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June/July 2002 Newsletter

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Dear fellow Members,
I hope that it has been a good couple of months for you all and that you have been out in the natural world getting the all important exercise. Just think that you can self-medicate with a good pair of boots on your feet and some distance behind you. Time Magazine in their article entitled "Walk, Don't Run', came close to finding a "magic cure" (quote) Regular physical activity is probably as close to a magic bullet as we will come in modern medicine (unquote). Of all the sporting activities you can take part in, it is pleasantly surprising to find that walking seems to be the most beneficial to your health. Many people are very sceptical of low intensity 'pleasant' exercises such as walking as they believe the saying "No pain, no gain". However, although there can be no doubt that high-intensity exercise, such as jogging and aerobics, offer more immediate results, evidence suggests that low-intensity exercise can have the same effects in the longer term with the added advantage of having less of a strain on the body. We also need to balance regular exercise with good food and the Time magazine article entitled 'Foods that Pack a Punch' interestingly states that the fruit and veggies which pack the most punch are the ones that are rich in colour - spinach, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes and carrots. The other foods listed are nuts, oats, tuna, sardines and pilchards, garlic and ordinary and/or green tea. I am very pleased to see that red wine is listed too! It is one of the excellent things that I have come to know since arriving in this - the fairest Cape of them all - the appreciation of this dark, rich red beverage, the fruit of the vine.

Margie and I have certainly had a great couple of months, doing some enjoyable walks and trails - notably the weekend away at the Bontebok National Park in Swellendam. It was a great getaway and my appreciation and compliments to Denise Hopkins for being so pro-active in organizing this all.

Something else that was of great interest to me was helping Margie, who was called by SANCCOB, which is that wonderful organization who work tirelessly for the conservation of coastal birds. We went there to help wash oil off the charming little fellows in their dress suits - the African penguin, no longer called the Jackass as that was derogatory. So we scrubbed and rinsed, to return their little chests from oily black to bright white. Isn't it just too wonderful to know that they, who would surely have died, can now be returned to live on their own beach, wherever that may be. The care taken is immense, from eye ointment to darrows, from innoculation to tabard, carefully rubbed onto their heads to stop a particular pesky mosquito nipping them as they are also prone to a certain type of malaria.

There was also a whole host of gannets who had been sent in to be washed from Malgas - I know now why sometimes I was told not to eat 'like a gannet' as when I watched them being fed, not only did they easily swallow about 3 or 4 large sardines, but would readily have taken a sardine out of some other bird's beak as it was trying to line it up, head first, then slide down its throat.

It was altogether a well spent Sunday and as they are in need of volunteers it may be a suggestion to offer your services, particularly when a hike has been cancelled due to inclement weather over a weekend. Margie, being daft on animals, volunteered way back and when I asked her the inevitable question of WHO would come first - the animal in need or myself - the answer to that, I will tell you in the next Newsletter!

Have a great time !
Cheers and God bless, JAMES.

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Fifteen of us set off from Constantia Nek in ideal cool but sunny weather. This made the push up the hill quite pleasant and the climb up Constantia Corner through the amazing fynbos was a pleasure.

After tea in sight of the camel, we carried on around De Villiers Dam, through the hole (some chickened out!) and on to the magic forest. Following the leader as always - we went through nooks, past crannies, around boulders, over rocks and under the old man's beard to a special lunch-spot.

After lunch the weather really closed in and visibility became almost zero so we opted to head in the general direction of coffee and cake, rather than Reserve Peak! This was a great hike - thanks, Rory.

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Brave band of travellers : Deborah, Robin and Victoria, Helen, Doug, Ariane, Di, Juliette, Annake, Vera, Paul, Gavin, Richard, Brett, Jill and Carola. We set off for what promised to be another exciting five day hike in the Cedarberg mountains on 27 April but, by the end of three days, had to curtail the hike by a day because of the weather. We were a large party of 17 in all, and it was a gathering of good friends, so lots of news was exchanged.

Having reached Welbedacht, the first day's walk was relatively short as we made our way up a ravine to the shale band that circumscribes the mountains in this part of the Cedarberg. We pitched camp after a further hour's walking and made supper as the full moon rose above the horizon into a clear sky populated by a myriad of stars.

However, our second day showed signs of what was to come as we had a relatively flat walk around the base of Sneeukop Mountain, but met an increasingly fierce wind. On arrival at the intended campsite, we found no water and, barring the unappealing Sneeukop hut, no shelter from the wind, so we back-tracked until we could find a sheltered area in which to make camp. This happened to be at the head of Engelmanskloof where the path descended down to Christal Pools. There was a lovely pool to freshen up in nearby, but some were braver than others in plunging in to the cold water (actually there were only two brave enough to do it, the hike leader being one of those). A glorious sunset accompanied our supper and we watched a giant gnome try his luck at fishing with a heavy wooden rod, silhouetted against a deep red sky. (in case you fear we were taking something quite strong with supper, we can explain that this was one of many 'figures' that we made out from the fascinatingly weathered rock (the gnome) juxtaposed against the trunk of a dead cedar tree (the fishing rod!).

