BUSHMANS NEK HUT 3-5 June 2016 - Leader Keith Ashton

Report by Rose Dix and Keith Ashton, photos by Keith Ashton

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

Participants :-Alice Uys: Anna Kapp: Chris Dobson; Christie Exall: Dave Sclanders: Hettie Randall; Hildegard Lenz: Irene Wisdom: Johan van Rens; Sonja Leeb;John Fourie: Pat Maharaj: Rose Dix: Shaun Slade: Will Parker; Keith & Margaret Ashton

Isn't the hiking fraternity amazing? Here we were – a disparate group, with ages ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, yet we walked and talked and laughed together, sharing our love of Wilderness and personal achievement.

Keith and Margaret had most generously given up several days of luxury at their time-share to recci the two big hikes and to place, and replenish, cairns, for our convenience and safety. How great was that?

FRIDAY HIKE – six of us from Durban area had settled in on Thursday night, so we would be ready to hike with Keith and Margaret – to Painters Cave...a climb of about 500 metres & return distance of 15 km – firstly on the Giants Cup trail, and then branching off, which is where Keith had reccied and placed markers . We enjoyed the most perfect weather and every stop opened new crystal clear views of the surrounding mountains. We spent some time having a leisurely lunch break at the cave, which has some exquisite bushman paintings, which to the newcomers, was a source of great delight, as were the imposing ‘Twin Rocks’ which offer an excellent photo opportunity. We retraced our steps – taking great care on the rough stoney path – which engages ones full attention so as not to go slip-sliding away.

1. Fri - 3 June - on our way to Painters Cave
2. Devil's Knuckles behind our group with Thaba Ngwangwe to the far right
3. Still on our climb towards Painters Cave
4. Rose still looking fresh, but more climbing yet
5. Will surveys the scene
6. Still more climbing Rose
7. At last we reach Twin Rocks - most of the climbing done
8. Now we can see Painters Cave far ahead
9. Getting closer to Painters Cave

Having finally reached the Hut again, we were greeted by Dave and Hettie, and some of us walked back a short way to meet John and Christie who excelled herself with a huge backpack and good pace on the 1.4 km from the Car Park – again – Well Done Christie!! – as John said, you have earned the title of ‘AMA-ZING’. As dark was closing in, Irene and Hildegard arrived, having taken the longer way round. Then, as we were all getting concerned, Sonja and Johan arrived in the inky darkness which was a real achievement as they did not know the area , and the path is not very well defined (even less so in the dark!!!). So followed a lovely evening of catch-up causing us to have a really late night (8.30)

10. Rest & lunch at Painters Cave as Pat & Shaun look down on us
11. Rose just outside Painters Cave in her element
12. Now I look down on our group outside Painters Cave
13. Rose says this is the life
14. Making our way back from Painters Cave
15. Still on our return journey to the hut
16. Back at the hut John arrives late aft. on Fri.

Here the groups split up.(Thamathu Cave and Old Look-Out Hut) The fast walkers going off to Thamathu Cave – here Keith will take over the story:-

Hildegard Lenz: Irene Wisdom: Johan van Rens; Sonja Leeb & Will Parker joined Margaret & I for the climb to Thamathu Cave which first involved descending directly from the hut to cross the Bushmans River fairly easily by boulder hopping due to the drought conditions. (I advised everyone to take plenty of water as there is none to be found in the vicinity of this cave in winter). Then it was a continuous ascent, climbing about 550 metres of fairly rough terrain with stupendous views & rock formations as we made our way to the cave. With the climbing efforts, we were soon stripping off our warm gear as we approached the "Balancing Rock" & being young & energetic Johan & Sonja were easily persuaded to climb & pose for photos on top of the rock. There was still much more climbing involved & unfortunately our German friend Hildegard was taking strain, although she had previously lived in S.A. for ten years & had hiked in the mountains with our club members fequently, she was out of practice & had underestimated the climb. However, suffering with cramp, she made it to the cave without complaining, ready for lunch & a long rest, luckily by then in beautiful sunshine with fantastic views.

17. Early Sat morn. 4 June - Dave & Hettie chat with John & Christie
18. En-route to Thamathu Cave - Johan & Sonja on top of Balancing Rock
19. Just us group of 7 still climbing to Thamathu Cave
20. Sonja views the progress of Johan & Hildegard
21. Ready for lunch in a lovely spot just outside the cave
22. Will rests in the shade as he unpacks his lunch
23. Irene, Johan & Sonja enjoying the sunshine outside the cave

After lunch & having taken some "cramp-stop tablets" & had endured severe leg massages from me & even more severe massages from Johan (sceaming at times) she enjoyed some more relaxation in the warm sunshine. The cave area on this visit was pristine & I did some more exploring around the area to locate a tiny bit of water higher up Thamathu Pass & later located a couple of Bushmans paintings near the cave.

