Report and photos courtesy of Keith Ashton
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
Our route to the cave this time was not the straight forward way but was to be via Fulton Rock to see the Bushmans paintings, as several members of our group had not been this way before. The first section of our hike began the normal way, first passing Kamloops Dam, Salma Dam & Shasta Dam & the views were amazing with the sunshine & clear blue sky & lovely reflections & mirror images of Giants Castle especially on the water of Salma Dam - we could not resist taking photos to capture the beauty. After a few kilometres we diverted off the usual track & were soon heading very steeply down to the valley below, through which the Ncibidwana River flows. I enjoy off-the-beaten track routes & today was no exception as you will see from the photos. Its best to do this route to the cave via Fulton Rock with someone who knows the area well - after arrival at Fulton Rock we decided to have our lunch, a rest & to view the outstanding Bushmans paintings (even elephants are depicted). Then we were off again towards the cave along an undulating route before climbing steeply towards the cave, but to our dismay we could see another large group of hikers in the distance travelling down to the cave from the normal route. I hoped this group were just day hikers not intending to sleep in Caracal Cave as I had booked the cave months before with the Officer in Charge.
However when we got to the cave this other group of about 14 backpackers had established themselves in the cave. The group were from the UK & had an American lady (living in S.A.) as their leader - I asked them what were they doing in the cave as I had booked it for our group months ago & only one group was allowed in the cave & in any case the maximum allowed is 12 (they had 14). They said they had booked the cave through a couple of very experienced Mountain Club of South Africa Leaders, so at this point I produced my permit for the cave & asked them to show me their permit or their booking form which they were unable to do. I then politely but sternly asked them to move out of the cave to make room for us & said they could use Aasvoelkranz Cave if they wished, about one & a half hours away. They were not happy but agreed to move & as they had tents with them they said they would camp. As we had to get water for our time at the cave & water is not available near the cave in winter, I showed them where to camp near the closest hidden small stream where water is available. In fact on this weekend there was very little water available but we & they were able to fill up with water a bit lower down from our usual spot from a very small pool.
We returned to Caracal Cave with our water & due to the delays in getting these other people to move etc we decided to settle down in the cave & not to do more exploring on the Saturday. So we just socialised, had an enjoyable supper with our favourite drinks & had a restful sleep.
On Sunday we were awake early to a lovely morning, had a leisurely breakfast, packed our backpacks & returned to our vehicles at Highmoor via the normal but again beautiful & invigorating route, after another excellent weekend with friends who enjoy the great outdoors.
Remember to take your permits to caves or mountain huts to prove you have the right & permission to stay there in case anyone else has arrived before or after you.
Thanks to all our group for sharing this weekend with us.
1. Looking forward to our hike as we cross the small bridge
2. Giant's Castle in all its glory reflected in Salma Dam
3. Zanele & Nontuthuko pose next to Salma Dam
4. Three lovely strong ladies - Irene, Zanele & Nontuthuko
5. Two cranes feeding in the distance
6. The long view down towards Fulton Rock
7. Still a long way down to the valley below
8. Time for a short rest part way down the steep slope
9. Lets do & enjoy this awkward route
10. Lynda looking happy away from any tracks as the others follow
11. Lined up ready for the next section as Steve takes a photo
12. Time for lunch very close to Fulton Rock
13. Some of the exquisite Bushmans paintings on Fulton Rock
14. More of the paintings
15. Even more paintings
16. Front view of Fulton Rock may help you to recognise it
17. Two ornate mountain cabbage trees
18. Getting closer to Caracal Cave as Irene's sunglasses nearly drop off
19. Margaret A, Margret K, Irene, Zanele, Nontuthuko, Lynda & Steve line-up in the cave
20. The group we had to remove from the cave next to their tents far away
21. Blesbok traverse the burnt grass
22. On our way back to our vehicles at Highmoor office