Despite the old theory of the red sky at night, we woke the next morning under a cloudy blanket with a heavy drizzle dampening the tents. It was decided that we would abandon the day's planned hike and stay in our tents waiting for the weather to cleared. Those who had carried papers or books were very content and snug in their tents and there were chances to do short walks later when the weather cleared. Another glorious sunset filled the sky as we had supper and the gnome had another try at catching his! We settled for the night, but had a rude awakening at about 3 am when the tents started to contort into amazing shapes in the face of a howling wind which did not abate until well into the next day. Thankfully only one tent gave way but this was no consolation for Deborah, Robin and Victoria who had a very early start to the day!

In the light of the fierce wind and the high wind chill factor, which probably drove temperatures well below zero, there was no disagreement with Mervyn's carefully considered decision to head for home a day early by re- tracing our steps, via the Sleeppad Hut for a late but sheltered breakfast. We were all relieved to reach the cars and, although disappointed that the exciting route planned had had to be abandoned, we were in good spirits as we reflected on our shared adventure. Our legacy was to leave the hills alive with the 'Sound of Music' as Victoria's tuneful choir had enthusiastically sung the songs from the movie!

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Hikers: Karen, Vera and Paul

Our experience on the Otter Trail ranged from Mervyn's nine previous visits down to none and so there was much expectation as we drove up to Nature's Valley on the Saturday and made supper at the Nature's Valley Guest House. There was also some apprehension about the weather, as the previous week in Cape Town had been cold and wet. We had a leisurely start on the Sunday as the first day of hiking was a short one and as we had elected to watch a video too. The walk to the first hut, with a lunch stop and a chance to admire the waterfall, was accomplished in around three hours and the weather was bright but cold. This meant-that, after cooking and eating supper, we headed straight for our sleeping bags, with Vera clutching the little hot-water bottle she had, with great foresight, purchased. AlI the huts slept six and had a wood working surface for cooking and ready access to clean water, but the .main features were the external flush toilets. The one-way glass windows and magnificent coastal locations made for the best views any toilet could offer!

The next two days of hiking were both just under 8 kms and included plenty of up-and-downs as we moved from the shoreline up to the top of headlands and then down again. We had lovely beaches on which to stop for lunches and great view spots where we could look along the coastline and enjoy the power of the crashing waves and the beauty of the plants and indigenous forest. The days were bright and we had distant sightings of a whale and several schools of dolphins. We also saw otter -spoor at Blue Bay and were a little sad that the otter had only just passed by and that this might be the closest we would come to an encounter with an otter.

However, after breakfast at Oakhurst on Day 4 on the banks of the Lottedng River, the other party of hikers (6 running friends who had organized the hike as a reunion) alerted us to the presence of an otter in the river mouth and we caught a fleeting glimpse of it swimming across to rocks on the far side. After this eventful start to the day we loaded up our backpacks somewhat apprehensively as we now faced the longest day on the trail (nearly 14 kms) and the most difficult of the many five crossings - the infamous tidal mouth of the Bloukrans River - but we rejoiced in the warmth of the day and the lightening of our loads after good suppers en route! After some 5 kms, dolphins were spotted just offshore and we decided to have a tea break to watch them. They swam around for a while and one leapt gracefully at least twice its body length out of the water on several occasions. Then we noticed other shapes in the water closer to us - we now had three otters in view! One otter did not stay around, but the other two gave us a wonderful display of swimming, diving and fishing. We were able to bring them very close through the binoculars - it was infinitely better than watching a wildlife film! We saw them feeding fish and crabs into their mouths and one got out onto a ledge for a while to enjoy its catch. We could even see their incisors and whiskers when their faces were out of the water. It was a magical encounter and it was hard to drag ourselves away for the next leg of the hike.

We made good progress though, and, after a good lunch, moved down to the Bloukrans at mid-tide. As had become usual, Karen tackled the river crossing on a 'trial run' and reported back on the various options. We stowed our possessions into waterproof bags in our backpacks then prepared to wade into the water - taking either a longer, shallower route to rocks and the far side from where it was possible to walk along the rocks to the point where you can climb the cliff, or taking a more direct route where the water came up to wait or chest level, depending on your size. Which ever route was chosen, we all arrived safely, with dry packs, on the other side and, after drying off, completed the final few kilometres to the next under under a golden sky.

