Report and photos by KEITH ASHTON, additional pics courtesy of accompanying hikers

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

After completing the formalities at Highmoor office, it was a very hot but beautiful morning as our group of 8 hikers left our shady parking spot under the trees and headed off towards Caracal Cave. Our participants were Katy, Deon, Catherine, Simone, Mark our grandson and Margaret and Keith.

Soon we were crossing the small and narrow timber bridge over our first stream (this stream eventually feeds into the Little Mooi River) before climbing up and out of the valley towards and eventually past Kamloops Dam. Our next stream crossing was just below and adjacent to Salma Dam where we took some photos of the beautiful view over the dam towards Giant's Castle, being careful not to point at the Giant to cause a rain storm which was badly needed but not on our hike please.

Before long we were passing Shasta Dam, another lovely spot where various species of water fowl were enjoying this peaceful area.

After another kilometre or two of gentle climbing we were on the steep route down towards Caracal Cave, but we needed to make a detour past the extensive old kraal to find the very small steam to a known water spot to fill our water bottles/bags to last us the rest of the day, through the night and hopefully breakfast on Sunday as there is virtually no water in Caracal Cave until good summer rains arrive. However being so dry and hot the previous few weeks the surface water was not flowing at all so we had to beat our way through the bush to a tiny rock pool just above a normal waterfall to eke out enough water for our needs and that took a while but had to be done.

After loading our water bottles/bags into our backpacks we were on our way to the cave and after arrival it was rest time in the shade of the cave followed by a reasonable early enjoyable lunch.

1. On our way crossing the first stream
2. Little Mark looking in awe at the big Giant's Castle
3. Our happy group near Salmo Dam
4. Making our steep way down towards Caracal Cave
5. Getting closer to the cave
6. A view towards the large rocky outcrop above Caracal Cave
7. The remains of the large Kraal en-route to the cave
8. A closer view of the old kraal now surrounded by brambles
9. Caracal Cave below the massive rock-band

After lunch I arranged a bit of exploring from the cave without saying where I was heading but all were keen to join me, but Margaret advising me not to head for Fulton Rock. Part way down our initial off-the-beaten -track route Margaret and our grandson Mark decided to head back to the cave and have some bonding together and play-time, which was fine as the cave could be clearly seen from that spot. I led the rest of our group out of the bundu to join the partly overgrown but discernable track that leads to Fulton Rock if you know where you are going. Eventually we made it to Fulton Rock which was quite a surprise for those who have not seen it before as there are many fine examples of Bushmans paintings, even some illustrating elephants and hundreds of other examples.

We returned to Caracal Cave via another lesser rock-art site but with "The Big Hole" adjacent to it - this is a very deep sink vertical hole which would cause at least serious injuries for anyone falling into it. A rope or a makeshift bosons chair device being needed to explore into the hole.

After this interesting exploration we returned up the steep slope into the cave to join Mark and Margaret (who had enjoined themselves whilst we were away) for a rest then a game or two before supper and drinks and a good nights sleep.

10. A closer view of the cave - Deon far left - Margaret and Katy at right
11. Katy and Margaret settled-in nicely
12. Catherine and Mark heading back after a bit of exploring
13. Margaret, Katy, Simone and Deon relaxing after an explore to Fulton Rock
14. A view from the cave as light starts to fade

We arose early on Sunday morning to a beautiful view of the red glow on the high mountains adjacent to Giants Castle courtesy of the rising sun. As we were up and about very early we took our time preparing breakfast - if fact some of us had to find more water due to being so thirsty due to the heat of the day on Saturday - luckily we knew another small source of water in the bed of a tiny stream in the valley below the cave.

After a good breakfast and slowly packing all our gear in our backpacks, we were on our way for the long climb out of the cave on another perfect sunny day, although still early morning it was very hot on long ascent. We took our time on our return route back to our vehicles with several stops just to admire the fantastic scenery and take in the fresh air, admiring the wild flowers and tranquillity with no other humans in sight.

15. A Very early Sunday morning view from the cave
16. Early morning silhouette of Mark looking towards the high mountains
17. Marks companion Hillary the Hippo looking fresh after a good nights sleep
18. Our group looking happy ready for our return hike on Sunday morning
19. A view towards Giant's Castle from just above the cave.
20. Leaving the cave behind
21. Mark, Katy and Margaret - the cave at the head of the valley
22. Taking a short break after the long climb from the cave
23. Katy, Mark and Margaret finishing the long climb
24. Heading back to base near the distant trees past the dam

After arrival back at our vehicles we had a rest and snacks in a social atmosphere before heading home. Mark, our youngest grandson loved another cave experience and bonded well with our group, continuously chatting away to everyone with a beaming face. Thanks to everyone for sharing these precious moments with us and helping to keep Mark entertained.