After a nice rest we made our way back down the rocky slopes fairly slowly as Hildegards legs were still feeling the strain but the massages & the "cramp-stop tabs" had eliminated the severe leg cramps. The dark clouds were now amassing above the Devils Knuckles & Thaba Ngwangwe (see the dramatic photo) as we continued to descend & eventually reach our return crossing of Bushman's River & our last climb back up to the hut for socialising with the rest of our group over welcome drinks before supper. Our return distance being about 15 km with the climb of about 550 metres.

Well done to our group & all of us (maybe except Hildegard) were still feeling fit & ready our Sunday moring hike - thanks to our hardy group for your companionship & mutual enjoyment of the hike - Irene, it was geat to be hiking with you again, we have had such good adventures together in the past & to Johan, Sonja & Will it was a real pleasure to meet you. Rose - Thank you for your write-up for the rest of our long wekend, again it is always a real pleasure hiking with you with your infectious lively enthusiasm for the enjoyment of the great outdoors - an example to all of us, especially young & new members you so readily recruit to the club/s.

24. A view from a sleeping spot in Thamathu Cave
25. A view of the cave & beyond from Thamathu Pass
26. Bushmans paintings close to the cave
27. Johan trying to massage the cramp away as Hildegard suffers the pain
28. Dark clouds threaten over the mountains
29. Will, Margaret, Hildegard & Irene still in good spirits as we return
30. At last a view of the hut as we descend

SATURDAY – DAVE'S GROUP.. OLD LOOK-OUT HUT..(Supplementary comments to Dave's write-up)
Did we really think we had the easier, slower option by going with Dave? NO We set off at quite a pace and having reached the Giants Cup Path, Dave stopped and we all thought – AH...nice and slow up this hill? NO. He gave us a short lecture in inimitable Dave-Style – invaluable advice to the newer hikers and for Pat who is training for Kili..but before we could settle into an easy pace, off he went which had us all huffing and puffing to keep up. Dave has his Mojo back with interest! It was a great relief to reach the Old Look-Out Hut, where we settled down in the remains of fences and furniture to have our snacks in companionable peace. Alice, Pat and Shaun climbing the tower while we lazily watched!!

Then the long steep downhill, first on the Giants Cup Trail then branching off onto the Old Jeep Track which meandered leisurely through undulating hills and valleys down to the Bushmans River where we had our lunch.

The walk home was made more exciting by Dave deciding on a short (?)cut which had us emerging from the forest of thorns scratched and battle-wounded. But we are a full-blooded(!) lot and will be back for more.

Once again, a huge thank you to Keith and Margaret for giving up so much of your time to recci new hikes and to make the old ones safe for us wanderers. Thank you to Dave for the fun of your talks and for the invaluable advice you give so freely. It was so good to see you full of beans again, even if you did make us suffer the consequences.

It was great to have so many new young people coming along, and thank you all for being such fun and for joining in with us ..um... old(er) folk. We hope you will all join us again for more wonderful hikes. We all wish Pat Maharaj a fantastic trip to Kili.

The weather was at its winter best allowing some of us to take advantage of a night under the stars. The showers were too icy for many of us – Viva Wet-Wipes Viva!!
Rose Dix

SUNDAY HIKE - Enough said here, please read Dave's write-up & view his photos as well as my photos with this report. (Keith's comment).

31. Part of our group posing next the hut boma Sun morn 5 June
32. Just 9 of us stripping off as we head for Halfway Cave Sun morn
33. Anna still in full gear as we cross Bushmans River
34. Lovely view of Thaba Ngwangwe sticking its head through the clouds
35. Johan doing a party trick on Overhang Rock
36. Another crossing of Bushmans River
37. And yet another crossing of Bushmans River
38. Looking down on our group from Halfway Cave
39. Johan in the cubby-hole inside Halfway Cave
40. The beautiful pool, further up the valley from the cave
41. Hettie in deep thought above the pool
42. Our group of 6 inc me who made it to the pool
43. Its thumbs up from Irene & Johan as Sonja smiles with appreciation
44. Returning past Halfway Cave, also known as Slab Cave
45. Returning across Bushmans River

46. Brandy Alice with Shaun & Will ready for home, Sun aft
47. There they head back to the office
48. Hildegard catching a bit more sun before heading back to PMB
49. We had a great time say Dave & Hettie before heading home
50. The last supper just for Margaret & me Sun night