CUMBERLAND NATURE RESERVE (Outside Pietermaritzburg)
4 March 2018

Hike leaders, Hearther Anderson & Rod Hart; Photos and comments by Rod Hart

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

Eager happy group of 9 hikers met at around 8:00am at the Cumberland honesty box (R20 per person - and althoiugh it is termed an "honesty box" the owner does frequent checks, which is quite reassuring and the Reserve is well maintained). The drive up had been mostly in quite dense mist but fortunately as we turned off towards Cumberland the clouds were above us and the mist cleared.

Photo 1: Entering Cumberland - below the clouds, with sun starting to break through
Photo 2: Wild lilies (or something!)
Photo 3: Close up
Photo 4: Interesting patterns made looking up into one of the thorn trees in the picnic area

After the customary group photo and team talk we ventured off on the "Kranz" trail, starting at the waterfall (without water) and then following the edge of the escarpment with a short detour to see the "Falls" alas also without water yet still giving a great view of the valley and pool below, the clamber up from that detour adds a little strain to the interpretation of this being a "Grade 1" hike, but is well worth it for the view, and all 9 of us made it.

Photo 5: Obligatory 'Group Photo'
Photo 6: The pond below the (nonexistent) waterfall
Photo 7: Grasshopper - would not oblige by turning to face me, so this is the best I could do
Photo 8: Ethan at "The Falls"
Photo 9-11: Climb back up from the "Falls" detour

The walk along the top is very pleasant with a variety of plant and insect life typical of thornbelt vegetation - particularly noticable were the butterflies, mostly white but several other more colourful ones were spotted. "Viewpoint" stops along the way give a breathtaking view of the river valley below, and provide photo opportunities as well as a drinks break. In the distance alongside the river we did spot what appeared to be a Fish Eagle with his/her eye on the rather low river, it was noted that the rocky bottom of the river was now clearly visable whereas on previous hikes this had been well below the water level.

Photo 12-14: First Viewpoint stop
Photo 15: Quite an amazing floret of white flowers - very popular with the butterflies too
Photo 16: Aloe and scenery
Photo 17: Up close and personal to an attractive trumpet style flower
Photo 18: Second Viewpoint stop
Photo 19: Butterfly
Photo 20: View looking down the valley
Photo 21: Whilst looking down at the river I spotted this Fish Eagle on a branch of a dead tree overlooking the river
Photo 22: Maximum lens (30X) and digital magnification
Photo 23-24: Butterfly
Photo 25: White butterfly
Photo 26: The Fish Eagle from the third viewpoint - a little closer to him but he is now obscured by a branch
Photo 27: View down the valley from the third viewpoint
Photo 28-29: Photographers

We then branched inland slightly going up to the "Kranz Hut" which was occupied as we encountered an adult leading a small troop of children to the hut, so we did not have the opportunity to explore the venue this time but passed onwards and upwards towards the Kranz. A couple of reststops along the way under the shade of some trees was very welcome as the sun had now burnt its way through the clouds and the climb, though not so bad, was hot going. On reaching our destination the "Kranz" we admired the view and then settled ourselves in various clumps of available shade to have our snacks and rest. Following this we explored the "Crack" which is just 20m or so to the left of the viewpoint and it is quite awesome to peer down the fairly sheer crack between the rocks - and for the brave, to stand on the rock bridging the two sides.

Photo 30-37: The "Crack" in the Kranz
Photo 38: Zebra seen on our return journey

For our retturn journey we travelled back via the Kranz Hut then back onto the dirt road that services the hut, on a previous occasion we had the opportunity to see Girraffe on this route but today we only spotted some buck and Zebra. Back at the shaded picnic area we agreed that it had been a great way to spend a Sunday morning (we were out on the trail for 3 hours) and we are indeed privileged to have this well maintained facility 'right on our doorstep'. Thanks to Heather for organising the hike and MHC for pulling it all together, and thank you all participants on the hike, you are great company.