Swartkop Hike - Number of hikers 19
30 June, 2018

Report and photos courtesy of: Alistair Nixon

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

Our meeting place was the Rotunda so we could reduce the number of cars going through the security check at Cedara. Permission is required from the farm manger to hike on Cedara.

The hike starts at the lecture theatre complex which leads directly onto the farm roads. It is a perfect vantage point to be able to see the route to be followed to the top of Swartkop. The hike goes past the mushroom experimental complex, students farm area and down into the valley through the well maintained fields. The gate along side the first dam was our departure point off the farm into the forests and is a very pleasant 40 minutes to the first rest spot. In its heyday this was a very sort after picnic spot which lies along side the second dam. Being such a still and beautiful day the dam gave a mirror reflection. Fish eagles have previously been spotted here. We also encountered two entrepreneurs who had been gathering honey still on the comb. We bought some of their wares and what treat it was to be able to enjoy honey in its purest state!

1. Eighteen enthusiastic hikers
2. Farm road
3. Farm road 2
4. Honey gatherers
5. Sean enjoying honey

After the break we negotiated the narrowish dam wall towards the windmill and began the first part of the ascent. All the paths are clear requiring no bundu bashing. It is misleading looking up towards the summit because it is still 1.5 hours from this point. The second stage towards the Swartkop summit was a gentle gradient with excellent views looking back - Midmar in particular. Our next goal was the saddle between Swartkop and the ridge which extends southwards towards Mpophomeni. This was a good place to revive and refresh as the final push towards the summit is quite demanding.

6. Picnic rest spot
7. Rest spot
8. Crossing the dam wall
9. Crossing the dam wall 2
10. Gentle ascent
11. Gentle ascent 2
Despite the huffing and puffing on the final climb we stopped to appreciate a spectacular display of flowering aloes. After a brief period through a wattle forest we were at the masts and summit. It was interesting to note a gathering of a few worshippers who it appeared had spent the night on the top. We gave them the necessary space while being rewarded with some singing. To this point our "keeper of distance" informed us we had done 7 kms -2.5 hours.

12. The big climb
13. Looking back to Midmar
14. Midmar, Mpophomeni on left
15. Aloe display 2
16. Aloe display

Getting off the top required some nimble footwork along a very rocky road. From the northern side our views were towards, the reservoir, The Knoll, Cowan House and down into Sweetwaters. Coming down was longer than the ascent (9kms) but with a bit more exploring it could be shortened. It was very pleasant none-the-less walking through the forest.

17. Path up
18. Sean and Neville
19. Hikers nearing the top
20. Short rest before the summit
21. Summit 2
22. Summit

Despite a few sore toes everyone enjoyed the challenge and now have another tick on the BIG 4 challenge.

23. Rocky road descent
24. Looking back to the summit
25. Looking towards Sweetwaters
26. Attending to sore toes
27. Back on to Cedara