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As per usual, when leading river swims and hikes, the weather is a huge factor on what the day will bring, Saturday was no exception. A thunder storm rumbled, and lightening lit the sky on Friday afternoon dumping a bit more water than usual into the Kaaimans. Undeterred, 12 members and 4 visitors hit the trail from Saasveld campus and headed to the river via the start of the Groeneweide Trail. After crossing the river, we headed up to the weir and pump station.

There is a lot of criss-crossing of the river either on rocks or sandy bottom. Those fortunate enough to have long legs managed to get their knees wet but the shorties were wading waist high in a few spots. The rocks were slippery in places with a bit of slipping and sliding and the occasional fall taking place.

Fortunately, broken bones, stretched tendons or ligaments were avoided, bruises however may have surfaced on Sunday.

Where possible, we would leave the river and walk along the bank which was grassy or rocky underfoot. Evie decided to swim along the way while the rest of us had a bite to eat and drink. After about 3-4 hours in the river the pump station was in sight and a very bedraggled but unscathed group exited the water.

Both soles on Evie’s shoes decided to part company and were held together by Karin’s spare shoe laces. Wendy’s shorts were so tattered and torn they were abandoned on the way, leaving her to walk out in her costume, Eugene also had a sole problem but managed to keep his sole intact for the duration of the walk.

On arrival at the weir it was swim time for most of us and we gingerly slid in the clean, soft water and swam through the narrow gorge to the small waterfall and back. After lunch and a short snooze in the sun (no guesses for who that was), we hiked up to the main road going past the student houses, and to the campus.

As we approached our cars the heavens opened and had us scurrying in all directions to prevent getting wet!!! After hurried goodbyes, see you soons and wet air kisses, we ended a most satisfactory day.

The people crazy enough to join me on an overcast day with rain threatening were Charles and Lindsay Smith, Avril and Eugene Fichardt, Fred van Berkel, Clive Louw, Maretha Alant and friend Marina, Lezlie Jenkinson and friend Katey, Karin van Niekerk, Tony and Evie Bowen, Wendy Thompson, Terry Hime, Greg and Cheryl Devine (meet leader).

A big thanks to Greg for leading the back markers in the right direction and for picking out so many black wattle and
blackwood seedlings along the way.

Cheryl Devine – meet leader

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It was a cold and chilly start for the first meet of the year. The swim was supposedly going to be a warm, leisurely meander down the Kaaimans, from Strawberry Hill to Wilderness. Very rarely do things go according to plan.
Eight hardy souls arrived on the day to tackle the river, all but two arrived in wet suits. The very keen adventurers were Clive Louw, Peter and Susan Pyke, Charles and Lindsay Smith, Joan Louwrens, Greg and Cheryl Devine (meet leader).

The track from the farm down to the river remains in excellent condition. After a pleasant, shady twenty-minute walk, we had our first sighting of the river. The conditions were not ideal for a nice float and walk, stop and gossip on the way trip. The level of the river was high and the flowing fast. Undeterred, we wet suited up, except for the water warriors Susan and Peter and jumped into the river and were very quickly swept up and on our way.

Clive led the group and managed to find the most suitable crossing points for us to use. The going was challenging at times, having to cling on to anchor points to prevent being washed away. Thanks to an excellent team effort we managed to arrive at our destination with skin intact and no bones broken, much to my relief. However, it was not all hard work, we had a lunch spot and managed to find a little sunshine and a rest spot out of the wind.

I think by the time we reached the bridge to exit the river, we were all feeling the cold and more than ready to don dry clothes and return to the farm for a warm drink and a welcome braai fire.

While we were tackling the river, Di was leading her group on the Fern Trail. The group consisted of Sandy Louw, Dave and Faye Jones and two prospective new members. The river was flowing a little too fast to make safe crossing, so their walk was curtailed a little but was enjoyed by all.

The best was yet to come. A braai, catching up on all the comings and goings over the festive season and sharing a glass of wine or two…..

