The Mountain Club is full of elderly people, otherwise known as “crocks’ or “old farts”. Being unable, or forgetting to demand their democratic rights, they are underprivileged and shunted off to wheelchairs and old-age homes from which they wistfully gaze at distant mountains. This, to use a term beloved of politicians, is “unacceptable” in our democratic, new South Africa. After all, unless you are lucky enough to die young, you too will soon be an underprivileged old fart. It was therefore decided to hold a protest march in true South African style. We had no old tyres to burn, as these are on our vehicles, so we decided on having a Geriatric Meet, instead. Careful research revealed that an ideal route for the march was available at Nature’s Valley.

Merv Prior proposed himself as Meet Leader. His credentials for the position were accepted as being impeccable. Apart from being 91 years old, having a pace-maker and one blind eye, leaving about 80% vision, he suffers from dementia and has already forgotten what happened yesterday. He has also a wonderful reputation for getting lost in unlikely places. It was, of course, obvious that the real power behind the scene would be his wife, Jean, who was, naturally, the real leader.

The starting time for the walk was set at the civilised hour of 10h30: we old farts value our morning snooze and leisurely breakfast. We gathered without mishap on the beach around our leader who was waving a piece of cardboard with MCSA on it and set out along the beach. We were actually quite relieved to see that our club meets convener had also come along with Nicky, his wife, to make sure that we did not lose any old farts. We are not quite sure that they comply with the over 70 requirements to be one.

The Groot river mouth was open, which meant that we had to take boots off to cross it. Here we encountered some dissension. The nominal leader proposed to cross at a wide bend in the river, whereas the real leader insisted on crossing at the mouth where it is always shallow. She decided, unilaterally, to cross there, although it adds about a kilometre to the walk. While waiting for her, Fred looked for and found a path up to the road, as both leaders had forgotten the exact position of the proper path. The crossing was ankle-deep.

The main part of the walk was very pleasant along the river bank to where the washed-away bridge used to be. Here there is a deviation to cross a small tributary of the Groot, where there is a chain and a ladder. Luckily the water was low enough to cross without removing boots.

Near the road bridge we deviated and followed the boardwalk through magnificent forest to the picnic spot with tables and benches where the leader had planned to have the lunch break, arriving at 13h05. The real leader, however, over-ruled this and insisted on going to a scenic spot on the river bank below towering cliffs.

After lunch we crossed the bridge and took the pipe track, ignoring the NO ENTRY signs which are obviously not meant for MCSA members. We got back to the cars at 15h00, having walked 5.8km by Fred’s GPS watch. The leader’s attempts to sell his latest book “Almost” to the party at this point were unsuccessful, sad to say.

Attending the Geriatrix meet: Mervyn Prior (Meet Leader), Jean Prior (the Real Leader), Fred van Berkel (photographer), Nicky van Berkel, Margrit and Erich Brack and Wolf Schneider.


Merv Prior – meet leader