19-20 March 2016
Report and photos by Katy Hart
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
We set off with the sun already blazing down upon us, and so frequent short stops for a sip of water were a must. We all did well to slog it up the path and were most grateful to reach the cool forested Van Heyningan’s pass some kilometres later. The downside of course being the steep climb over slippery moss covered rocks and mulched up leaves. Having had two brief stops to refill our water bottles and wet our hair, a further stop was necessary near the top of the pass for the less fit to recharge batteries and up their sugar levels. Admittedly this gave us all a boost to the top where we sat in the shade for a good long rest and our lunch.
After lunch, we set off again along the open veld path, gently climbing, which made for some less strenuous hiking, and soon the chatter started (now having some spare breathe on us). At the highest point of our hike, we stopped just long enough for a photo shoot of the beautiful peaks Champagne Castle, Cathkin Peak, Monks Cowl, Sterkhorn, the Turret, the Amphlett and Intunja. A short downhill to the cave where bags were dumped, and shoes quickly removed. After a brief rest we all (bar Joanna who had already set out her bed for a nap) headed off to the pool for a swim to cool down and get water. Although definitely ‘fresh’ it was a great relief to soak our weary feet and drop our temperatures back to an acceptable level. Rohan, in his excitement to dive in, managed to lose his prescription glasses without realising it until he got out and noticed he couldn’t see too well. Confused, he decided he must have left them back at the cave, where we all headed back to get comfortable. No glasses at the cave and so we were certain they were lying at the depth of the pool.
As Keith and myself were feeling restless we opted to leave the others relaxing at the cave and go explore our surroundings. Eager to go back for a second look for his glasses, Rohan joined us. Instead of taking the path down to the pool, we turned up and around the mountain, making our own path across gulleys to the next two mountains. Rohan pointed out a hill shaped like a loaf of bread which I deemed a good hill to summit, and so Keith led us to the top, myself excitedly and Rohan I think somewhat reluctantly! It did afford us breathtaking views and a different vantage point of our surroundings, including three little waterfalls all in a row which can’t be seen from below. I insisted Keith take photos as evidence of us having been there before dropping a bit lower to explore the ‘Wonder Valley Annexe’ cave. A bit rocky in places and very damp, but definitely able to sleep a few people comfortably.
From there we dropped right back down to the river and pool in a last ditch attempt for Rohan to regain his eyesight. Keith looked on amused and snapping pics while both Rohan and I treaded carefully from rock to rock squinting in the clear water for his tortoise shell frames (could they not have been gold I cursed as I slipped and sent up a muddy cloud of silt!). The de-spectacled Rohan, now partially frozen, sighed with defeat and retreated to the warm grassy banks. As I was still enjoying the coolness of the pool, I figured I may as well just circle it whilst gripping any objects with my toes in the wan hope of finding them. Lo and behold, three sticks later out comes a pair of tortoise shell spectacles still in fine shape with not a scratch! Very chuffed, we headed back to the cave for supper and for me a celebratory glass of wine (or two). [Ed.- Keiths' report has all the photos of the spectacle search]
It was whilst sipping on my 2nd glass that I nearly set my sleeping bag alight having knocked over my gas cooker. Unfortunately in the case of danger, I don’t have the fight or flight reflex – mine is more of a fright and freeze kind of thing, but luckily Paul came to my rescue and I was left with only a sizeable hole in my ground sheet. Phew, maybe only half a glass of the red stuff next time, or a cooker that sits on the ground as opposed to wobbling atop three unsteady thin metal arms.
Anyway, it was a day of adventure, and quite a pleasure to slip into our sleeping bags for a good night’s rest (not so good for those who couldn’t sleep through the snores and grunts and purring of the others).
In the morning we tidied up, packed our bags, and set off back home the way we’d come. Although it feels somewhat treacherous heading down Van Heyningens, no ankles were twisted and we all arrived safely back at the cars in good spirits.
Wonderful group of hikers, excellent weather, and overall a super weekend.