Many thanks to Di and Bill Turner for opening their home to us once again and allowing us access to the river over their farm.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day out even though I was totally wrecked the next day, feeling as if I had been through a washing machine the day before.

Thanks everyone for joining in the fun, I hope we can do it again next year.

Cheryl Devine – meet leader

On Saturday the 10th of November 2018 we did a circular walk from Fisanthoek Hut and back.

In the group:

Members: Gonny Houtsma (Meet Leader), Fred van Berkel (photos), Evie Bowen, Sandy and Clive Louw, Mike von der Heyde, Romy Foster, and Ann Mc Gregor (Cape Town section).

Guests: Hillary Appelgryn, Patrys van der Walt, and Estelle Leonard.

Stats: Distance about 9 km, an easy grade 2M walk, mostly on jeep tracks and sections of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail.

Report: Everybody gathered at the beginning of the path to the Fisanthoek Hut: Outeniqua Trail. From there we started on the track towards Garden of Eden.

When we reached the Petrus-se-Brand mountain bike trail, we followed that in reverse until we hit the road. Halfway we met three cyclists, luckily one of them was the husband of one of our group, so they knew we were on the route. We stopped for a snack, at the intersection of Petrus-se-Brand and the jeep track back to the hut.

This was an ideal time to browse through the flower books to ID some of the interesting flowers seen earlier.

A songololo, a lunch guest, was most intrigued with a piece of carrot!

After that we followed the road back to the hut.

It was a nice walk, with lots of time for talk and laughter.

Coffee at the Coral Breeze Café at the Sasol garage afterwards.
Thanks everybody who joined me!

Gonny Houtsma – meet leader

We did this hike last in 2016, before the famous fires of June 2017. During that terrible day most of Brenton-on-Sea burnt down, but now 18 months later, Brenton is as beautiful as ever. However, I had to modify the route somewhat because parts of the route had become inaccessible due to the path having eroded badly after the vegetation was burnt.
We met at the Nautical South restaurant at Brenton-on-Sea where a pretty little bushbuck female was peacefully browsing on the lawn.

The group consisted of:
Members: Hanna and Dave Edge, Hans van Ameyde, Fred van Berkel, Wolf Schneider, Peter Richmond and Ewa Szewczenko (henceforth known as Ewa with the impossible surname).
Guests were Jen du Toit and Kevin Factor.
Unfortunately, our esteemed president, Dave Barnes, got his times wrong and was still eating breakfast in Sedgefield when we set of just after 9 o’clock.
We first went back up the road and turned right into Steenbras Street, where the group photograph was taken from the view site.

From left: Dave Edge, Jen du Toit, Hanna Edge, Hans van Ameyde, Kevin Factor, Peter Richmon, Ewa, Wolf Schneider. Fred took the photo.

We then descended to the sea via a rickety set of steps, and followed the old fishermen’s path to the east, until we reached our first beach (locally known as Die Blokke beach). Here Fred gave us an interesting chat about what the coastline looked like 100 000 years ago when the sea was about 30 km further south than what it is today. He also pointed out the cave where the 100 000-year-old fossilised hominid footprints were recently discovered, found in the roof of the cave. One couldn’t really see the actual footprints as one has to slide on your back all the way to the back of the cave to be able to see them, and this is a bit claustrophobic. Along the beach it was also possible to see other footprints of animals on the slabs of fossilised dune sand.

Hanna going down the rickety steps

Walking along the fishermen’s path

Fred explaining

At the eastern end of this beach are the rocks known as Die Blokke, which are made of Table Mountain sandstone. From here Table Mountain Sandstone continues all the way to the Heads to the east, whereas the fossilised sand dunes go all the way to beyond Mossel Bay in the west. Here we climbed back out of the bay using another set of steps until we reached a footpath cutting across the slope below a private housing estate. A little way further we descended again to the next bay, called Vaalkom. The path here is very steep and has a very loose surface, so a lot of slipping and sliding and hanging on to vegetation was done.

