MHC Bushman’s Nek
Southern Drakensberg
03 – 05 June 2016

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders. Hike leader Keith Ashton

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

The start of winter is an exciting time for hikers. The heat and possible storms of summer are behind, and the new challenges of “hiking with the cold” stand before us. In summer you carry your wet gear, in winter you carry your wet gear, and your warm gear. One never knows when you may have to put on your rain suit to ward off extreme cold winds and drizzle. Nevertheless, winter is a good time to hike, the weather is much more settled.

Once again Keith and Margaret were going to be in the Southern Berg for a few days break, and decided to extend their stay by including a 3 night stay at Bushman’s Hut. So the hiking calendar showed a 3 – 4 day week end at Bushman’s Hut . Bushman’s Hut is the last hut on the5 day Giant’s Cup Trail, a comfortable enough place and close enough to the car park to be able to pack those “few extra” goodies and comforts that you might not take on a longer hike.

A number of hardy souls arrived early enough on Friday to be able to do a good long day hike to Painters Cave with Keith and Margaret on the Friday. A number of late comers arrived later of Friday, ready for the Saturday walks. Keith led the hardier walkers to Tomatu Cave , whilst I led a more leisurely, but quite strenuous hike to the old Fire Look Out Tower high up on a hill above the Giant’s Cup Trail.

Saturday morning broke clear and cold, with a nippy little wind that sneaked under jackets and trousers and beanies. However , a good climb up from the hut to the top of the plateau above soon had some warmer bodies wanting to do a little “strip act”. The views – typical winter browns, with a clear blue sky were very rewarding at closer quarters. However, longer views were hidden behind a typical winter haze that blurred everything into nothing, only snatches of clear spots could be appreciated if the sun was in the right place.

The lookout tower appeared far up and away on the horizon, and as we climbed that age old saying from some of the new hiker started to be heard “ look, it’s not far now ” 20 minutes later – it still wasn’t far away.!!!!!! @#*.

Pic – 2 - Climbing out of the valley
Pics - 3,4,5 THAT TOWER !!!

However once there, the views from this old tower were truly worth the effort, unfortunately, looking into the sun did limit what one could see.

Pics - 6 – 9 Round and about views from the high point of the tower.

In time gone by, the tower was also used as a radio tower, and the radio mast was still sort of standing. Some of our younger hikers decided to see if the could get a “better aerial view by climbing a bit higher”

After a rest, and some good chatter and banter, it was time to leave and make our way down the old jeep track to the river for lunch. On of our members was a bit tardy in coming, so on looking back it seemed as if she had wanted to take the aerial home as it appeared as if she had strapped it to her backpack .But, after some hard talking to, she agreed to leave it behind. Some people !!??

The old jeep track winds around the hills, in some places dropping quite steeply in making it’s way down steep high hilly and rocky mountain sides. It is a very nice walk, with great scenery all the way. One must just be carefull of not stripping an ankle on all the stones and rocks lying amongst the grass in the old road. In it’s time it must have taken a great deal of hand work to build this road.

Pics - 14 – 20 Walking down the old road to the river

Once at the river, a well earned lunch break was enjoyed.

Pics - 21 – 22 Lunch time break. Cold fresh water, and warm sunlight

So often on a hike, we follow the path all the way home , but now and again, one can see an old old path snaking its way through the thick grass and bushes , in the same direction you are going. Taking to these old paths can be exciting at times, BUT never forget the old saying “there are no short cuts in the berg” We started off well, but later the old path ran into some tick brambles, which soon had the rest of the party not saying the “nicest things” about the leader. Needless to say, the leader was also not saying the nicest thing to himself !!!!. Brambles don’t choose who they stab.

Pics - 23 – 24 , The Bramble Shuffle – sort of an “old new dance” each to his own.

Back at the hut all was forgiven after a nice freezing cold shower, down inn the valley some Eland appeared, the other party came home with their war stories , and by 17h30, it was supper time . The low mist lifted a short while to try and give us a sunset on a very good day.

Pic - 25 - Eland way down in the valley
Pic - 26 - early – cold supper time
Pic - 27 – 28 - “Sort of” sunset

Sunday morning broke with a “let’s stay in bed” look. Grey, rainy clouds, cold wind, low mist etc. etc. Some wanted to stay in bed, some wanted to go home early, and a few were prepared to brave the elements and do a short walk until mid day. So after breakfast, the parties said their say, and the fearless hikers under the leadership of the “never say die” Keith and Margaret, set off up the valley to Half Way Cave. The weather did lift, we could see the high berg at times, the rains did not materialize, and while it did not get hot, it was warm enough to confuse some minds as to whether some protective “over clothes” should be taken off or not.

On reaching the cave, a short but “coldish” rest was taken so that those who had not seen the cave before could investigate it, some then headed for home whilst a few went further upstream to the “pool”. A great swimming pool in good weather, but pretty miserable on a miserable day. A quick look, and then we all headed for the hut. Had lunch, packed, and headed for the car park and home.

Pics - 29 – 38. Sunday up the Valley to Half Way Cave and back.

Again our thanks to Keith and Margaret for another great week end. The “new hikers “ to the club seemed to have had a good time as well – so they said !!!.

For new and inexperienced hikers, joining a hiking club can be of immense benefits to them. They get the chance to hike with experienced hikers who can give tips and suggestions that money cannot buy. The experience of the mountains, the routes , the good places and the bad places. the good kit and the bad kit, and what is really needed, and what is nice to have.

BUT BEWARE , have a good chat with the hike leader over the phone when you book the hike – make sure you understand what sort of hike and grade of hike you are letting yourself in for, and what kit do you need. If it all sounds too much – DON’T BE A HERO, opt for an easier start hike or two.

Many hike clubs have web sites that have a load of information, take the time to study them – Go Prepared as BEST you can. Don’t do a marathon before you can walk around the block. “YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO HIKE AGAIN"