This hike was attended by 16 people: Derek Odendaal (leader), Jami Odendaal, Bill Turner, Di Turner, Tony Bowen, Evie Bowen, Greg Devine, Cheryl Devine, Clive Louw, Sandy Louw, Maretha Alant, Marina Botha, Danie Steyl, Wendy Paisley, Mickey Lowther and Brian du Preez (the latter 3 from Cape Town/Stellenbosch).

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I chose to explore this relatively unknown area to celebrate my 60th birthday – and it was a wonderful way of doing it. We drove in the Saturday morning, met up in Albertinia and followed one another to the farm Romanskraal, where we parked our cars. This farm is extensive, and we basically did all our walking on it. Some pieces of the adjacent land are under management of Cape Nature.

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We walked into the mountains via a rugged jeep track with full packs and tents, doing about 8 km. The weather was good and we truly enjoyed the beautiful scenery and impressive peaks around us. After an early arrival at our camping site, we had enough time to find the best relatively level tent spot in the jeep track. This “road” was the only available and usable space for tents. We had a nice stream close by, and another one some distance away for washing ourselves.

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Before sundown there was a sociable gathering in the rough stream bed, where a variety of liquid refreshments were produced and a nice bottle of champers opened by the leader (with a good bang and some foamy sweetness running out). Everyone willing could share in some of the bubbly treat and could then proceed with preparing some more solid stuff for the stomach.

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After a long night in the tents, another day with good weather dawned. Ten of the group took on the long ridge leading up to the highest peak in the area, Paardeberg (1525 m). We had serious doubts whether this climb of over 1000 m was possible, mainly due to the thick vegetation found all over the place (it has been many years since the last fire). Some clearly had the summit in mind, while others just went out to see how high they could get and to enjoy the scenery and the beautiful flowers.

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In the end this ascent proved to be quite tough. It was also very steep in places and near the summit some serious scrambling was necessary. Only five made it to the high summit ridge, while Greg and Cheryl were the only two who reached the summit. But everyone had a great day out amidst the beautiful mountains.

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The other members of the group did their own thing on the lower parts of the mountain: hunting plants, exploring, photographing everything, or just relaxing.

After another late-afternoon gathering with some wine, wise words and whatever-in-the-pot, clouds started closing in and some rain began to fall. The next morning saw us making coffee, packing up and pitching tents in a drizzle. We walked back via a shorter route in light rain. After an hour or so, it started clearing and eventually we could get some glimpses of the peaks again. All of us agreed that it was a wonderful area to explore and especially the plant hunters will be back…….

Derek Odendaal

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