MHC New Years Hike
Central Drakensberg
31 Dec to 2nd January 2014

Report and photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders

After a few years of not spending New Years eve in a cave in the berg, Keith once again booked the cave for this special evening, and within a short space of time, the word got out, and the full number of 12 hikers had booked.

The cave is not far from the Highmoor car park, so hikers can carry a bit more weight in their backpacks in the form of some extra special food and drinks, as well as lots of candles to light up the cave.

We all met at the Highmoor office , paid our dues for 3 days , filled in the hiking register, and set off on a glorious morning to the cave. The Giants Castle massive stood out proud and clear in the clear blue sky. Our first water hazard was just around the corner as the spillway of the dam wall that we had to cross was overflowing from the good recent rains. Later down the valley the second river we had to cross boasted a magnificent waterfall, with plenty of rushing sparkling water. As our cave was down this stream we knew that we would be in for a very noisy few days and nights.

Far to our left the great Drakensberg mountain features of Cathkin Peak , Monks Cowl, and Champagne Castle seemed just a stones throw away. ( the view of this formation at sunrise is a truly magnificent sight)

Once down into the cave, our fears of a very noisey waterfall were shown to justified, the noise in the cave from the waterfall was truly loud. Packs unloaded, and then time for a swim in the pool, before lunch, and the afternoon exploration hike.

Pic 2 Giants Castle massive on the horizon
Pic 3 Rushing , sparkling waters
Pic 4 Heading up and over the first hill of the day
Pic 5 Beautiful waterfall
Pic 6 Cathkin Peak , Monk’s Cowl & Champagne Castle
Pic 7 Dropping down to the cave next to the waterfall
Pic 8 Pool and waterfall
Pic 9 & 10 Settling in at the cave
Pic 11& 12 Swimming time

Then it was time for the afternoon walk, views from high places, strange wind and water shaped rock formations, and hidden behind deep and rough overgrowth, some old old ancient rock art.

Pic 13 “It’s a long way down”
Pic 14 Who does this face remind one of ?
Pic 15 Slipping down a steep place
Pic 16 Were up here !!
Pic 17 – 20 Ancient Rock Art
Pic 21 The sad face of a Turtle against the skyline

Once we had climbed out of the valley, we took a slow easy walk back to the cave along the top of the cliff

Pic 22 The valley far below
Pic 23 Watch out for the split in the rock – it’s a long way down
Pic 24 Watch how you step
Pic 25 Wild Orchid

Back at the cave, it was time for a chat, some good drinks, and then the important matter of “New Years supper”. Some kept it simple, others made a special meal of steak, eggs, baked beans, fried potatoes, all washed down with a good amount of “the good stuff”

AS it got darker, the numerous candles were lit to make a spectacular “fairy glen” in the cave.

Pic 26 Drinks, snacks and chats
Pic 27 Getting supper
Pic 28 That “special supper”
Pic 29 “ with a table “ – thank you very much !
Pic 30 – 32 “Candle time”

Just after 05h00 hours on New Years morning, saw a few hardy souls up on top of the cliff watching the first suns rays heralding the New Year in. It was a magnificent few minutes of magical colour, silence and tranquility. Then as the sun rose higher the magical purples , oranges and reds were replaced by the sharper early morning greens.

Pic 33 – 40 All the shades and colours of a magical sunrise.

After a slow leisurely breakfast, some of our party packed to go home, and the others set of for a hard days hike. There were a few flowers about, but the very hot day caused them to droop early, and the long view of the berg was a bit hazy. Lunch was had at Caracal Cave, where out of the blue, a lady on her own appeared in the cave. A visitor from Scotland was spending some days in the area , and wanted to see the cave as well as some rock art. She found the cave with the aid of a very sketchy map, but we advised against her trying to find the rock art as it was a long way off, and very hard to locate for someone who did not know the area. So after a short rest, she headed back to the office. For our party we endured a very overgrown and tortuous “ short cut” back to the cave - beware of long ago used short cuts – the longer cut can be easier !

Pic 41 A pretty flower head amongst the grass
Pic 42 Giants Castle in the far distance, with the threat of a storm building up over the mountain
Pic 43 Lunch in the cave , with the Scottish visitor
Pic 44 A steep climb out of the valley

I had taken a bit of a beating the previous day , short of water, high temperatures and was not feeling like greeting the sun. So from my sleeping bag I tried to catch the early morning colours of the sunrise

As it was going to be another hot day, we decided to pack up and head for home.

Pic 45 – 47 Sunrise from my sleeping bag.
Pic 48 A clear hot morning at Highmoor
Pic 49 Back at the car, getting cleaned up and ready to go home.

Thanks to Keith for organizing the New Years 3 day trip, and for putting up with us all.

To our hiking companions, I wish you as a spectacular 2014, as the incredible sunrise on the 1st of January 2014.