After rising early in the morning to a beautifully lit cliff face overlooking the bay, the weather deterioriated so that we had a little rain as we walked the last few kilometres to Nature's Valley for a long-awaited hot shower and tasty cooked lunch. Rather than make the journey home in one long drive, we all decided to stay over at a Spa in Calitzdorp for the night and enjoyed soaking in the piping hot water and reflecting on a hike that had come as close to perfection as could be expected this side of heaven!

Postscript - For those of you to missed this Otter, it was one in a lifetime, never to be repeated. The leader rates this trip as a 1 0/1 0, after having hiked the Otter at nine other times in the last 12 years. Good luck to those that follow - you have something to aim for!

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SWARTBERG TRAIL Monday 27 May - Saturday 1 June 2002
Hike Leader: PAUL TAYLOR

Present: Paul, Marie-Paul, Dieter, Conrad, Jenny, Ramona (Froggie) Vincent and Moi.

We left from the Enviro Centre early Monday morning and took our time driving through the beautiful Hex River Valley Pass, to Worcester, Ashton, Robertson, Montague, Barrydale, Ladysmith, Calitzdorp and thence through Oudtshoorn to about 20 kms. outside to our first night's ramp site at de Hoek. Actually not so far from the Cango Cave turn-off. What fun to sight all the ostriches running around, boys and girls, black and brown, in the lush green fertile fields. -They certainly cater for the tourists in this part of the world, crocodile farms, cheetah farms, the works. Also interesting to note the number of backpackers' places and B & B's available in and out of Oudtshoorn, literally dozens of them.

We had an excellent braai that night getting to know each other (5 members and 3 visitors*) and pitched our tents in the huge, very clean and beautifully kept camp site which we had all to ourselves bar an elderly couple who came in later that evening in their kombi, who also took a group photo next morning. (-credentials' included a geologist, microbiologist, ornithologist, IT software development specialist, ex-Navy/handyman, conservation biologist, teacher and textiles packaging coordinator - not to be scorned, noghal).

Next morning at 08h3O we started the ascent - up, up, up to a climb of about 1500m in all - laden with full rucksacks, blown by a strong Northwester wind, tailwinds, crosswinds, were we ever so pleased to have our tea break. By then the temperature was failing rapidly and we all donned warmer clothing. during this stop. In fact, when attempting to take my trousers out of my rucksack the wind actually blew them over the rocks and I had to scurry to retrieve them - what a relief to have warm legs though! Poor Marie-Paul and I were knocked over on several occasions being tail end charlies and definitely the slowest of our group of 8. At this stage we both questioned our sanity as to why on earth we were doing what we were doing when we needn't have been doing it ... Below us we could still see the camp site but getting smaller and smaller the higher we climbed. A welcome lunch break mid-afternoon, more warm clothes donned however. Oh, what beautiful countryside all around us. We could see the Outeniqua Mountains, the Meiringspoort Range, the Swartberg Mountains, the whole panoramic 360 degree view, 7 ranges of mountains all folding behind each other - too awesome for words. The reserve itself is made up of 121 000 ha of diverse vegetation featuring renosterveld, mountain fynbos, Karoo-veld, spekboom veld and numerous geophyte and bulb species. We heard more than saw birds but thanks to our ornithologist, Dieter, whereas I saw about 3, he saw about 20 and I will list all the birds spotted later on for all them bird lovers out there! The weather he explained would have kept them away, they'd be lying low in the bushes keeping warm. Not moving around getting colder like us!

Our first night after about 12,3 kms. was spent at Gouekrans Hut. (We found the brochure issued to be not quite accurate on heights and distances, however). What a lovely hut, it sleeps 24 people and we were just S. It also had a balcony which had a panoramic view over the landscape dominated by Cape fold mountains. We marvelled at a weak but glorious sunset and even found some wood left by 4 x 4 travellers whom we truly blessed as the weather was getting ever colder by the minute. We enjoyed the fire in the chimney place right by the inevitable table with bench chairs and had wonderful fireside chats with lots of interesting stories. Out came the scotch or O.B. for those who tippled which tastes even more delicious at higher altitudes! The rooms themselves were so interestingly constructed having been built into the actual rock itself with a concrete furrow in front behind the bunks. The 2 loos and 2 showers (for those who braved C-O-L-D water) were in perfect running order, the picturesque quarry stone hut itself was in immaculate condition, all the doors and shwers had been recently painted white - very impressive indeed! Definitely the best hut of the 3 we slept in.

