Leader: Jon Stevens (Durban Ramblers)
Photo report: Rod Hart additional pics courtesy Rose Dix (CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE)

The Cumberland hike was a Durban Ramblers hike led by Jon Stevens. We met at the Cumberland Nature Reserve and about 26 of us set off at 9:30am under Jon’s cheerful direction. We travelled to and along the top edge of the gorge looking down at the Umgeni river winding its way below (pic 1). Somewhat surreal looking aloes with their leaves, normally thick and fleshy, draping brown and limp (pic 2) from the stems, I presume caused by the heat of a veld fire. Rose Dix pointed out (actually I saw Rose kneeling on the ground photographing it) and named the delicate CLERODENDRUM HIRSUTUM which appears to just shoot up from the ground without a supporting central stem (pics 3 & closeup pic 4).

Our herd of hikers (Ramblers ?) (pic 1 in set below) then headed away from the gorge to pick up the Cumberland border fence. Along the way I noted a quaint little plant which produced a round bouquet of tiny yellow flowers (pic 2). Following along this theme I later photographed the equally fascinating natural bouquet of what I know as “Everlasting” flowers (pic 3). Spotted Rose taking a photo of a poor caterpillar having a very bad hair day (pic 4)so I joined in the photo shoot, seems he had curled up in response the thundering footsteps of our herd. A plant, equally tetchy about being touched is this thistly type thing I photographed along the way (pic 5). At this time of year when colours are still mainly shades of brown and darkish green the blazing red of the coral tree flower really stands out (pic 6).

And so on to our first break (pic1), now back at the crest of the gorge (pic 2). Take note of this photo because later we would be down in the valley alongside the river taking lunch while looking back up at this spot! Back on the trail firstly the little partly exposed bulb starting to come to life caught my attention (pic 3) then some keen eyed fellow hikers drew my attention to the delicate ground orchid (pics 4 & 5).

We had now started to wend our way (pic 1) gently down into the valley, another orchid was pointed out to me (pics 2 & 3), this one Rose has subsequently identified as Eulophia Parviflora. On my own accord I spotted and photographed the spiky thing in pic 4 which I thought made quite a nice pic though not as delicate or colourful as the previous orchid. Along the way we wove through tall aloes (pics 5) and a tree in white blossoms stood out in contrast (pic 6). We have all seen aloes growing out of the most impossible places on kranse but this aloe growing out of a tree was a first for me (pic 7).

Down, down, down (pic 1), another white blossomed tree (pic 2), an aloe in seed (pic 3) - reminding us that we had missed the opportunity to see the wonder of this valley with its aloes in flower, a bit of rock hopping (pic 4) and we reached the flowing waters of the Umgeni river (pic 5), recent footprints in the sand showed a sharp clawed little creature prowled this area (pic 6).

Our lunchstop was in a tranquil setting on the rocks alongside the river (pic 1), some gave assistance to the less sure of foot in getting over the rocks (pic 2) and we settled down to lunch (pic 3). In the pool at my feet I picked up this reflection of some trees (pic 4) and in the same pool, with much patience managed to get a pic of this little bug that hopped about on the water, all without getting his/her feet wet (pic 5 & 6). From the Internet it seems to fit the description of the “Water Strider” ( which is noted as moving at up to 1.5 m/s, which according to another Internet site makes it the worlds fastest insect moving at a speed equivalent to man travelling at 400 miles/hr. I can attest to the fact that they move too fast to be seen by my eye, to get the pic I had to focus on one spot in the pool and wait for a little strider to land within my area of focus. The last pic in this set shows the camera reflected in the water above the bug.

Going back to what I noted in my third paragraph of this report, pic below shows from where we had previously looked down on the river.

After lunch we setoff walking up river along the river bank, a little rock hopping but mainly walking through droves of ringbarked wattle and bluegum trees and saplings (pics 1 & 2). A small crossing provides a minor challenge when faced with brambles (pics 3 & 4) and then a short wait for others to catch up (pic 5). As we headed away from the river towards the cliff face I noted this branch which had been split down the center (pic 6).

My penchant for photos of interesting tree bark was rewarded with this knobbly stemmed tree (pic 1) and a little farther down the track an even greater studded specimen (pic 2), and then the delicate “tissue” of a paperbark tree (pic 3). As we headed closer to the cliff we met up with and travelled along a tributary stream, the path providing a beautiful shaded walk, partway along here we waited to regroup (pic 4) and for our erstwhile and still cheery leader, Jon (pic 5) to catch up. A polluted (might be a natural pollutant) stagnant pool off the stream provided a myriad mix of colour in reflected light (pic 6 – note I have adjusted the colour saturation in this pic to try and reproduce the effect of the metallic colours of the original setting).

Further along a waterfall marks the end of this route and the beginning of the ascent of the cliff face.

Ascending the cliff face is the toughest part of the hike with quite a bit of clambering though quite manageable as there is a, relatively clear path to follow, just a bit of hauling oneself up and over rocksteps. Pic 1 shows me up against the hollow of a tree along this path – the idea of the pic was to emphasise the hollow of the tree, however in the result my frame seems to more than amply fill the hollow – memo: next time use more slender model (or find bigger hollow). My photo shoot exploit caused a slight backup along the single file path but all seems happy to wait (pic 2). Slightly higher and off the path was a cave which a short detour enabled us to investigate (pic 3) a couple of rather large bones at the entrance to the cave discouraged us from actually going the last couple of metres, just in case there did happen to be a beast living therein, as it would have been quite a dangerous scramble to get down. Another far greater cave appeared along the path (pics 4 & 5), and a drizzle of water conducted down through the ferns provides an opportunity to wet hands (pic 6).

It must have taken a lot of effort to originally “discover” this walkable route up the cliff face and it does provide a very interesting, varied and, as mentioned previously, accessible though challenging path to the average day hiker (pics 1, 2, 3,4 & 5). At a couple of strategic points signage is provided the marker shown in pic 6 is just as well since I would not have believed we were expected to climb up there!

Finally, the top and a cheerful welcome (pic 1 & 2) on having made it (ummm the option was…?) A Durban Rambler (pic 3) shows how to relax in style after a strenuous hike – utterly and completely!