3 January 2021

Leader: Libby Deysel. Report courtesy of Penny Purchase, photos submitted by Penny Purchase, Libby Deysel, Margret Kirsten, Ali Engelbrecht, Rebecca Wakeford, Sylvia Varty

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

We met at the Karkloof Country Club. There were low clouds and it was a far from promising day. Thankfully no rain. Being enthusiastic hikers, we disregarded the weather. We were eager to start hiking. We first had to register and pay our dues at the swish new clubhouse office. R80 per person and R30 for those mature ones over 65.

Libby led the way at about 8.15 a.m. There was a variety of paths and a variety of the degree of slipperiness - some narrow cycle routes, some broader forestry tracks with soft carpets of leaves. It was a quiet walk through the gum and pine forests except for the low chatter of hikers.

Soon there was a tunnel to traverse and a stream to cross, an easy crossing with a flat plank bridge and big stones. We followed the track going upwards a bit... but somehow we'd wandered off the route... so a re-fuelling stop and a sit down on the edge of the forest was a welcome break... while the correct route was discussed. So we made our way down again through the pretty forest, over the stream, through the tunnel and on to the correct path to the falls. It was an attractive diversion!

Pic 3 - Yellow orchid
Pic 4 - Gum plantation
Pic 5 - Tunnel
Pic 6 - Stream crossing
Pic 7 - Danger point

The SAPPI gum and pine plantations provided a thick, moist, fertile mat for fungi to grow. Fascinating fungi, so colourful in the dark forest. The summer flowers were out on the edges of the trees, small and dainty, yellow, purple, blue and white. And fat, juicy blackberries were tempting us... "Libby, let's stop, let's abandon the hike, let's pick these blackberries, let's gorge on this sweet luscious black fruit"... my thoughts were abandoned and on with the hike!

Pic 8 - Fungi with green stripes
Pic 9 - Yellow fungi
Pic 10 - Orange and green fungi
Pic 11 - Orange fungi
Pic 12 - Yellow orchid
Pic 13 - Red star fungil
Pic 14 - Horse dung fungi
Pic 15 - Grey star fungi

We reached the falls at about 11 a.m. They were a magnificent sight, in full spate, after the recent heavy downpours. Still no rain on our hike, thankfully. Cloudy, cool weather suits hikers. We enjoyed a longer break here. It was lovely to eat, drink, chat, view the falls from the soft grassy bank and get the weight off our feet.

Pic 2 - Karkloof Falls
Pic 16 - Blue frame and hiker

After resting, we followed the river path, back to the clubhouse. As the river was full, it was an attractive route with Chris Dobson bringing up the rear as usual. Then a surprize: for an enchanting few minutes we walked through an avenue of tall bright dahlias, with their striking colours, at head height. The cherry red ones are my favourites!

Pic 17 - Along river
Pic 18 - Aloes aongside river
Pic 19 - Aloes
Pic 20 - Summer flowers
Pic 21 - Yellow flowers
Pic 22 - Red dahlias
Pic 23 - Cherry red dahlia
Pic 24 - Yellow dahlias
Pic 25 - Blacberries ripening

Soon we entered a pine plantation, aptly called "Heaven". There in "Heaven" we found the pink love and kindness stone which Ali had previously placed on the head of a quirky little gnome, pinned to a tree. We emerged from the forest just after 1 p.m. and there was the clubhouse. With muddy boots , tired legs and cheerful smiles, we said our goodbyes to most of the party. It was a very enjoyable 15 kms hike. A small group of us stayed to enjoy welcome cappuccinos on the lawn outside, spreading our chairs for social distancing.

Pic 26 - Gnome with pink love and kindness stone

It was great to spend a morning outdoors again, with hiking friends, in our beautiful Midlands, in this time of Covid-19 stress and strain. Tensions fly over the hills and waterfalls and far away... for a time at least... as we enjoy the motion of our bodies, the fellowship of hikers and drink in the beauty of our enchanted surroundings.