Next morning at 08h30 (we got to know our trusty leader's timing, always the same!) after breakfasting and sweeping we set off - not long after light rain came down, so on came the all-weather gear. And then it really started pouring and then it really got cold and then it got even more cold and still colder. Paul had the problem of trying to put on his brand new gloves with frozen hands and couldn't understand why one finger wouldn't go in - but it had been stitched up so with Vincent's aid he finally avoided frostbite. All that wind of the previous day then hit us with firstly fine mist, then heavy mist, then no view, then rain which turned to - aaggh - sleet which turned to - double aaggh - SNOW! (And Paul had deliberately chosen end May to do this trail because no rain was predicted!). I will never forget the sight of Vincent with his special souwaster given to him when he visited Niagara Falls not to get wet from the spray - looking more like Batman about to take off, flapping in the wind. Well the next couple of hours were pretty taxing and afterwards we discussed our particular'nightmares' before getting to the hut half dead (for me at least) some 12,8kms later. Our backpacks were covered in snow and ice, our feet and hands were totally frozen, we were wet through (despite rain gear) and quite low in spirits. Dieter was a shining star dispensing life-saying Kitkat which we devoured whilst building up piles of icy water from our discarded clothing in one room of the hut. What a disappointment this hut was, cold, gloomy, fireless. 4 loos in non-working order, ceilings falling down and a very cursory dining area adjacent to the one bedroom in front with two bedrooms at the back. Badly constructed, the man who designed it must have bad a severe migraine that day. Jenny and Conrad, having moved to a back room, then moved back to the front - so cold it was, the shutters flapping in the wind, impossible to get warm, let alone keep warm. We spent the afternoon drinking cup-of-soup to warm up, then tea, then coffee, then more soup, then by 6 when it was dark and we'd all eaten. So we started the first of our card evenings - I must tell you we 8 are now all expert at UNO and HEARTS which Froggie taught us. As is so often the case, the wonderful camaraderie shared with fellow hikers after a gruelling and tough day comes through, lots of laughter, jollity, fun, jokes and more fun - totally healing stuff. Then you relate the events of the day and out come your fears or worries that you wouldn't have made it but we all did and survived to tell the tale! In the brochure they write of climatic extremes with very cold winters, often with snow on the mountains and temperatures well below zero. Conrad had previously hiked it some years before when he experienced just the opposite - an uncomfortably hot 40 - 42C weather every day and they just about died from sunstoke and heat exhaustion. Extreme is also translated in the Oxford Dictionary as very intense - no kidding!

At this stage Paul decided if tomorrow, Day 3, didn't bring sunshine we couldn't risk having no spare warrn gear at all and we would have to abort the trail.. I think at one stage I was almost wishing this would happen, though now I would deny it as being a total wimp and having experienced what we did. We were thrilled watching the snow fall inside the bare hut rather than actually walking in it, that's definitely the truth!

Next morning - magic - SUNSHINE. Weak and watery at 08H00 but clear. blue skies, I promptly kissed the ground with total joy, A white wonderland awaited us, all that water had turned to ice, or it had turned to snow on the surrounding peaks. Why bother to go to Europe, we had it right there! Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Fortunately for us that 3rd day was walking on the jeep track throughout - about 13,3 kms. which we easily accomplished by lunchtime stopping just for tea, reaching Ou Tol at about I pm where we decided to have a HOT lunch - soup has never tasted so good. Having had to don our wet and sodden clothes on our bodies that morning and the subsequent walking off drying them reasonably well, we could now strip off and don warm clothing and within minutes of arrival outside the house looked like a Chinese laundry. Socks, boots, sleeping bags, tops, bottoms, gloves, beanies, the works, all hung out to dry in the glorious sun. It was well timed for us, we needed the rest and we needed the warmth from the previous day's hard labour and cold. Once the sun set the drafty house became very cold very quickly, it being in a valley just below the actual top of the dirt road Swartberg Peak itself at 1583m. This pass, incidentally, was proclaimed a National Monument in its centenary in 1988. A chill wind blew in every room but we had the luxury of a kitchen with a sink. We heard a couple of 4 by 4's pass us but luckily had the whole house to ourselves (too fancy for a 'hut', it used to belong to a ranger and actually sleeps 24 people there being another house at the back) which was great. We all helped collect alien (pins) firewood and cones determined to have a warm fire that night in the huge fireplace in the front room. I can honestly relate to the readers of this laborious tale IT WAS THE BEST FIRE I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED! We loved it so and didn't want to leave its dying warmth some 415 hours later so Marie-Paul, Dieter, Froggis and I actually slept right there after a wonderful evening of card playing re-using precious candle wax over and over again. Alas the warmth eventually went and once more we huddled into our dry sleeping bags (emphasis on DRY, yippee!),