Starting to go back down again

In Vaalkom we visited a cave a short way up from the beach, which was probably inhabited, and sometimes still is, judging by the amount of black mussel shells around. This was a convenient break for snacks and a drink.

The cave with fresh water

We reached this point exactly at low tide, so it was easy to skirt around some rocks and through a gulley to reach the next bay, where we had to turn around as both the routes out of the bay to the top of the hill were impassable due to soil erosion.
To avoid going up the steep, loose path back to the top, we did a detour around the rocks where Ewa with the impossible surname got a crash course in rock scrambling, acquitted herself well and got to the top safely.

Going through the gulley

Rocky bits

Our next stop was the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve, where Dave gave a short talk on the history of the reserve, and the efforts to look after the butterfly. The Reserve burnt down completely during the June 2017 fires, but the vegetation has recovered remarkably. No Brenton Blues were seen yet as it is not quite the right time for them to emerge, but we are holding thumbs.

At the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve

Four hours after we started out we ended the hike back at the little restaurant. It was a most enjoyable hike and thank you to Fred and Dave who were willing to give us some insight into the geology and ecology of Brenton-on-Sea.

Quenching our thirst

The route and profile

Thanks to everyone who came and to Fred for most of the pictures.

Hanna Edge – meet leader

 

 

Location: Between the Grootrivierberge and the Witteberge just North of Willowmore
Date: 19-21 Oct 2018
Meet Convener (Hike Leader): Chris Leggatt – celebrating 30 years of MCSA membership.
Members: Chris Leggatt, Fred and Nicky van Berkel, Dave and Fay Jones, Maretha Alant, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth, Dennis Lange, Werner Frei, Greg and Cheryl Devine, Charles Smith.
Guest Appearences: Liz Bazin, Andre Knoetze, Sineke Schmidt, Ariadne van Zandbergen, Hanlie Steyn.

This meet followed a similar pattern to the meet of 28-30 Oct 2016. The group met in Willowmore at roughly 3 pm on the Friday and drove in convoy onto the farm… and luckily we did. Although the minor wash-aways on the track to the farm were manageable by all the vehicles, the long wheelbase of the Jones’ converted ambulance was enough to get it grounded like a see-saw on a drainage hump. After some minor road adjustments we were on our way again and reached the farmhouse with no further incident.

Saturday saw the main party of 14 set off for the high ridge of the Witteberge, while Greg and Cheryl went on a climbing expedition to test some of the clean slabs to be found in the valley and Nicky went in search of post-fire fynbos growth.

The main party set off up the gorge behind the farmhouse just after 8 am. At the first rock scramble, Dave and Fay felt it was prudent for them to turn around and explore some of the flatter walks in the area and so it was that our party continued as 12 all the way to the summit.

Most of the main party at the start of the day

Our hosts at the dry waterfall

After roughly 40 minutes we reached a dry waterfall, which until recently was a natural dead end for anyone exploring that particular kloof. However, up the slope to the right of the waterfall there is now a well-placed bolted chain traverse which makes it much easier to access the upper reaches of the catchment area. Only one member of the party made use of the chest harness with cowtails attached to the chain (useful piece of safety equipment on that route), while the rest of the party felt safe enough to continue as is.

Once passed the chains we headed up the slope to the west and onto the saddle for a tea break. Cloudy skies and a cool breeze kept the temperature just right and we were thankful we weren’t in one of the heatwaves that can start forming in the area at this time of year (the following week temperatures rose to the high 30s).

The Chains

Starting up the long slope

After tea the party continued up the ridge and by 10.30 am we were looking across the Great Karoo, watching whirlwinds kick up spinning towers in the sea of dust between us and the mountainous islands near Graaff- Reinet.
Interestingly, the addition of the chain traverse (and the lack of any serious vegetation due to a recent fire) saved at least an hour from the route that we had used 2 years prior.

Up…

up…

and away.

