Report courtesy of Geoff Caruth, photos by Andy Pepperell

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

The mist lay thick over our house in the Palmiet Valley, Westville, but by the time we wended our way up to Giba Gorge we were greeted by a beautiful clear blue sky over a deep green valley. This was a wonderful start for us, our first hike with the lovely people of the Midlands Hiking Club. Our hike was led by Brian Henwood and the total group amounted to fifteen.

Last of the Summer Wine.

I met the first ladies from our group, Vanessa and Charmaine, and began the name remembering game, easy one-VC, but then along came Kim so it became Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea. Thereafter they arrived in drones and I had to rely on my old mind with help from my Janet to log in the other names. Chairman Andy, and Marlise, were present and Brian started us sharply, a few minutes after 8. After a photo at the Bridge over the River Kwaai, we proceeded into the cool depths of a beautiful stretch of forest.

An easy relaxed walk along a gentle contour brought us out into a grassland flanked by two spectacular krantzes. This was my first venture into the upper Giba gorge and another addition to the amazing number of special spots we have right on our doorstep.

The grassland was in really good nick - thick and matted with bush clumps, including some fine Cussonia spicata - Cabbage trees. We were about a month late for the last of the summer flowers with only a few Watsonia stragglers and a lone Knipophia, Red hot poker, in view, although a few species of Plectranthis were coming into flower in the shaded areas. Birds were conspicuous by their absence in the heat although I heard Boubou shrike, Sombre Bulbul, Natal Francolin, Tinker barbet, Trumpeter Hornbill and Black headed Oriole. The lead group stopped briefly to look at a small raptor above the Krantz but not sure if they made a positive ID, possibly Black Sparrowhawk? Trees seen were fairly typical of the area -(I'll spare you the Latin) and include Pigeonwood, Bridelia, Flat Crowns, Lavender Tree, Tasselberry, Climbing flat Bean, various Fig species, Assegai tree, Umdoni, Swamp Poplar, Buffalo Thorn and Red Beech, among others.

Brian led us down a steep descent and under the N2 bridges - modern works of art, whereunder he gave us a brief, but fascinating talk on the way they were constructed! We proceeded from there to the spectacular MacIntosh Falls and enjoyed a breakfast break. Here I managed to obtain two soft mints from Charmaine's generous hand and through subterfuge, pretending it was for my wife, managed to scale a third! Later on at lunch I repaid her kindness with some slap chips at the rate of three to one, after some tough bargaining! Brian and Janet gathered together a bag of litter and our Leader carried it down to the Entrance complex. Here we enjoyed a well earned lunch under a magnificent shade tree (ID to be confirmed).

The return journey on the road was via a shorter gentle gradient. We stopped in the tunnel under the N2 to examine some 20th and 21st Century Rock Art and emerged on the other side at the bottom of the Giba valley floor. I looked for spoor on the wet areas hoping to pick up Bushbuck but only saw Water Mongoose. We heard a Knysna Loerie (can't get used to the new names. ) After a final photo call, we arrived back where we started just before 2pm - tired but happy after a really wonderful day.

Thank you to all our new friends- Brian for leading us, Andy our Chairman, and the other hikers who helped make this outing a wonderful success!

PS- A thought- The bush on the side below the N2 is heavily infested with aliens-Bugweed , Lantana and Chromolaena. It might be an idea to get a group of people who enjoy this magnificent facility put together by the landowners and show our appreciation by organising an Alien hack in the near future to assist in this difficult battle!?

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T.S. Elliot- "Little Gidding"