Again Mother Nature favoured us next morning and at - you've guessed it - 08h3O we left Ou Tol walking up the Pass itself to Die Top. Here Jenny was able to find out from her Mother that young Malcolm wasn't missing her! Vincent was able to phone his sons for a weather forecast and life almost "returned to normal" with people using their cellphones! Then began our real challenge - up to the highest point of our trail - first to Albertberg at 1673m in the snow and ice - quite an experience when climbing up and not on a jeep track - only to be told by Paul this was a 'false' summit and horror of horrors, we then had to schlepp up to Oliewenberg at 1856,6m. Well we were truly tried and tested being weary still from the previous days and thankfully at the top had what remained of our dwindling food by way of lunch. I must relate that we were absolutely privileged to see views for hundreds of kilometers in almost every direction. The scenery is so rugged and we had to be particularly careful with every single step - it is daunting, to say the least, climbing on ice and I was so thankful I had my skiing stick (named Elkins, what a friend!). By now our injuries were catching up with us, Froggie's ankle was really hassling her and Conrad and Vincent's legs were bright pinky red from the cold (how those men could hike in shorts at zero temperatures will always amaze me!), one of my ankles felt about I 00 years old, Marie-Paul was having a bad hair wash day and so for-the but - intrepid as ever - we then went down, down, down and back to Bothashoek hut. At one stage M-P and I said if only we could go back down to the camp but the 12,6 kms. done that day was enough, especially as we'd further depleted our energy with snowball fights along the way. By this time we just wanted to get out of our boots and rest our derrieres and take off our boots. We had a couple of hours' sunshine still to enjoy before the oh-so-cold nightfall came but saw another beautiful sunset across the way. That night although the sky was punctured with beautiful stars and we saw Orion's Belt, the Southern Cross, Scorpio, etc., (as had been sighted at Ou Tol) at some stage during the night the weather once again turned foul and fortune did not smile on us again. (This was the night Hansie Cronje & 2 SAA pilots went down not so far from us as the crow flies and it is totally believable how it happened in that terrible inclement weather).

Our last day - Saturday - was only a half day's hike of some 8,7 kms. and we first went up to the ridge behind the hut, then down, down, down once more in the snow and later in the rain. We were really thankful to see the camp site once more and dying for a HOT shower - but alas, this pleasure was denied us much to Conrad's chargrin who was understandably hopping mad. We then proceeded to the rondawels in Oudtshoorn where Paul had so wisely booked 6 of us, to wind down before returning to Cape Town, Jenny and Conrad then leaving us to spend the night with rellies in George and there we got our amazing hot shower ... what's worth waiting for ... THE BEST EVER!

These included orange breasted sunbird, malachite sunbird, ground woodpecker, protea canary, red winged starling, Cape bunting, Cape rock jumper, Cape sugar bird, spotted prinia, grass bird, Cape siskin, jackal buzzard, Cape eagle owl, black eagle, rock kestrel, yellow rumped widow, fiscal shrike, house sparrow and finally, Cape francolin.

- Paul -'Cape Nature Conservation said to turn it down' (just the 8 of us in 121 000 ha of nature!) - stated whilst playing cards in Bothashoek hut 2nd visit. - Marie-Paul -"'What do you mean the rules have changed AGAIN?" - stated when playing UNO our last night in the rondawel after supper in town.- Dieter -"Some sources might say'"... (guessing how far below zero the temperature had plummeted to whilst trying to sleep!) - stated during last night in Bothashoek Hut trying to get to asleep yet again.- Conrad - 'Didn't you know that balaclavas are great for catching croutons in?' (whilst drinking soup in all his available warm clothing, he actually picked them up and promptly ate them too) - stated the last afternoon at Bothashoek Hut. Jenny -'Let's have a kilometre competition' (somewhere someplace sometime) - stated on the Swartberg Trail. Froggie -'God Bless America/God Bash America!' (all 7 of us definitely went up in our educational knowledge of the good US of A - an amazing lady to have along with a wicked sense of humor to boot) - stated throughout the trail. Vincent -'Wake up, it's SNOWING!" (@ 2pm in the morning with poor Paul fast asleep, then waking up fast, getting out of his bunk to 'defend' himself, hitting his head hard on the bunkhead above, thinking it was an intruder (a gennet came to mind, then readying himself to lash out and Vincent oh-so- nearly nearly got Paul's right fist good and proper by way of contact stated during lst night in Bothashook Hut. Moi - THE END (thankfully for you all!).

Thank you, Paul for a wonderful trip from the whole team, it was so aptly planned and lead by you and also for the lovely follow-up evening when we all sighted each others' photographs and saw Dieter's marvelous slide show. Bravo!

SWARTBERG HIKING TRAIL: 28 May - 1 June 2002

My thanks go to members Conrad, Jenny, Margie and Marie-Paul and to visitors Dieter, Ramona and Vincent for helping to make this an enjoyable and memorable hike, notwithstanding the adverse weather conditions and the one below standard hut in which we had to spend two nights. We battled high winds, rain, driving sleet, intense cold and yes - snow. However, on the summit route day we had glorious sun, which made the whole hike worthwhile.

