Christmas Party 2019 and Hike to base of Grey Mare's Tail Falls

Report by Penny Purchase

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

The MHC Christmas party was held on Saturday 30 November at Shawswood in the Karkloof, just 22 kms from Howick. It proved to be a charming, relaxed venue with plenty of accommodation, a large indoor communal area and a big grassy area for braaing... all in the shadow of Mt Gilboa. It turned out to be a popular venue as more than 50 members attended. It was good value at R50 a head for the day. Half the members chose to stay overnight either in a 2 bedded room or the bunk bed dormitory accommodation in the restored stables. Sue Rowley did a fine job with organising this and collecting the money. Our hosts, Wendy and Bundy Shaw, who owned the farm, were warm and friendly.

Those who wanted to hike to the base of Grey Mare's Tail Falls arrived by 10 a.m. We were a big crowd of happy hikers - 37! I marshalled the troops and we had a worker on the farm to guide us. We hiked through the farm and plantations, across a few shallow streams and through beautiful cool ancient indigenous forest, thick with tangled creepers. It took us about an hour along some steepish paths to get to the base of the falls. Here we had our snack stop. It was an extremely hot day so the dense shade and the sound of water falling was welcome. The guide led some of the more intrepid hikers further up to see the falls, via a thick rope, as the path was steep, slippery and treacherous. The hike down was easy but we arrived at the picnic site, hot, thirsty and tired... from the suffocating heat more than the exertion.

Braai-ing commenced under the shade of trees with Pete Comrie and Rob Melis tending the fires. We lolled around on the cool grass and in our camping chairs. There was a delicious spread of salads, some quite exotic. The committee provided apple crumble and ice cream and mince pies for pud. Some of the day trippers, (there were 21 day people) left for home. Alistair, our games-loving chairman, organised hole-in-one golf and darts before the rain came.

We continued the party inside with singing of carols to the tuneful guitars of Andy and Alistair's. There was the prize-giving and Amy Jacobs won the Best Photo Award for her atmospheric photo of a hike at Spioenkop capturing the very African scene of cattle and hikers on a dirt road with dust flying high. The Best Report award went to yours truly, Penny Purchase, reporting on a hike that went wrong at Michaelhouse, a real scramble, a "bush hike". Alistair had put together an attractive hiking club calendar which had to be pre-ordered. These he brought for collection. Father Christmas then arrived and delivered small gifts of cheese straws and date dainties to each member. He was not a rotund Father Christmas and his voice was rather like Alistair's but he was extremely jovial and merry and had other games up his sleeve. As the sun set, those staying overnight, enjoyed savoury snacks and drinks and left-overs from the lunch time feast. Caught up with the party spirit, the more energetic danced away to a variety of music. Gradually folk drifted to their beds after a full satisfying day of hiking, eating, drinking, playing games, singing, dancing and socialising.

The next morning was cool and misty. Brian Henwood, eager to climb Mt Gilboa, led a small group of willing hikers and they disappeared into the mist. After a leisurely breakfast, the rest of us packed and headed for home. It was a happy and festive ending to the hiking year in a superb venue at Shawswood.