Wonder Valley Cave
19-20 Nov 2011
Photos & comment courtesy of Keith Ashton (Hike Leader)

Approaching the top of Van Heyningen's Pass

On our way up Van Heyningen's Pass

Approaching the top of Van Heyningen's Pass

Watsonias in the mist at the top of Van Heyningen's Pass

Dr Sonja and 3 German friends, Christoph, Melanie, and Anea with 9y old Mishy in front - top of Van Heyningen's Pass

Our hikers in mist & drizzle well above Van Heyningen's Pass

We are on our way to the cave - never mind about the weather

A wet Dale and Margaret - keeping eyes on the track - what track?

Jeanette & Graham - we would rather get wet than too hot in all that gear

Melanie, Christoph & Dr Sonja - now wet through but still in good spirits

Safe arrival at the cave - lets change & dry out - lovely

On our way to get water from the beautiful stream & pool not too far from the cave

Part of our group collecting water from the stream above the pool

Follow the leader & lets do some exploring - now weather fine

Jeanette and Margaret in foreground looking back towards the cave (at the top & behind the hill in the background)

Exploring another cave in the area (this cave would sleep 8 comfortably)

Descending after exploring the other cave - Dale in the foreground - others descending behind

The lovely pool - Graham and granddaughter Mishy sat on the rocks at the far side after collecting water

Getting comfortable in Wonder Valley Cave - hiking gear drying out slowly

View of a lovely rainbow from the cave

The mist cleared later on Sat giving us this lovely view of Champagne Castle, Monk's Cowl, Cathkin and Sterkhorn from the cave

Very early Sun morning, Mishy yawning, grandpa Graham making tea. - Cathkin & Sterkhorn in the background

Close-up of Graham with Champagne Castle, Monk's Cowl, Cathkin Peak and Sterkhorn beyond

Jeanette and Mishy having a bonding rest and snacks on our way back from the cave

Also rest time for the rest of the group, taking in the views on our way back from the cave

On our way back to the top of Van Heyningen's Pass

Looking down Van Heyningen's Pass

Mishy on the bridge over the Delmhlwazini River - Champagne Castle, Monk's Cowl and Cathkin Peak in the background

Part of our group on the bridge at the end of the hike - notice how low the river is even after the rain

Margaret and Peter pleased to be back safely after a great weekend


Eleven of us led by Keith had an enjoyable weekend in the Injisuthi area of the Berg. Keith and Margaret, Dale, Peter, Graham & Jeanette & granddaughter Michelle, Dr Sonja & 3 young friends from Germany, Christopher, Anea & Melanie who are undertaking a years voluntary service in the Ladysmith area.

Sonja is fluent in German and although the 3 young people were fluent in English – clearly comforting for them to have a German speaker with them. We all set off from Injisuthi camp around 09h00 in wet weather gear with quite a heavy drizzle and then onto the trail and eventually into the forest and van Heynigen’s Pass. This is quite steep in parts and carrying relatively full backpacks – around 15kgs and in wet weather gear – we all started to overheat. Coming out of the forest and onto the lower reaches of the escarpment we took off wet weather gear (some of us) and viewed the camp from about 300m above. It started to drizzle heavily again so back on with the gear and on and up to Wonder Valley and Wonder Cave. The hike got easier once we were out of the forest area and the distance to the cave from Injisuthi is only around 7kms but seems quite a bit more with the climb of about 470m. We got to the cave around 12h30 so a lunch break after allocating sleeping areas (basically every man/woman for themselves). Dale to a degree had the short straw being on her own at the far end of the cave but seemed quite happy! Quite close by is Wonder Pool which on a warm day would be ideal for swimming. To get to the pool we followed the track down a steep slope and this was our water supply.

Keith led the majority of the party then on from the pool to another cave and then on a short walk back to our base cave. The weather was not looking too good and a mist had set in. However 11 people have quite a lot to talk about so we entertained each other with hiking and trail stories. Whilst we were all away from the cave pied crows had obviously spied on us and had stolen Keith and Margaret’s evening meal of pork stew, carrots and veggies which Margaret had put out to thaw. The crows obviously didn’t like carrots as these were left but fed heartily on the pork. They also had a go at Graham and Jeanette’s sandwiches! Not to worry all part of the Berg experience and we all had a Plan B as far as food was concerned.

After a nightcap – Keith always brings a generous supply of Drambuie – all into our sleeping bags by 20h00 and most of us in the land of nod within 10 mins or so. During the night – it’s a long one if you are asleep by 20h15! – the mist and clouds partially cleared and the night sky without any artificial light is always spectacular. Most of us awake by 05h30 the following morning and to a glorious sight of Champagne Castle, Monk’s Cowl and several other places which really only Keith and Margaret could identify. This sight was appreciated greatly by Christopher, Anea and Melanie who woke up a bit later but with the high Berg peaks still in view. Michelle spotted several buck on the horizon on the opposite side of the valley – Keith identified them as probably mountain reedbuck.

The weather was bright and sunny and quite warm by the time we were ready to hike back to Injisuthi camp. The walk back to the forest is more dramatic than the way up as you begin to see the general high berg and as you approach the forest descent there is a very convenient resting place which looks onto the river valley with the camp about 300 metres below. Quite dramatic. The walk down would normally be quicker than up but Keith stopped on quite a few occasions to point out areas of interest to our German guests which was much appreciated by them.

Refreshing to have young people from outside South Africa with the Midlands Hiking Club – apart from a cross fertilisation of general ideas it helps to bring down the average age quite substantially. Back in Injisuthi camp around 12h00 and au revoir to everyone. A special mention of thanks and appreciation to Michelle, Graham and Jeanette’s granddaughter she is only 9 but kept up with the adults and never complained about the rain or steepness of the climbs – well done Michelle. A big thank you to Keith as leader for arranging the hike and cave sleep over. All of us got on well and socialised with each other during our stay in Wonder Cave.

A very worthwhile and enjoyable weekend.