A special thanks go to Dieter who has put some of his digital photos on a website. These can be viewed at http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/stats/adu/travel/swartberg.htm

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In Winter Capetonians expect it to rain every weekend, thus putting a hiatus on their Trails Club doings. I can never fathom this one out, one can always dry oneself and warm up at the nearest pub. So when Sunday 3oth broke and promised to be a fine day 13 members, one pending member, and one visitor met with Tony to climb to the top of Helderberg Dome. At the outset Tommy confessed that as he had not recced the route this would be a recce. He wanted to get to the Dome from the other side and not go up the eternal Jeep tracks on the Holderberg Reserve side. So we found our way to Helderborgplaas, a very beautiful spot off the road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch. We paid our dues and received a map and off we went.

Now I must explain to my dear readers that our intrepid group consisted of a very fit, fast group and a fit, slower group and a fit, but very slow group. All was well until our fast group got to the place where it was possible to either turn left or right. They went left. We followed them. Big mistake! We now did the all time Trails Club record BUNDU BASH. We all surrendered to the Mountain gods, they will be satisfied for quite some time. All was not grim, however, as we saw a Black Eagle and what looked like a smaller raptor (Birds of the feathered kind are not my thing) engaged in aerial combat. The smaller one apparently protective of its young. The fynbos was very dense. As Margie remarked, 'I have never disliked a Protea before.' Anyway, we all reached the tea/lunch spot eventually. Here it was decided that, as we had left late because a member's car would not start and a friend had gone to pick him up, and it had taken much longer than expected to negotiate the bundu, we would abandon our plan to do the Dome and go up West Peak instead.

Now I think I should explain why we had attempted the all-time record. The very fast group should have gone, right. After/lunch and West Peak and after enjoying the superb views, we started our descent. A clear path led us down to the mountain. I was back marker so, of course, I was at the back. Half way down I happened to see two of the semi-fast group coming back UP a route I had not seen before. And way down on a road taking them away from the cars, was the larger, very fast group. We signaled to our two wayward comrades where the correct path was and waited for them to catch the slow group up. The very fasties were now out of sight. All was not lost, however, as we all met up at the Tea Garden on the plaas eventually.

Tony refused to compensate me for the loss of skin and blood saying that he had made a little speech before we started in which he said, we cannot hold him nor the Club responsible. Anyways the beer at the River Club went some way in assuaging the pain.

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Present - Margie, James, Deryck, Sandy, Erica, Norman, Margaret, Denise, Gaynor, -Val, Jen. Plus Rod, Libby and their 2 juniors (who camped).

Wonder who Marloth was? Perhaps I wasn't listening. (Ed. Jen, I think he was one of the early engineers who lived in Swellendam in days of yore), But nothing worried us on a wonderful weekend, getting, away from it all. We thank Denise for her initiative in planning this and introducing us to the beauty of the Marloth Reserve.

We arrived Saturday early afternoon and did a short walk in the Marloth Reserve, having dumped our stuff at our accommodation, which was in the Bontebok Nature Reserve on the other side of the National Road opposite Swellendam.

It had been difficult to understand how a caravan was attached to a Wendy house type of communal room, for our accommodation! But, Io and behold, that was exactly it and it was quite comfortable. Great fortitude on the part of determined men who did a braai for us outside on Saturday night, in between quite heavy showers of rain. They just looked a bit wet afterwards but our meat, potatoes, etc., were done to a turn. Thanks, guys! Sunday was a sparkling sunny day but we set off with every possible warm garment, from gloves to beanies, to keep out the early morning chill as the Reserve was in shade nearly all morning. Steep uphill for about an hour, to start with, so the peeling of garments happened pretty promptly. Then fairly easy walking except for several downs and ups as we crossed ravines. Water was gushing in one such and we struggled to get across - all managed to keep dry except for Margie who thought the water might just be something more interesting and sat down in it to have an early snort! Stopped for lunch in brilliant sunshine and then made our way bark to the cars, with various uncertainties about the best way, so interesting bits and pieces were added!

A great braai again the second night and then a lovely walk along the river in the Bontebok Reserve when the 'birders' amongst us could use our binos. Finally a L-0-N-G drive back (with James and Margie leading the pack of cars) to check that the brochure was not lying about the variety of buck in the Bontebok Reserve. Still not very convinced! By the end of this drive it was nearly lunch-time and we found an excellent restaurant 'La Belle Alliance' in Swellendam, where we could sit outside and enjoy sunshine and great food and service. Then ... some said "we must go to the Fairie Sanctuary" and I thought" do we HAVE to?". But we all went and it was an enchanting and most entertaining experience. The human fairies (husband and wife) who have established the place are to be seen to be believed. We can recommend it.

