Imagine if you will, this conversation between David Livingstone and his wife, Mary Moffat.

David: “Fancy a bit of a walk up through Africa then, Love? We could discover Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile. Maybe save a few souls along the way”
Mary: “Sounds good, but will there be a path?”
David: “Of course there won’t be a path, we’re explorers. And I do wish you would change your last name to Livingstone, or at least Moffat-Livingstone.”
Mary: “Well then, if there’s no path I’m not coming!”
David: “Och, come on, we’ll be fine. The bush’ll nae be too bad.”
Mary: “No!”

We all know how badly it turned out. David went alone anyway and found a few things here and there, but without his wife to supervise, things got messy. He got lost, found, lost again and then died. His finder Stanley, task complete, went on to rape and pillage the Congo. Mary died alone without ever changing her last name.

I was reminded of this by a similar conversation in the Devine household the other day. We were talking about my proposed Kammanassie traverse. Cheryl expressed some doubts about my route-finding and showed reluctance to bush-whack the six kilometres of non-path in the thirty kilometre hike. It was like Twenty Questions. How thick was the bush? Should she come? Would anybody come? Would anyone make it? Who would play Stanley?

However, we finally decided to both go, because not to go would be repeating history. In the end, it was both good and bad. The bush wasn’t too thick and no one got lost, but no souls were saved. The problem turned out to be too much water. Well, not enough initially and then later much too much, mostly inside Karin’s and Bill’s tents.

This is how it happened. The Devines met the Bowens and Werner Frei at the Buffelsdrif crossroads and went to leave a car at the usual Mannetjiesberg parking spot. We returned to the crossroads and met the rest of the party consisting of Bill Turner, newbie Charles Smith, Amelia Spargo and Karin van Niekerk. We drove up the jeep track to near the campsite and parked. The day was cool and overcast.

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The intrepid explorers, Evie Bowen, Charles Smith, Bill Turner, Tony Bowen, Amelia Spargo, Werner Frei, Cheryl Devine and Karin van Niekerk. I am clearly not in the picture.

We set off up the track and made good time to the gate in the game fence where we turned right and found the east-bound track leading to the usual Platberg-Kammanassieberg campsite. The last water was only a trickle, but we all managed to fill up our bottles. The camp is about 1 km further and 100 metres higher than the water, so one needs to carry enough water to avoid buzzing back and forth from the camp to the water every five minutes.

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A steep part of the jeep track on the way up. Tony about to assume ‘the position’.

No one buzzed anywhere for the next sixteen hours as the rain came down shortly after we pitched camp. We were all in lock-down for the rest of the afternoon and night, in driving rain, wind and fog. Inside a warm dry tent was the only place to be. Bill and Charles kept up a non-stop conversation for the first three hours and then Bill kept up a non-stop monologue for the next three. The other tents listened in.

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View of the camp from the door of our tent shortly after our arrival.

Sometime during the night – it must have been late as Bill was silent – there was a commotion and a lot of torch flashes. This turned out to be Amelia retrieving her fly-sheet, which had blown off but luckily landed not far away. But in the morning a wet and drowned-looking Karin came to our tent, and through chattering teeth told us she had got drenched in the night. Her tent had failed completely and she had almost floated out the door. Clearly she would have to go down. Bill and Charles also got wet but apparently from the bottom up. Amelia was also damp and it would be better for her not to spend another night out.

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The morning weather started well. Here Karin dries herself in the wind.

Luckily the wet four were all in the same car so we sent them down straight away. The remaining five then debated at length whether to complete the route or just to explore the first section. The rain had stopped but it was still threatening, so we decided to leave the tents standing and recce the first part of the proposed route.

There is a jeep track almost the whole way through the length of the Kammanassie, but there is a section missing in the middle, and this was the question that needed answering. There are two options to link the two ends, to go high along the ridges, or to try a west-east valley that apparently links up. As one leaves the western end of the track, there are four deep gullies that could well block the route. The rest of the valley, although up and down, looks okay. So we went to check out the ‘dings’ in the route.

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The route ahead is through the saddle between two peaks. The jeep track, on the left, ends just before the first big ding.

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The first big ding seen from the end of the jeep track. It was a straightforward scramble cum bush-whack.

The first one is deep and goes with a bit of difficulty and the other three are shallower and basically easy. The bush is no problem. But the going is slow – 5km took 5 hours. So the conclusion is that the route is feasible, but with a small party carrying lightly. We will go for it again soon, in better weather I hope.

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The spur between the first and second dings, looking south towards Buffelsdrift. A cave is visible in the centre. We will install Bill here next time.

By the time we got back to our tents it was pouring again. The prospect of another long boring afternoon and night in the tents – without Bill – convinced us to bail. We packed up wet tents and shot back down to Tony and Evie’s car. After retrieving our own car we all went home to warm dry beds.

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Bill’s Cave

Greg Devine – Meet Leader

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