Having reached the ridgeline earlier than expected, we enjoyed a second tea, before deciding to follow the ridge to an alluring rounded peak to our west. What a lovely walk that was. At some points the ridge became fairly narrow with steep drops on either side and there was even a precarious rock scramble just before the final summit (which we reached around 12.30). At roughly 1400 m the summit offered magnificent 360 deg views and made an ideal lunch stop.

Lunch on top

Leaving the summit

After lunch the knee jarring descent began. We skirted around the upper slopes of the catchment area 2 kloofs west of the farmhouse with the idea of dropping onto the ridge west of the one we had used to ascend; however it became evident going straight down into the kloof would be easiest. From the summit back to the Farmhouse took between 3 and 4 hours. Some weary souls sat around the fire that night.

The following day dawned bright and breezy. While some of the party headed for home, a small group explored the valley floor to the east of the farmhouse. We didn’t succeed in finding any new rock art sites (which was part of the reason for the walk), but we had a lovely walk through one of the kloofs cut by the main river course. We stopped for tea under some amazing slabs which look fantastic for a future climbing meet.

After returning to the farmhouse in the late morning, we packed up and left for home, with one small group making a quick detour to some recently discovered rock art on the edge of the farm.

Tracks from day 1 and 2

Profile day 1

Chris Leggatt – meet leader

 

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

On the meet: Nicky & Fred van Berkel, Dave & Margie Barnes, Sandy Louw, Evie Bowen and Janet Moore.

On Saturday at 9 am on a cool but bright morning 6 of us meet up to start a gentle hike over the top of Paardekop Farm, in the Attakwaskloof. Nicky started about 15 minutes to get a head start on us as the road is quite steep to begin with. After walking up the road towards the boundary gate we turned right and walked through pines up toward the back of the farm. Towards the top turned right again and followed the farm track around the top. We stopped for a short while at this turn.

We took it very slowly and Nicky and Evie did some botanising.

The first part of track had burnt about 10 years ago. When we came to the first track down towards the stone cottage, Dave and Margie decided to take this route. It is a bit steeper towards the bottom, but shorter.

By now we have split into 3 groups. Nicky and Fred coming along slowly, Dave and Margie on the downward route , leaving Sandy, Evie and myself to continue along the track which slowly winds down toward the main farm road. This part only burnt about 20 months ago and so was very interesting for the botanists in the group.

At the bottom we made our way to the old farm road, as this part of farm only burnt in January. It has been very dry until the previous weekend, so was lovely to see all the new growth.

The 3 groups took between 3 hrs and 7hrs to travel approximately 7km.

A very social walk and I think enjoyed by all.

Janet Moore – meet leader

The meet was originally scheduled for 8th September but was postponed due to the strong cold front. There were only four takers for the tough hike / scramble, Clive Louw, Tony Bowen (photographer), Phillippa Barnard (new member) and Greg Moore, meet leader.

The day dawned cold and bright, with a little cloud forecast for later, perfect hiking weather.

A rather leisurely start was made, hiking commenced at 0830. The area having burnt two years previously ensured that we didn’t have to fight our way through the bush, but there were plenty of sharp, burnt branches to avoid. The going was very steep with no path and lots of scrambling.

As we neared the top the cloud came down but didn’t obstruct our fine views of the Attakwas valley. The 580 m climb took two hours and was only 2.25 km long.

The Attakwasberg centre left.

Breakfast at the top was taken with the cloud sitting just above our heads.

There was a possibility of doing a ridge walk from here but having attained the peak and looking at the rugged, difficult ridge, a general lethargy came over us and it was decided to head down in time for lunch.

A very satisfying peak with fine views and worth repeating.

Greg Moore – meet leader

The Swartberg in the Ladismith area offers some of the most dramatic and most pristine mountain scenery in the Southern Cape. These mountains are also the highest in the region. The Liggie Trail gives the hiker a great display of the beauty and grandeur of these mountains. It is a circular day walk of 14 km and takes you high up on the slopes of Elandsberg (almost 1000 m ascent and descent!)

