30 Sept 2018
Leader: Penny Purchase
Report and photos: Penny Purchase

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

It was a warm spring day with clear skies for our hike in the Michaelhouse Nature Reserve. 22 hikers met at Piggly Wiggly and we travelled in convoy to the Michaelhouse gates. Here we met Sabela Sithole, the young manager of the nature reserve. He led us up the Sarsden road and up the strip road with its rather nasty rutted turn. He told us a bit about the reserve and then left us to hike.

There were 22 on the hike: 10 members : Sharon, Simone, Jill, Julia Lloyd and Julia Preece, Heather, Jan, Eric, Debbi and myself. We had 12 visitors: Samantha and her 2 young friends, Palesa and Aphiwe, Shirley, Penny, Ashleigh and her son, Daniel ,Phillipa, Robyn, Toni and James. We hope the visitors enjoyed the hike and will consider joining us.

It was a hike with rolling gentle hills, a river walk, a dam, Ngunis, blesbok sightings and lovely views across the Balgowan valley. Fresh green grass was springing up after the burning. The river walk was mossy, shady and a narrow path but pretty with the indigenous trees and thick bush forming a canopy overhead. Nobody slipped on the rocks this time!

We encountered the Nguni herd near Alex dam, scattered over the hill slope, grazing on the fresh green grass. Many had calves and their young were cute and furry with lovely markings. Further on, we were so fortunate to witness a rare sight on the opposite hill - a Nguni cow had just dropped her calf. We saw a dark shadow at her backside. She turned around and started licking her newborn. But she was aware of us, concerned and protective, so we moved on away from her.

We sat on a high rocky outcrop for our snack. The wind was fresh and dry so liquid re-fuelling was important. The views over the Michaelhouse buildings and farmland of the Balgowan valley were lovely. On our way again, we came to a divergent path. 5 of the group opted to go back. As the leader, I don' t like to split the group, but one of our members was battling and 3 visitors had an appointment to get to. The cars were within sight so it wasn't a difficult walk back.

The rest of us walked up and on and were treated to a herd of graceful blesbok, leaping swiftly over the yellow grass. The rest of the way was open and exposed. We voted not to stop for lunch but to press on. The wind was quite wearisome. It was an easy, enjoyable 8-9 km morning hike. We had a wide age difference & from Daniel Askew, age 11, to Jill Plummer age unknown ??? Jill proudly informed the group that she has just welcomed her 3rd great grandchild into the world, so she's not so young!

This just goes to show that hiking is a pleasant activity for any age group, any race and any religion! We hope that the visitors will come again, as there were many complimentary reports of us, Midlands hikers, being friendly, happy campers!

Photo 1: Happy group of hikers at the start, with eager anticipation from the 12 visitors.
Photo 2: The Ngunis and their calves were grazing contentedly above the dam.
Photo 3: Nguni calves looking at us with curious eyes.
Photo 4: A lonely, lost, very young Nguni calf.
Photo 5: Nguni cow just after giving birth.
Photo 6: Nguni cow licking her newborn which was minutes old.
Photo 7: Jan and Debbi climbing the steep hill with Jill and Sharon behind.
Photo 8: Heather and James taking a rest and propped by their sticks.
Photo 9: Snack time and a well earned rest after that hill!

Photo 10: Hikers striding out, refreshed, after the snack break.
Photo 11: Eric on the move.
Photo 12: Graceful blesbok cast a wary eye on us after leaping up the hill.
Photo 13: On the broad sandy track.
Photo 14: View across the Balgowan valley.
Photo 15: Homeward bound : the young, the middle and the mature!
Photo 16: Jill, proud great grandmother of 3 and Toni, her partner.
Photo 17: At the end of a spring morning hike.