Report and photos by Dave Sclanders
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
On a very cold wintery morning where frost lay all around, 9 of us started from the Douglas Smith cottage where we left our vehicles, and under the firm and knowledgeable leadership of Dusty, a local of the area, we set off at 09h00 sharp. Due to the very cold wind at the cottage, a number of participants had donned extra warm clothes layers. The cottage is set in area of old and very tall gum trees, that made the cottage seem small and insignificant and cold. The road led through this tall treed area almost giving one the impression of walking into "Now where land", but a little while later, the hill started, and what a hill. Up and up to the crest of this giant of a hill, where now and again one could get a glimpse through the foliage of a vast land stretching from far below us to the horizon. Eventually we broke onto the summit.
The crest was a huge area of natural grasslands that had recently been burnt. The views from here were incredible, with the sky being a vivid blue, and allowing views right across the world. A rest was taken, where some of the more overdressed hikers, started to divest of the extra clothing layers put on at the cars. It was a lovely walk along the crest with lots to see and talk about. A little later we came to the point where we had to turn right, and head off in another direction, but first we waited for a few back markers who were enjoying a quiet stroll on a lovely Sunday morning.
We now headed off downhill through very long dry grass. The path was marked by tall blue steel rods with a blue triangle driven into the soil. One had to concentrate to feel the path with your feet as it was well hidden by the long grass. Our first stop here was to get to "Dassie Rock", to get out of the cold wind, and catch a bit of sunwarmth. Then it was downhill again to cross the stream and come to the first path junction where sturdy signs indicated where to head for. The onwards, and upwards through long grass heading for another crest. This area seems to have a lot of individual rocks that stand on end and point to the sky. On our right as we climbed, there were the rocks, like 3 sentinels keeping watch over the area. Over and around the main crest we dropped back into a valley and came to the next well marked junction point. Our route was to go to the right and get to the top of the next ridge where we would have a lunch break.
Lunch from the top of a ridge which gave us a great viewing of a huge area in front of us.
Pic 25 in the middle is the blue of Albert Dam Falls.
Pic 28, right in the background, on the crest of the brown hill, the masts on Mt Gilboa can be seen. A truly "viewsome" lunch spot.
We now faced the daunting challenge of dropping from this high point down a long ridge to the natural forest section which we had to traverse through to get to the old contour road that would get us back to the cottage. When Dusty and I had done the recce some weeks ago, this area was really overgrown and almost not passable through the long overgrowth. However, Dusty had called on his fellows at Mondi Forest, and they had sent forest workers to cut the path for us, and what a magnificent job they had done. Absolutely Bl--dy Marvelous. With a clear path, it was an easy drop to the forest below.
The vegetation that we would have had to push through had the path not been cleared
The walk down the cleared path to the forest entrance was truly a dream come true. View's over the forest canopy continued to be clear and amazing, whereas when we did the recce there was only "eyes down" to see where we might be treading. The entrance to the forest section was a dark hole in the wall of the thick vegetation of the forest edge
The forest traverse was up and down and in and out, with some rather steep and slippery places. The path ducked through breaks in the rock, through tunnels cut through the bush and then into and through lovely forest clearings. The path took the breath out of us once again, and we had regular stops to get the party to come together. Our markers here were strips of Blue material tied to trees and branches as well as Yellow Triangles. The few stream crossing cause some problems as the rocks were damp and covered in moss, and slippery. Nevertheless a very pleasant and pretty part of the hike.
Once out of the forest and onto the old contour way that led us back to the cottage, the vegetation turned to scrub and tall grassland. The path was an easy and pleasant stroll homeward. Later we entered the plantation area again, walking through very tall gum trees that threw long shadows on the path making visibility quite tricky as we stood on or tripped on a myriad of dead and broken branches that littered the road. Eventually the old farm animal enclose appeared, which was a cattle kraal built from cut sandstone rock to hold the farm animals at night , and was close to the cottage. Afternoon gum tree shadows ranged across the enclosure, signaling the ending of a great days hiking.
It was a great hike and a lovely day. All thanks must go to Rusty for putting the day together, and to him and Mondi for clearing the trail for us, and future hikers to this area.
PS PIC 48 – For those who were on this hike, and who debated long and hard as to what this tree stumped depicted, here is your chance to look at it again. You may have to try to look at it in a 3D perspective to make it out. Let me know what you think ??!!!!!
For further information on the Blinkwater Trail/s and huts CONTACT REBECCA: CELL 0827760435
May is now over - the last of the best months to hike the berg in. Great views will now diminish into blue haze as the fire burning volume increase and blocks clear berg views. The grass will become drier and drier, all hikers missions now are - no fires in the berg. Make sure you know where you are going, watch the wind, and watch the horizon for smoke that may indicate a future problem for you. If wind and smoke are coming towards you, start making "evacuation to safe area plans". Don't wait till you can see the fire, it may be too late to get out of its way.
AGAIN A PLEA TO ALL BERG HIKERS - PLEASE FILL IN THE MOUNTAIN WALKING REGISTER PROPERLY AND ACCURATELY, AND GET THE EMERGENCY NUMBER OF THE OFFICE FROM WHICH YOU LEAVE. IT IS IN YOUR BEST INTEREST AT ALL TIMES.
Don't see it as a nuisance, see it as your insurance in a time of emergency