MHC - Zulu Cave 30 – 31 August 2008

By Dave Sclanders – Hike Leader

A combined group of hikers from MHC and MBP met at Monk’s Cowl to spend the week end hiking to Zulu Cave for Saterday night, and then on Sunday to climb to the top of Intunja before heading home. Intunja, also know as “Gatberg” – the mountain with a Hole in it”, is a well known landmark high point in this area. A good round trip of 30 kilometers with a climb of about 600 meters.

The day was warm , and our first stop was Crystal Falls for a break, and to refill water bottles. A good practice in winter is to fill water bottles at every stream, and also to drink. On never knows what the next stream my bring, no water, or dirty water, so always stay prepared Also it is a good idea to be careful when filling the water bottle, or getting to a “better place” to get water that you do not fall into the water !!.

The air was clear, the sky very blue, however a berg wind had started, and dust and grass flew around us. The mountains were tall, stark and sinister in the back ground, reminding us of how insignificant we are when we are in the presence of nature. Flowers were staring to come out , and the fire breaks were turning a tinge of green .

Later we stopped for lunch at Hlatikhulu Nek , where we were to met Brian , Mark and Mary, and a group of hikers who had hiked from Mary’s Cottage to meet us at this point. By now the wind was strong and horrible. Lunch was taken in the shelter of an old path cutting. On the way to meet the other party, Intunja stood out before us, high and with steep sides. We met up with Brian and co., however the wind was by now really strong and unpleasant. So after a short meeting, we decided to move on to Zulu Cave, and Brian and his party would hike back to Mary’s cottage , from where they had started in the morning.

Zulu cave is a large cave, with a waterfall over the front of the cave, so water is very close, however the floor is very dusty, so one needs a good ground sheet to sleep on to keep all you kit out of the dust.

Next morning we headed for Intunja, however the wind was incredibly strong and gusty. To try to climb this high, unprotected hill top in these conditions would not have been a good idea. So after a brief hike through a nearby nek, we saw the Cathedral Range in the far distance, took a few pictures, and headed for the cars. All morning we had seen smoke billowing up from the Jacob’s Ladder area, and then it seemed to turn and head for the Monk’s Cowl where our cars were. So without stopping for a break we headed back down to the Sphinx.

From there we could see that the fire was threatening Drak Sun area, and far from our cars. So that was a relief.

Lunch was had back in the sheltered confines of Crystal Falls, then an easy walk back to the cars.

Fires in the berg at any time are dangerous, when a high wind is blowing they are even more dangerous. One would never outrun a berg fire coming in your direction.

Always check the sky, watch for the wind and smoke direction, and be aware of your surroundings as to where the burnt fire breaks are. So if the fire does turn in your direction, you will know where a safe place may be.

Always be aware.