19-21 June 2015

Report and photos by Alistair Nixon

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

MAKURUMANI: The cottage is situated at 1500m and not far from Monks Cowl. Access to the cottage is strictly by 4x4 only and through two sets of security gates cunningly opened by cellphone communication.

We were warmly welcomed by Mary and Mark on Friday afternoon with the remaining four guests arriving later. Nine in total. The accommodation is excellent which included beds already made up with warm thick duvets. As it transpired we did not need too much bedding as the entire weekend was warm by winter standards. A novel aspect of the cottage is that there is no electricity. The two evenings were spent dining by candlelight around a circular diningroom table followed by fireside chats in the lounge. That certainly was one of the highlights of the weekend.

On Friday evening Mary took us on a stroll around the area with a visit to the unoccupied neighbours’ properties. The sunset colours gave a beautiful orange glow to Cathkin Peak and surrounding hills and the small dams were mirror smooth enough to excite any photographer with their perfect mirror images. The end of June was the last chance for owners to burn firebreaks so the views were slightly smoky as a result. A mountain behind us had become engulfed by flames as a firebreak had got out of control. But in the evening blackness it added considerable dramatic effect.

Saturday was Winter Solstice and from my first floor window I was able to see the sunrise at 6.55.

Saturday’s walk was inspiring and invigorating. It was estimated to be between 12 and 15kms. Our route along the contour path lead us towards the main escarpment with Monks Cowl campsite down in the valley on our left. Despite the warm morning there was still frost in the shadows of the hills. The meandering path lead us through cool and lush indigenous forests where we took out first break. The contrast of the brown winter colours of the hills is sharply contrasted with the cool, moist, green forest habitat almost “Avatar” like.

The descent through the forest led us down to the Sterkspruit river where we crossed, heading up to iNandi Falls. Despite the rest of KZN being gripped by a drought the river was flowing well. The falls are a major drawcard to visitors of Monk’s Cowl as we passed a number of returning groups. The falls are worth the last few kilometers of sweat through another cooling forest. As we approached the falls our Welcoming Committee of one, was a Chorister Robin who was obviously quite accustomed to visitors. He quietly stood his ground only a metre or two from us as we passed by.

Nandi Falls are a beautiful rest point and probably during the summer a beautiful place to swim. There is a path that runs behind the falls that gives one a different perspective of the falls. At this point we were rejoined by the Chorister Robin who once again showed no fear and after a little enticing was eating out of Mary’s hand.

The return route follows the pathways demarcated for day hikers from the Rest Camp. The view back towards Cathkin is stunning, probably one of the best. From iNandi we made our way to Sterkspruit falls which has a perfect viewpoint back up the valley. Our return path crossed the river once again back up a challenging climb towards the “Dreaded Rottweilers” enclosure. On a previous occasion the 5(?) rottweilers had attempted to have Brian for lunch but fortunately had been prevented by a 5’ fence. With these dogs in mind we tiptoed our way past the Rottweiller estate so as not to tempt them again. Having successfully escaped their notice we found a very large escape hole in the fence where they had obviously burrowed their way out. Our tiptoe immediately became became a hiking gallop. We survived! Back up the hill towards the very welcoming cottage. That evening’s supper, like Friday’s, was spent around the candlelit diningroom table in conversation and story telling while the roaring log fire created the perfect ambience.

Sunday was a wonderfully leisurely. The early morning sun, coffee on the front lawn, stretches and yawns summed up the general feeling. Sunday’s walk took us down the valley in front of the cottage. One might call it “The Four Waterfall Walk”. Mary’s resident employee had done a wonderful job of creating a path which meandered it’s way passed the falls. This was by no means a leisurely Sunday stroll as we did a fairly circular route of of about 6-8kms. From the highest point there is panoramic view back down Champagne Valley.

All good things come to an end. However the good news is it is likely to be offered again to Club members. Take advantage of this wonderful offer. Thanks Mary and Mark.

Pic 1: Roaring log fire
Pic 2: Winter solstice sunrise
Pic 3: Heading out Saturday
Pic 4: A look down the valley
Pic 5: Frost
Pic 6: Cathkin

Pic 7: Forest glade
Pic 8: Forest glade
Pic 9: Towards iNandi
Pic 10: Sandy at iNandi
Pic 11: iNandi
Pic 12: Chorister
Pic 13: Lunch break Saturday
Pic 14: Saturday's return

Pic 15: Cottage from below
Pic 16: Sunday's walk
Pic 17: Where...?
Pic 18: Shadows
Pic 19: Cathkin mirror
Pic 20: -

Pic 21: Relaxing on front garden
Pic 22: Return trip
Pic 23: Runaway fire