16 June 2019
Hike leader and report by : Penny Purchase

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

13 hikers met at Piggly Wiggly and travelled to Michaelhouse for a hike in the Michaelhouse Nature Reserve on a fine winter day . . . all was good but it was destined to be a calamitous hike! Firstly, the keys and map were not left at Michaelhouse gates as arranged, which necessitated a delay. Once inside the reserve, we parked near the gate, and set off for the lapa, where I'd been assured that the toilets were clean. Not the outside toilets, they were disgusting! After a short break, we set off over the stile, along an overgrown path leading to the pretty walk alongside the river, with its indigenous bush - yellowwoods, oubos, old man's beard and ferns. Well, pretty it was not! It was a tangled mess of overgrown shrubs, fallen branches and thick undergrowth. No clear cut path. I'd been assured by the Michaelhouse estate man that "all paths had been cleared" in an email. However there was new management. What a disappointment.

We thrashed through the thick bush, bending low under the branches, getting plenty of exercise, trying to find the path. We crossed the small river and ploughed up a steep bank of tufts of long grass. It was hard going and I greatly commend the stoic party I was leading! I'd described the hike as "good for new hikers" . . . well, the poor significant others in the group - Sally Lavender and Sue Bidgood - were certainly not new hikers by the end of it. Gill Plummer did so well, chatting all the way and entertaining the new young couple from Stellenbosch, Retha and Stephan. who incidentally, have never come back to hike with us . . . Tony Heher's son, Ralph, was a star hiker with strong legs up the hill. The others were seasoned hikers and politely managed the bundu bashing, Pete Comrie, Sue Rowley, Ken Bidgood, Tony Heher, Carolee Thompson and Mike Perrin.

At the top of that arduous hill we enjoyed a rest and had a snack break - by that time it was 12 o'clock and hot. We could see the parked cars, which lured the weary. Half the party left, not surprisingly, having experienced an unexpectedly rugged hike and wished to be subjected to no more! My apologies were profuse. This was the 5th time I'd led this hike and the route has always been clear. Sadly there was also no sign of the beautiful Nguni herd and the blesbok.

The staunch remainders, Sue Rowley, Pete Comrie, Gill Plummer and the young ones, Retha and Stephan, and my fatigued self, climbed up the freshly cut fire break - but what a pleasure. It was a steep pull to the top of the reserve, where we were rewarded with lovely views over the Balgowan valley and a sighting of blesbok in the distance. We clambered down, down to the parked cars, Gill chatting pleasantly all the way. The 2 young ones seemed fresh and nimble to the end. We reached the cars at about 1.30 pm. We'd done a lot of hiking that day! Some hikes have more challenges than others.

As the leader, I rate it as a disaster of a hike! It certainly didn't turn out the way I anticipated it. I sent apologies to all and a letter to the Michaelhouse management. Thanks to all who coped valiantly with the unpredictable outcome of what can only be called a "bush hike". But there were two good things …. the weather was great and so was the company!

1. Hiking group
2. Overgrown "path" along the river
3.The intrepid remainers enjoying the view
4. Looking cheerful, the group at the highest point of the reserve
5. Green firebreak, tawny grass, blue dam
6. I'm glad this hike is nearly over!
7. Young Retha found the hike a breeze!
8. Gill and Rheta on the downward slope