Long Weekend in June - Hike Leader/Reporter - DENISE HOPKINS
Hikers: Myself, Sandy, Gaynor, Val, Jen, Erica, Deryck, Norman and Margaret, James and Margie, Rod, Libby and children.

Swellendam - named after Hendrik van Swellen (grebel) and his wife Helena ten Dam (me). Third oldest town in the Cape, officially established in 1745. Swellendam declared itself an independent republic in 1795, thus briefly becoming the first independent European-ruled colony in Africa.

James and Margie were late. A shopping trip into the dorp (I believe to buy essentials like wine, only to discover the Bontebok Park wasn't so badly stocked after all), Our chalavans can be recommended (that's what you get when you mate a caravan with a chalet). Double beds and 4 singles, fully equipped fridge, gas cooker, bedding, crockery and cutlery, chairs, braai grid, etc., at R44 p.p.p.n. Saturday afternoon we bundled into our cars and rattled down the gravel road to the Marloth Nature Reserve. The guard wasn't on duty so we got in for nothing. Shhhh! A ramble up hills and down a zig-zag and onto private ground (oops) where we watched horses graze while we grazed on our tea and koek. And on to stretch our legs through the village. 'Town and Country' Rod titled this walk and that it was. It rained solidly for an hour that night but Norman had made such a great braai, not even the great flood could have put it out. The party continued inside Chalavan No. 4 while the storm raged on. Competitions were held to see who could stand on one leg the longest. Yes, you're right, they weren't drinking coffee. Didn't sleep too well that night as my bunk was rather narrow and Norman gently rattled the van with his snoring. Margaret says he is going to get his own bedroom son if he doesn't watch out!

The next day dawned spectacular. Not a cloud in sight but the Reserve was very wet. Our ascent to Die Plaat (a very long contour path) was accompanied by hymns from the local church, way down below. He who walks in front gets wet feed (and cobwebs). Guess whose boots need sealing? My socks had collected so much water I had to wring them out at lunchtime. We shared views over fresh fynbos, pine forests and the town in the distance. It was quite rewarding to look back over the distance we had walked. Everyone seemed suitably impressed with the day. (Ed. You've hit the nail on the head, Denise!) Another great braai that evening, we had every type of drink possible. Wine, beer, port, even schnapps! Lots of cookies too, Tex, Aero, Mint crisps, Bar Ones and everyone's favorite @ Albany.

We packed an Monday morning before proceeding on a short hike around the Bontebok Park along the river, primarily to spot birds but a fresh breeze coming up from the South kept them away. A game drive around the park on the way out proved too long and boring for some and thoughts of a late afternoon doze disappeared out the car window. We stopped and stared at all the buck and they stared back at us. Lunch was held in the dorp at a very pleasant restaurant next to the river. Five stars for the quick and efficient service.

Our last port of call was to the Faerie Sanctuary, home to an eccentric middle- aged couple who spend their time lovingly tending the faeries, goblins and mushrooms in their rustic garden. Sandy could hardly keep her face straight when she met the lady of the house but the long flowing fairy dresses on the washing line should have prepared her for what was coming. A young-at- heart but old girl with long flowing grey tresses in a long pastel dress led us around the house pointing out the delicate ornaments for sale. I think we all left with a little keepsake.

The rare CAPE BONTEBOK (Damaliscud dorcas dorcas) was once nearly extinct. A careful breeding programme and preservation in parks such as the Bontebok National Park has ensured its survival. The Blue-buck (Hippotragus leucophaeus) was not so fortunate, confined to the Overberg, it was hunted to extinction by 1800, becoming the first recorded African mammal to become extinct. It was closely related to the roan and sable antelopes.

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BOKKOP PEAK, SILVERMINE - Saturday 8 June 2002

Present: Sandy, Jo, Lenny, Jenny M, Heather, Peter P, Fizz, Sam, Denise, Yvonne, Virginia and Moi.

12 of us, good and true (non-rugby supports, nogal) met on the reservoir side of Silvermine to join Sandy on her maiden voyage as Hike Leader for the first time. Despite the light rain around the mountain, most of us took a chance in the hopes it would be walkable. Our only man up to then was Peter P, who was most relieved when Tommy and Yvonne pitched up but - alas - Tommy was off to play tennis and not hike, so Peter was once again let loose on the girls. Fortunately as we were about to commence our trail, Lenny rocked up - oh, the sheer relief on Peter's face! After the initial greetings, etc., Sandy told us she may or may not stick to her intended route, weather permitting. Well all the Gods were on her side as no rain fell during our +/- 3 hours of walking although later that night it simply poured down and for most of the next day, in some places. It was a lovely, easy walk with superb views which were enhanced by a weak sun from time to time with some sea breezes thrown in.

