24 HIKERS - 18 KMS

Report by Rose Dix, photos courtesy of Keith Ashton

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Thirteen Durbanites yawned their way up to Howick because we know that Keith's Hikes are always spectacular and exciting...and we are never, ever disappointed. We were joined by another 11 hikers from surrounding areas who arrived at the meeting point, all fresh from their early coffee - quite a few new hikers who were about to experience the tried and tested ASHTON'S ABSOLUTELY AMAZINGLY AWESOME ADVENTURES ..and as always, Keith did not disappoint.

Umgeni Valley is a beautiful gem in the midst of a burgeoning population and we are so lucky to have this right on our doorstep (some steps being longer, of course, than others.)

Keith is particularly knowledgeable about the history of Howick and many interesting facts about the various turbines and other things of manly interest regarding the water which roars over the Falls. Although I've heard these facts so many times, I marvel that I still don't understand them.

Most of us had assumed that because the weather was still fairly hot, that Keith would stick to his original plan of keeping the hike 'on top'. but that was not to be (surprise,surprise) as we made our way down into the Valley, with a few refreshment stops en route to our lunch spot of Cycad Camp - always a favourite, even tho its a bit run down these days.

1. Our large group of 24 hikers ready to roll
2. The small zebra says go well - watch the rhino to the left
3. Descending to Shelter Falls
4. Shelter Falls & Howick's Big Hole
5. Back on track crossing Shelter Falls stream
6. A nice bit of colour as we look down towards Shelter Falls Camp

7. A couple of blue wildebeest taking off
8. A well earned shady rest at Indulu Camp
9. More of our group at Indulu Camp
10. Still resting at Indulu Camp
11.The Rose with other flowers

12. Lets climb this rock for a bit more exercise
13. The three rocketeers
14. You can try to come down now, we are waiting
16. Lunch at Cycad Camp

So up to this point, it was a good leisurely hike on a nice neat little path, but that didn't satisfy our leader, who decided we should return via the more exciting route which involved extensive Bundu Bashing and much hacking of thorny alien vegetation which clawed at our tender skin as we bent double under the branches. Harry and Keith did a sterling job of clearing a path through almost impenetrable bush - thank you Kind Sirs.!

Then the last stretch which winds up through pristine forest, with giant steps made of sturdy rocks, no doubt laid by a very tall man... followed by the easy walk back along the road, which, after our tentative progress through the thorns, was a pleasure to be able to step it out back to the cars.

I keep saying this is my last hike - so....until next time !.... THANK YOU KEITH AND MARGARET for yet another fantastic day.

Rose Dix

17. Margaret sips her coffee & Chris checks his feet
18. Still resting & chatting
19. Still tucking-in to replace that energy
20. The upper level accommodation at Cycad Camp
21. Dusty looking happy but Melanie concerned about the next 9 km
22. A lovely spot next to the Umgeni River