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The Hikers: Clive & Sandy Louw; Amelia Spargo; Charles Smith; Gonny Houtsma; Maretha Alant; Evie & Tony Bowen; Joan Louwrens; Irmela Kohlsdorf; Dave & Gill Manley; Greg & Cheryl Devine; Saartjie van der Merwe; Wendy Thompson; and Fred van Berkel.

Non Hikers: Blyth Thompson and Nicky van Berkel – who joined us at the Wine Farm in Herald.

The Hike: It is a circular trail starting and ending in George. It begins at the NMMU campus and ascends along a trail passing the Tierkop Hut. From the hut the path ascends to the top of the Outeniquas, to eventually wind down into the Herold Wine Farm to the north, and near the settlement of Herold. On the second day the return trail skirts along the lower slopes on the north of Cradock Peak to join the “Cradock Pass trail”. This trail is an old Voortrekker route over the Outeniqua Mountains. From the top of the ridge the trail winds downhill to the south to end at the Witfontein forest Station. To complete the circle transport between Witfontein and NMMU is required.

Grade: a grade 2 hike. Fairly strenuous and long ascents on the first day.

Distance covered: roughly 18.5Kms on day 1, and about 17Kms on the 2nd day. Plenty of uphill on the first day!

Trail duration: 8 + hours on Saturday, and 7 hours on Sunday- included stops for lunch and snacks.

Trail condition: the trail was mostly in very good condition and the path is easy to find. There are a few somewhat overgrown areas – these we encountered on the descent from the Kransberg Saddle, along the area known as “heartbreak hill” as well as the traverses through the 2 little indigenous forests on the first day of the hike.

Permits: are available through the Cape Nature offices at Witfontein (self-issue permit).

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Hike Overview: We did the hike over 2 days, arranged as a “slackpacking” experience.

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On Saturday we started our hike from the Saasveld NMMU Campus, on the Eastern side of George. From there we hiked up and over the Outeniqua Mountains to arrive at the Herold Wine Farm (situated near the settlement of Herold) in the late afternoon. Saturday night’s accommodation was either sleeping in the self-catering cottages (3 in total) on the farm, or in your own tent for camping. Our evening meal was a sit-down set menu dinner served in the “Herold Wines Cellar” (for a change – no cooking!), and a cash bar was available.

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On Sunday morning after a quick trail breakfast we were off on our march by 8 am. We followed the farm track to once again pick up the official trail, and gradually wind and climb our way back to the south side of the Outeniqua mountains. By mid-afternoon we arrived at the end – the Witfontein forest station outside George.

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Our Outing: the weather could not have been better – perfect sunshine and some cloud for both days. Some rain fell in the evening to create atmosphere in the wine cellar. A pleasant breeze kept us cool on both days. All the hikers enjoyed themselves and for such a large party – 17 altogether – we all kept up an amazing pace. The meet leader split the party into 2 groups, Tony Bowen leading the first group, while Evie led the second from behind, and this worked well. The scenery on this hike is amazing and very varied- new little vistas around each corner. The Fynbos was in perfect condition rewarding us with numerous different colours and flowers. Plenty of water in the little rivers and even some “pool dipping’ on our return on Sunday afternoon.

The dinner: What a welcoming and cosy cellar. It was magic. Nico gave us a very interesting wine tasting. Numerous bottles of wine were bought and with that we sat down to a delicious ‘3 course’ farm style meal prepared by Maureen and her staff. Plenty of companionship – and what better way to kick start the 125 years of the MCSA celebrations for our southern Cape section.

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The transport: Andre provided us with the most punctual and friendly service. He met us at 8 am in the University Grounds, where he collected our bags. These he transported up the Outeniqua pass and left all the overnight bags and tents etc at the wine farm. On the second day Andre collected our gear and met us at Witfontein. As we arrived in the car park so did Andre. Such amazing timing! From Witfontein, 8 hikers were taken back to Saaasveld in Andre’s bus, while Wendy and Blyth Thompson transported the remaining hikers back to their cars at Saasveld.

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Thanks to all the hikers and non-hikers who joined in. You all made this a truly wonderful hike and a very special ‘Heritage day’ experience in the mountains – situated right on our door step – the truly grand Outeniquas.

Thank you also to our hosts at the Herold Wine Farm – both Nico and Maureen Fourie-you gave us a very special evening, while to our Transporter – Andre – we couldn’t have done the hike without you.

Evie Bowen/ Meet Leader

Photos-Irmela, Nicky and Evie

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