Our tea spot was 2/3rds up on Bokkop Peak itself and Sandy mentioned for those who wanted to, they could go on up to the beacon itself, which 5 people took up, and what a superb view of Noordhoek, Long Beach and Sun Valley - well worth the extra slog. It's amazing how quickly one cools off and we didn't prolong our tea stop but set off once again more or less parallel to the jeep track where we'd started, but this time following the course of the river. This was in full spate having been filled up earlier and the beautiful brown river water dashing over the rocks was quite awesome. At one stage there was quite a little waterfall to navigate but we all crossed over safely and thence back to the cars, about 5 kms. in all.

Well done, Sandy, keep it up! And you didn't even use up your initial allotment of losing 10%, let alone the 'allowable' 30% for first time Hike Leaders!

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In the morning I awoke to find an overcast day. The weather boffins had forecast rain for the afternoon. When I was young, I took the boffins seriously. But now I am older and wiser! So I packed my rucksack with a liter of water and a thermos of Rooibos and the leftovers of last night's pasta, and proceeded to Hout Bay, there to meet Tommy and the hordes of TCSA members who wanted to hike to Chapman's Peak, and gaze at the wonderful views Tommy had promised us. All 1 8 of us set off from East Fort, up the Jeep track to the contour path. Here some of us decided that the tops we were wearing had got us all sticky and wet and much too warm. Stripping took place. On we went, past the waterfall of Blackburn's Ravine and up the muddy, zigzagging path towards the lonely, fog shrouded peak of Chapman. The weather was threatening. All this time I looked out for the views promised by our leader. In vain. Onwards, towards the Peak. Some of us had by now decided that we had stripped off too much, so out came the warmer tops and even waterproofs. At the cross paths Tommy called a conference. Democratically, we decided that as we could not even see the Peak, we would find some respite from the wine, which was now blowing a few knots below @ale force, and have our lunch. Then we would turn around and return to our start. Never has a cup of rooibos and some cold pasta been more welcome. Off we went, back along the path, It now started to drizzle. Then it started to rain. The boffins had got it half right. It was still just noon, not yet afternoon. I waited for snow. The walking was mostly along a, mercifully, flat path, high above a grey sea. Needless to say the return trip did not reveal the promised views. The path became muddy, the rain drops beat endlessly on my new hat. A very wet bedraggled bunch of Trail Clubbers eventually arrived back at the parking opposite Chappies Hotel. Here some unashamedly changed into dry clothes while others, not so foresighted, wrapped themselves in old car mats to drive home. Another adventure successfully carried out by the Trails Club, Tommy, it seems that you and I are fated never to reach the Peak together! Thanks from all who shared this adventure with you!

Ed. Peter, your literary expertise is definitely coming to the fore - congratulations! We eagerly await more articles in following Newsletters).

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News from our Social Secretary, Denise Hopkins

14 of us turned up to see the slides on the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan. It's just as well we weren't more as there wasn't s spare seat available! The magnificent slides were deserving of a full house. One was glad to be an armchair traveller to this far outpost, merely observing the exquisite scenery and not having to participate in this strenuous hike, which involved a lot of climbing and time in the snow. We compared notes over drinks at a local hotel afterwards.
Unusual sightings - Derryk '"Kortbroek" Archer in long pants

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We traveled a lot further than originally intended on this wet winter's evening, as despite sworn affidavits from the IMAX that Kilimanjaro would still be on at the designated date and time, it wasn't. Luckily for me, the grapevine seems to work and 9 techno boffs eagerly turned up to see the Space Station. We had a fantastic trip, all at a fraction of the price Mark Shuttleworth had to pay. It was so real we could have been there - the take off, the trip, the sights, and the learning curve. Ladies, if you ever have the occasion to go out into space be careful what hairstyle you choose. Slick and short is best, believe me, unless you want your weightless hair to fill every last corner of the shuttle. Talk about 'big hair!'. And then onto Ferrymans for a drink and to say goodbye to Fritz Strempel who is presently traveling in Europe, visiting family.
Unusual sightings - Jenny Linford - anyone remember her? Haven't seen Jenny for years!

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Was that mid-Winter or mid-Summer? What a hot and balmy evening! 19 of us gathered around a very long table for superb food, drinks and non-stop chatter. Musical chairs kept the conversation going. Everyone agreed that it was a 'Iekker ' evening - a great success!
Unusual sightings - Deryck Archer in long pants again (the same ones I saw him in the last time, it's probably the only pair he has) and Geoff Barton looking almost unrecognisable in a posh blazer.

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