Report and photos courtesy of Keith Ashton
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
The forecast was hot (28 C) & sunny with rain later in the afternoon which proved to be accurate.
We (17 keen members) met at the office by 08h00 & due to covid, protocols had to be followed & forms to fill-in. Our participating members were :- Yvonne Lariviere, Libby Deysel, Liezel de Kock & daughter Amelia, Ali Engelbrecht, Rebecca Wakeford, Julia Lloyd, Debbie Giles, Margret Kirsten, Max Ramseier, Peter Wedge, Philip & Christeen Grant, Sue van Malsen, Heather Anderson, Margaret & Keith Ashton. Chris Dobson also attended (not to hike this time) but to hand out membership cards to those members who had paid but not yet received their cards - thanks Chris for that.
Our route started from the office (already in very hot conditions) towards Shelter Falls then left above Shelter Stream to the Cascades waterfall creating a lovely view of strong flowing cascading water meaning we had to cross the track just above the falls using the stepping blocks. Care & balance was needed whilst traversing the stepping blocks as a fall to the right might cause a serious injury, but our nimble hikers all made it safely across. We then took the small track above the Shelter Stream valley with nice views down into the valley, eventually reaching the track down to the Umgeni River but part way down we deviated left along a minor track through the indigenous forest with good views down to the Umgeni, including "Fish Jump Falls". After reaching the route down to Inkonka Camp (the camp now in a very poor state) we took another left turn through the forest & along the Black Eagle Trail until we reached "Hepburn & Anniversary Cottages" which unfortunately are also in a poor state & not available for bookings at the moment. However next to Anniversary Cottage were lovely spots in the shade & this is where we had a rest & snacks & happy banter although our group was really feeling the heat. Unfortunately Heather had a foot problem at this stage & as we still had to hike quite a bit further & over some rough spots it was decided for her to return from this spot as Max had kindly offered to accompany her back to the office with Sue as Sue & Heather were sharing transport. Thanks go to Max for his kind gesture.
Ali was doing a very early 12km trail run from Preston Farm but still wanted to join part of our hike so I explained our route & she arrived at Anniversary Cottage just as we were about to leave. Having Ali's bakkie proved to be extremely useful as you will hear later.
From the cottages we descended down to Indulo Camp (this camp looking reasonable for not as good as days gone by) - After a very short stay we travelled on to Cycad Camp mainly in the shade of the forest trees & had a leisurely lunch in the heart of the clearing in the forest, with of course many cycads. En-route to Cycad camp Philip took up the challenge to climb "Abseil Rock" even though the rope no longer exists. Amelia also posed on the short ladder at the base of the rock but declined the climb up. Ali enlightened us on a very interesting fact about the rock as she, as a little girl, with her father had witnessed this massive rock fall from the escarpment above the Dwarfs Dawdle. This being over 50 years ago when Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve was part of their family farm.
After an enjoyable lunch & a rest is was time for our return hike still in extremely hot conditions & many of our group suffered somewhat, especially as we climbed up from Indulo Camp. Lucky as Ali had parked her bakkie near the top & several members decided to get a lift back to the office in the bakkie. The rest of us continued on foot & besides many other beautiful wild flowers Christeen spotted the first "brunsvigia" just starting to bloom. After a few km Ali returned with her bakkie & more of our members took this option, so only 5 of our group actually did the whole 18 km (Namely - Debbie, Libby, Peter, Margaret A & of course the leader (Not a good advert if the leader does not complete the whole hike). Thanks to Ali for her valuable service with her bakkie & her cheerful demeanour.
Well done everyone - it was a real pleasure to lead such a happy & friendly group of members.
Keep enjoying your hikes.
1. Just above Cascade Falls so don't fall to your right
2. Resting near Anniversary Cottage
3. Feeling the heat Margaret, Peter & Max
4. Lovely spot in the shade for a rest & a chat
5. A contented group of hikers
6. Mother Liezel and daughter Amelia - happy quality time together
7. Wow thats a massive mushroom
8. Rebecca, Margret and Ali - the tree fairies
9. Amelia playing snakes and ladders at Abseil Rock
10. Philip, our own professional guide showing his skill
11. Careful Philip at the top of Abseil Rock
12. Thats more comfortable on top of Abseil Rock
13. Christeen after the steep uphill from Indulo Camp
14. After a very hot tiring day some got a lift back
15. An impala checks out the bakkie & the Pied Piper followers
16. The rain is coming as we near the end of the hike - the falls beyond
17. Libby & Debbie - two of the 5 who completed the whole 18 km
SOME ADDITIONAL PICS FROM CYCAD CAMP LUNCH BREAK