MHC - Gwahumbe Game Reserve and Spa - Mid Illovo/Eston - Central KZN
14 August 2018

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders

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

It was a good few years ago that Bushy and Pat, part founders of Midlands Hiking Club, led a hike to this Game resort and Spa. I remember it was a very hot day, and the climb out of the valley to the lodge and bar seemed to go on forever. However, we decided that a winter trip might be a bit more accommodating, and since it was done so long ago, a limit was put on he numbers hiking.

The hikers met at Gwahumba at the appointed time, and soon we were heading down past the animal boma, and down a long road to the bottom of the valley , heading for THE CAVE. The river that had been a bit deeper 2 weeks ago was down, so a dry foot crossing was managed. Just across the river si a cliff and in the base is a very large cave that has been laid out too invite day visitors to spend the day. Toilets nearby are a great help.

From the cave it is a long pull back up to the ridge on a 4x4 trail, then a bit of off path slipping and sliding down the old road that was known as Sani Pass. A very apt name, it must have been a 4x4 dream road in its heyday , now it is barley a hikers challenge.

Further down the slope we met with the old road that used to be part of the 4x4 challenge route. However just around the corner, we came across a mean gate that was put to stop  not so clever thinking drivers from attempting Sani Pass , which is still shown on the maps. The gate post , that we thought we would use to cross at, housed a whole cavalry of biting black ants, so a large part of the party had to take to the very thorny and steep bush to get around the gate.

At the bottom of the cliff was a very green dam, that seemed to be some green vegetation that a great number of duck and geese seemed to thrive on. We were told at the office that there was a resident Pappa Hippo, a Mamma hippo and a baby hippo in the area, and to keep a wary eye out. No signs of hippo, so we moved on to our lunch spot about a kilometer away. On the way we had to  barefoot across 2 streams, the water was intensely cold. A party in 4x4had gone up to the dam as we were coming to the first crossing, and before we got to the next crossing, we saw very fresh hippo spoor in the road heading to the next stream. Well a bit of speed and sharpened eyes got us to the picnic site safely, no sign of the happy family . Sad ????? A number of different species of animal were seen on the burnt grazing on the way to lunch.

The picnic site along the rivers edge was made up of a number of very rustic type grass 2 person sleeping tents, an open eating, talking, resting area, a nearby braai boma, and an adequate cooking house with gas fridge and hot water and lights. Lights were also in the sleeping abodes. Flush toilets and hot shower. A great place to spend a rustic fun filled week end with the family.

After lunch a visit was made to the waterfall, where another large public braai area was quite filled with happy braaiers. It was then time to start the long hard slow pull up from the river to the lodge on the crest, some  far meters above us. Taking it slowly, the faster going ahead and waiting at predetermined spots for the slower the turn off to  Thirsty s Deck was reached. A viewing deck set high up on the cliff face, where amazing sundowners could be enjoyed in an evening, with great views over the valley below. Or great views at any time and far below was out green duck and hippo pool.

At the top of the climb 4 Blesbok gave us a cool stare before dashing over the brow. Back at the lodge there was time to look at one of their chalets and the great views down the valley and from the plunge pool. Then onto the lodge were a number of tired hikers took to the cool front porch area for end of hike drinks of various sorts.

A great day was enjoyed by all.

Winter is now well and truly on, and large parts of the berg has been burnt , either intentionally or by fires set by unknown people. All that is seen is that with the amount of burning done either intentionally or by unknowns, these repeated annual fires are wreaking havoc with our berg tree and bush species that need fire , but not every year. Protea and other berg species are disappearing fast from their natural habitat. The mountain streams are also dry, so make sure you have a water source nearby for the duration of your stay. Carry plenty of fresh water on you, the stream you are aiming for, may be dry.