the sun affected some of the hikers very badly. According to the the thermometer on his watch, the temperature was as high as 39c in the valleys. When we left the cave on Sunday, the temp at 8h30 was 33c! No wonder that helping with the re-supply seemed like a walk in the park to “The Apprentice.” He always hikes with a stick but on this occasion it was forgotten at home.This hike is one that definitely needs at least one stick and he grumbled and mutterred to himself about his forgetfulness for large portions of Saturday. But, (to his close friends he is known as “Mr Fixit”) no sooner had we reached the cave and he wipped out his Swiss army knife and sawed and fashioned a new stick for the return journey. He was a much happier chappie on Sunday. “The Best 4x4 By Far” passed some of his wisdom and experience onto “The Apprentice” by telling him to follow his example by preparing a checklist to tick off at the commencement of every hike.
It is fascinating and intriguing to observe and to listen to “The Best 4x4 By Far” as he gazes at the typography and game tracks while deciding which route to take. He weighed up “giant cutbacks” against “ridges” and then set off at a helluva pace, usually up the ridges to save distance and time. He does not have a 'saak' with the consequences regarding aching muscles and feet and sagging energy levels!
He could often be heard talking to himself while gazing at and determining route markers in the distance. At other times he would say, “We are now in the hands of the Elands.” We never saw one of the damn beasts but we did often walk where they had walked. Our leader enjoyed himself by periodically inviting someone in the group to either take us back to the car park or to point out where had rested or lunched the previous day.
This hike is mostly over virgin terrain and is testing on the ankles, feet and calves. The sky was clear and the heat was severe. To cope with the heat, some of us plunged ourselves into the streams on Sunday and dunked our hats in the streams on both days. Even “The Entertainer” (who as you know has a slowish but very comfortable pace) took a beating. We could probably have left our sleeping bags at home, so mild was the night.
The round trip was 26 kilometres. Day one with the descent into a valley was more strenuous than day two and in fact took an hour longer than the return trip. On Saturday we set out at 9h00 and arrived at the cave at 16h00. We left the cave at 8h00 on Sunday and arrived at the cars at 14h00.
Along the way is a most awesome sandstone 'ruin.' Its inhabitants may have left many years ago but the walls are still standing firm with scarcely a stone out of its original position. It is evident that the sandstone blocks were cut and dressed on site. A testimony to the quality of work in those days. “Gebou om te hou.”
A cattle dip has been chiselled out of the surrounding stone with sandstone block walls at the entrance and exit. A furrow (about 8cms wide and 2cm deep) has been chiselled into the rock above the dip and it directs rain and dew into the dip. I found it sobering to think on what our forefathers achieved without the aid of computers, electricity and the tools and machinery we enjoy today. That was an age of hard physical labour and discipline when a 'klap' did no one any harm. Have we progressed or regressed?
Later in the day we reached the well concealed entrance to the cave area through a magnificent gnarled tree in the form of an arch. Quite spectacular. Water casscades over the cave area and provides a freezing shower (took my breath away as I stood beneath it) and a shallow water hole (not deep enough to swim or bath). Because of the boulders in the overhang, only 8 hikers can be accomodated and then they are about 10-20 metres apart in pairs. Not conducive to a social evening or to snooping to see who has what gadgets/equipment and food and drink.
I found gazing at the dinosaur footprints an awesome experience. I have seen such things on TV, but to stand on a boulder and to gaze down at an actual dinosuar print which was probably millions of years old, WOW!!! Thanks Dave. For those who have not been as fortunate to have visited this cave, let it be known that this was Dave's last hike to it. Only BEEEEG bucks will get him to lead another group to it. All the photos attached to this report are his (except for the first partial "group" pic and the three rather playful river crossing pics which are credited to Irene. Ed.) .
AN AFTER THOUGHT.
My observation is that although the club has over 150 members, a core of about only twenty of them participate in these overnight hikes.Such a pity. After one has run 10 Comrades, a green number is awarded. After completing three Two Oceans, one's name goes into the Ship's Log. After one has donated a certain number of units of blood, a certificate/badge is issued. Has the Club's Committee ever considered a recognition/incentive for hikers who complete say 10 overnight hikes in a calendar year? Maybe a gold badge for 10 in a year, a silver for 7 in a year and a bronze for 5 in a year. Just a thought.