30 APRIL - 1 MAY, 2016

Report courtesy of Hike Leader Alistair Nixon

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

The Cannibal hike weekend took place on the StFort farm set in the beautiful Maluti mountains about 5 kilometres from Clarens. There were 19 hikers from as far afield as Johannesburg and Durban.

We had been requested to arrive early on the Saturday as a wedding was to take place in the outdoor ‘chapel’ that afternoon. Since we had arrived with plenty of daylight hours left we set off for the nearby Mushroom rock a very pleasant 2 hour return trip. We snuck past the wedding guests, who were awaiting with great anticipation, the arrival of the bride. The walk, well sign posted, takes one through a beautiful forest lining the river and then over a cable bridge. The views back down the valley were a visual delight with the poplars lit from behind looking like stained glass windows. Access to the ‘mushroom’ is an easy scramble and well rewarded with views down both sides into the valleys.

Saturday night was blustery but despite that there was a good natured braai enhanced later by the melodic tones of many out-of-key singers serenading Andy, the guitarist. “Smoky”, the recently formed choir learned how to play one of the great instruments of all time, the kazoo!

On Sunday our luggage transport to the cave arrived late, much to out irritation, which meant our departure was delayed. The first part of the climb is a test of fitness but since there was no need for haste we were able to stop regularly and survey the valleys and mountains.

Batwing falls was the first tea stop, a chance to admire nature’s sculptural talent. As we rose to the top the view was crystal clear thanks to the previous day’s torrential rain. That was a good enough reason to have regular stops.

PIC 1: Mushroom
PIC 2: River forest to mushroom
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PIC 5: Climb up Ansie
PIC 6: Cannibals group
PIC 7: Hikers
PIC 8: Batwing

The walk to the cave was about 4 1/2 hours with many spectacular sandstone rock formations to admire and ponder along the way. Baboons also welcomed us with their barking.

The cave, commonly called Cannibals Cave, but according to the map is Mike’s Cave, is vast and happily accommodated the 19 of us. Mattresses, firewood and running water were all on hand as organised. The first bonus for the evening was the sunset which had the hallmark of a theatrical backdrop. Oranges, reds and yellows painted the sky much to the delight of the photographers.

The second bonus was the evening’s short wander down the path into the pitch dark to enjoy God’s great creation - the universe! The skies were crystal clear and in a matter of minutes we had already seen meteorites and satellites drifting overhead. We were also fortunate to have a mini ‘lecture’ on the various stars. Orion’s belt (Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka), his bow, (not often seen) and his hunting dogs - all there before us. An early bed for most but the kazoo choir stayed up to serenade the unfortunate few.

PIC 9: Reclining Rob
PIC 10: Julia looking back
PIC 11: Clear blue skies
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PIC 14: Ansies snake
PIC 15: Ladder
PIC 16: Spectacular rock formations
PIC 17: Cave valley
PIC 18: Cave
PIC 19: Supper prep at sunset
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PIC 21: Ansies pic
PIC 22: Alans pic

A more punctual group one could not hope to meet. At 8.15 sharp on Monday morning the cave had been tidied and we were on our way. The climb out of the cave is gradual to the top of the range of hills which made our return journey a constant gradient. Again breath taking views.

The walk to our descending gulley goes past a cliff face of sandstone with each layer, a metre or two captureing hundreds of thousands of years of archaelogical history.

‘Cannibals last leg’ can be detoured along the road but there were no takers. So with the last of our energy we climbed up to the top and had one last view across the valley towards Clarens and then our last descent.

Shower, farewells and on the road home.

PIC 23: Monday frost
PIC 24: Breakfast
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PIC 26: Sandstone layers
PIC 27: Gulley down
PIC 28: Which way?
PIC 29: Cannibals last legs
PIC 30: Break
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