MHC – Tenting and Day Walks Week End
Highmoor Nature Reserve
Central Drakensberg
20 – 21 August 2016

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders.

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

A number of hikers, including some first timers indicated that they would join us at Highmoor for the week end. 7 would come up on Friday afternoon to make a longer tenting week end. Others would follow on Saturday.

The weather forecast was rather off-putting, with forecast cold, misty and wet conditions for the week end. Well, the weatherman can be wrong you know.!!!!??

Well equipped for any weather we asset off for Highmoor on Friday afternoon. On the way up it rained slightly, and dirty dark rain clouds hung over the Giant. Not a good omen.

Pic - 2 - Thunder and rain clouds over the Giant

On arriving at the camp site we set up camp with a touch of speed as the sun was still shinning, we had just got everything sorted, when a huge wind started and we had to move our Gazebo to a slightly better sheltered area. The wind dropped, and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the lawn. Later a most incredible moon arose, and the camp area was so bright with the moon light, and no wind, we spent an hour out in the open just doing some serious mountain “chatter”. Later in bed, the moon was so bright, on could be forgiven that someone had left a light on outside.

During the night it rained then cleared. Next morning a misty cool sun pushed it’s way through the mist of the valley, sort of warmed us up for a while whilst we had breakfast. I had planned a day hike via a new route to Mount Lebanon, then to follow the usual route home. As we readied ourselves to start the day, a huge shroud of heavy mist started to drift up the valley and to cover everything in its way. We decided to go as far as we could, but if the conditions were a bit dicey, we would come back the same way.

On the way, my memory clicked back to many years ago to a very isolated rock face that had some Bushman paintings on it. After some mountain slope bashing, and finding and loosing the old path (a good indication that the area was not visited very often, we found the paintings.

Back on our way again, we could see the cliff face that I had planned to ascend far in the distance, with the ever increasing mist that we would have to face later, and make a serious decision about the day. Crossing the river we headed up to a large boulder where there were a few old, tired and well visited paintings. A snack time was enjoyed where we could tike in some energy food for the long climb that lay ahead.

We were now looking straight up the valley we would have to climb to get to the top of the cliff face. From here we hoped to do a bit of a roundabout route to Lebanon. The climb did not seem too bad, but towards the top it got rather steep, with much erosion, loose boulders and big steps. We eventually reached the top, and sat down for a well earned rest. There is always someone who has to find a better place to sit and check the view.

A walk to the top of a nearby ridge confirmed that the mist was seriously thick above us, and we still had higher to walk, so a good decision was made to turn around and head down again, and go for lunch at the camp. The mist closed in swiftly, and soon we could not see the ridge that we had just climbed down..

Well someone cannot read too well.

After lunch, the weather changed, dark clouds, cold wind and drizzle with whips’ of mist scurried around the high ground for the whole afternoon. The area we had planned to walk in was totally covered in a thick mist. An early supper was planned, but then the evening changed totally. It went terribly dark, the wind howled up and a torrent of rain fell from the sky. A little later the first lightening flashes lit the sky and seemed to flash into the tent. As we counted the seconds between the flashes, and hearing the thunder, we were under no illusion that the storm was heading straight for us. Later the flash and the boom were right above us mixed up with the sound of very heavy rain falling on the tents. There is something sadistically exciting to me to be lying nice and snuggly warm in a flimsy windblown tent, with terrible weather outside this so vulnerably thin tent. Closer to nature, and to be warm and be comfortable, you cannot be or imagine.

The rain stopped eventually and the wind dropped. Sun-up was a cold misty affair. However it brightened later so we decided to do a shortish walk, and hopefully be back at camp and packed before the forecasted wet afternoon. We headed south towards the Kamberg boundary. The Drakensberg on our left was bright and clear in the fresh air, with patches of snow all over it. It was a great day to walk this open space and experience the open air and scenery.

After some time along the crest of this huge valley, we headed across the flat, Moorish wastelands of Highmoor to a little known waterfall some distance away. There are no paths here, so it is not a route to be taken in bad weather. After a short while here, then we headed again cross country to the camp. Our tents were dry, so after lunch, it was a dry packing of gear, farewells to all, and off to home base.

A really interesting week end, good weather, bad weather, good walks for what we did, and some fantastic scenery. Come well prepared for anything, and live with nature for a while. Needless to say it did not rain on Sunday afternoon.

The Weather Man is not always correct, but if he is right and you are not prepared – have a great week trip anyway, and enjoy your negligence.

There is time to do hard berg hikes where one comes back exhilarated and physically exhausted, but don’t have a clue as to where or what scenery you have traversed, or even know if you could get back there without someone who knows the route. Then there are times to spend time in the berg to savor the experience, the atmosphere, and most of all our prestigious mountain range and environment. Both have their place, but don’t lose the opportunity to take in special moments, stop the train, look, listen, smell and revel in the moment. You will never experience that moment again – it is a once in a lifetime experience.