Fifteen enthusiastic members gathered in Ladismith on Saturday morning (Greg and Cheryl Devine, Tony and Evie Bowen, Fred and Nicky van Berkel, Clive Louw, Karin van Niekerk, Maretha Alant, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth, Greg and Janet Moore, Sanet van Meersbergen, Jacolise Joubert and the leader, Derek Odendaal). We were joined by 3 members of Klein Karoo Hiking Club, Danie Steyl, Wessel Steyl and Pieter van der Walt. It was a beautiful sunny day and turned out to be quite mild.

We walked the trail anti-clockwise, which makes the climb rather steep and exhausting. But the descent is softer on the legs and joints! The plan was to include visits to two exceptional rock art sites, both off the route and still higher than the highest part of the trail. Getting to the first one proved to be more challenging and rougher than expected, and we abandoned the effort (also because the exact location was not known).

Reaching the second site (not far from the Liggie) was still a challenge and only three of us had the energy and the enthusiasm to scramble up the slope. It proved to be worth the effort. It is a very special site, at the base of a huge overhanging rock wall with a very thin waterfall raining down on the grassy slope. Many of the images are substantially larger than most San paintings and still well preserved.

After descending the mountain, 13 of us stayed the night at the Kliphuis, a very comfortable and well-equipped house about 4 km outside of Ladimith. On Sunday morning some went home, some explored the area at leisure, while six of us went into Waterkloof, just to the east of Elandsberg. This is a very deep kloof with a nice stream, cut into the ancient Swartberg rock. We had to wade most of the way and we truly enjoyed the scenery and unspoiled nature of the kloof. Going home didn’t seem right – the weekend was too short.

 

 

Leader: Dave Jones, supported by Fay and Peter Halbsgut.
Hikers: 14 members and 3 guests.
A Team: Clive (sub-leader) and Sandy Louw, Greg and Janet Moore, Fred van Berkel, Marianne Halbsgut, and Maretha Alant with guests Sharon and Marina.
B Team: Dave (sub-leader), Bill & Di Turner, Dave & Margie Barnes, Mike von der Heyde, Romy Foster and guest.

Braaiers: Greg and Cheryl Devine, Blythe and Wendy Thompson, Tony and Evie Bowen, Fay Jones, Peter Halbsgut plus the B Team.

A well supported Meet in very pleasant weather but with a chaotic start at the Farmers’ Market, busy as it ever is over a long weekend. Getting the hikers and their braai gear gathered and loaded into cars for transport to the start point and then on to the Yacht Club proved quite a challenge, fighting against the 9 a.m. rush of visitors trying to get into the market.

The hike started at the Swartvlei car park where we got going at 9.30 in the face of the stormiest seas anybody could remember and real doubt as to whether we would even get to Gericke Point as the waves were so high although it was only 1 hour past low water. These fears were confirmed by Bill and Di who had started earlier but had been turned back at Gericke’s by the waves and had opted to find another hike, far from the sea.

Undaunted, the main party set off for Gericke Point for a quick reorganisation as the waves along the first rocky sections after Gericke were huge and the tide was not going to wait for anybody. Clive generously agreed to take over leadership of a fit (brave? foolish?) A Team and set off at a cracking pace. The B Team, all slower walkers, wisely turned back.

Chicken-leader, Dave, arranged to be dropped off at Kleinkrantz by the support team on its way to the Yacht Club as he had previously marked out an interesting, scratchy route across the dunes to get to the Yacht Club a further 3 km on. Clive’s A Team made very commendable progress along the beach, in spite of rough waves, a rising tide and drenching at times to get to Kleinkrantz by 12.30. But it had been a very tough, worthy of the Mountain Club 12 km to get to that point, so an offer by Dave to call up relief vehicles from the Braaiers was gratefully accepted.

With the help of the relief vehicles, all were in at the Yacht Club by 13.30 where a very pleasant Spring Braai was then enjoyed at this charming venue.

Thanks to all who took part to help see Spring arrive.

Dave Jones – meet leader

Mountain Club of South Africa

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