MKHOMAZI - CYPRUS CAVE WEEKEND - 15-16 SEPTEMBER 2018 - LEADER KEITH ASHTON

Report and photos courtesy of Keith Ashton

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]



This backpacking hike is ideal for participants wanting to sleep in a cave for the first-time, but also for others as there are plenty of opportunities to explore interesting places in the area. I limited the maximum number of participants to six as space is limited in Cyprus Cave and initially we were over-subscribed and I had to turn others away. We did however have a late cancellation but too late to give others the opportunity.

So we had two first-time cave participants, namely Simone Govender and Mark Ashton (our youngest 9 year old grandson) plus Katy Hart and Margaret and Keith Ashton. After completing the formalities at Mkhomazi office we were soon on our way, first crossing the small stream easily (sometimes this can mean wading waist deep after summer rains) and then starting our 2 km long climb. It was a perfect sunny day with just a few wispy clouds and there was no need to rush as Cyprus Cave is only about 4 km from the office so we could take in the beautiful scenery around us without getting too sweaty on our climb. However we were soon stripping off to bare essential clothing as we climbed higher.

We disturbed two mountain reedbuck as we were nearing the top of our main climb and they dashed off into the distance.(Katy had also spotted some eland earlier not too far away from the office area). Also we had good views of Cape vultures circulating overhead which kept our grandson enthralled. Then it was easy going after the climb, along undulating ground before our descent towards the cave area looking down to the junction of two lovely streams and valleys beyond. Cyprus Cave looked very inviting as we approached it with the waterfall cascading just to the right of our sleeping area (not the big flow we normally see in mid-summer). We soon had all our gear out and prepared our sleeping area before we had an early leisurely lunch followed by a bit of play-time in the stream and pool, especially by our grandson Mark who was in his element. Katy and Simone also erected Katy's beach tent in the cave as their "changing area".

Then we set out to explore Cyprus Cave annexe on the other side of the stream before continuing off the beaten track downstream to a deep gorge with waterfalls, spectacular rock formations and a very long deep pool. This created the opportunity for a swim, so it was back to the cave to get swimming gear and towels etc before returning to find a way down the deep gorge to the far end of the deep pool to be able gain access to it - after a bit of bundu bashing we reached an access spot in the stream in order to reach the pool and a good time was had by all - especially Katy and Simone who had a good swim in extremely cold water - Mark had a great time but only up to his waist. (See the photos). After more frolicking it was back to the cave for play-time around the pool, then a game of "beans" in the cave before supper and a long sleep to end a very enjoyable day.

We were up early on Sunday morning ready to have our breakfast, then packing our backpacks to leave the cave by 08h00 and return to our vehicles the same route in reverse, still with perfect weather. As we were back at our base reasonably early we put our backpacks in our vehicles and set off without carrying all that weight along the route towards McKenzie's Caves but when we reached the first stream there was no running water, just stagnant pools so we decided to return and drive back home. We saw no one else in the mountains for two days - absolutely great for us and nature.

Well done to our two new cave dwellers who are now bitten by the cave bug and are really looking forward to their next cave experience. Thanks to Katy and Simone for sharing these precious moments with part of the Ashton family - our grandson can't stop talking about how much he enjoyed himself and will be joining us again on our next cave hike as will Katy and Simone.

Keith


1. Ready to start our hike to the cave
2. First stream crossing - water very low
3. Steadily climbing - getting hotter so outer clothing removed
4. Mark feeling very happy - as the others follow
5. We startle a couple of mountain reedbuck
6. Approaching Cyprus Cave as Mark's pack seems to be getting heavier for him
7. Nearly at Cyprus Cave - below the waterfall


8. Gear organised and time for lunch in the cave for Margaret and Mark
9. Katy and Simone erect small beach tent for clothes changing
10. View from behind cave waterfall
11. Mark's mascot Patch feeling happy in sleeping bag
12. Play time and a relax for Katy, Simone and Mark before our explorations
13. Still a bit more time for Margaret and Mark to play before our explorations
14. Nice view of the cave with Simone foreground and Katy in the cave
15. On our way to explore the area
16. Katy, Simone, Mark and Margaret directly above the cave
17. Katy above the lovely pool near Cyprus Cave annexe
18. The small sleeping area in the Cyprus Cave annexe


19. Exploring the beautiful gorge and waterfalls down-stream of the cave
20. Very deep pool in the gorge as Katy practices the best way to get in.
21. On our way back to the cave to get our swimming gear.
22. Simone and Katy retuning to cave to get swimming gear - Mark already in cave
23. We have to trek across another stream en-route to far end of main gorge
24. Still off-the-beaten track - Cyprus cave in distance
25. Margaret still steep bundu bashing to reach far end of gorge pool
26. At last we can access the stream to get to the deep pool
27. Simone, Mark and Katy making their way to the deep pool
28. Simone giving Mark a hand as Katy climbs a rock shelf above the 3 m deep pool
29. Katy in the deep pool as Simone builds up courage to make the move
30. Brave Katy and Simone as this water is very cold even just for the feet
31. Katy and Simone still enjoying themselves - as no feeling is left in their bodies


32. A lovely view of the beautiful gorge
33. Mark carrying some of Katy and Simone's gear back to them
34. Mark the delivery boy as Katy and Simone have managed to scramble out of the gorge
35. Making our way back to the cave after much fun in the gorge
36. Mark with young legs still going strong as grandma Margaret follows
37. Katy and Simone making their way back to the cave
38. Impressive rock formations - Kamberg Valley is on the other side


39. As the sun starts to set Mark is in his sleeping gear and Margaret already has her down jacket on
40. Lovely early Sunday morning view of the cave
41. Katy and Mark behind the waterfall in the cave
42. All packed and ready to leave the cave on Sunday morning
43. One last silly cave pic as Katy joins the Ashton's one-leg pose
44. A drink stop as we make our way back to Mkhomazi office area
45. Nearly back to base after a very enjoyable weekend




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