Merwyn's Whale Trail
Did you know?
Grotto Bay Oyster Trail
Lost Steenberg Buttress
The New Wild Card
Refections on Simonstown-Smitswinkel Travers
do I get a report into the newsletter?
First things first, I would like
each of you a HAPPY CHRISTMAS; and a
PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. I hope that you
all have everything you wish for, health and happiness first, then the
Now that the niceties are over with I would like to tell you about the
for Easter. Two years ago we discovered SIMONSKLOOF. Those
of us who made the trip swore that we would
return. So that is what
we are doing. SIMONSKLOOF is the down to earth mountain retreat
situated on the Nuy
between Laingsberg and Montagu. We
will camp under the most monstrous Oak Tree that you have ever seen.
and toilets are out doors but private. There is hot water. R40.00 per
to PeterP, now if you like.
There are two long reports of
long hikes in
this letter, enjoy! I really enjoy receiving your reports so PLEASE
in. A welcome back to Cape
I, for one, missed you James. See you on the mountain soon. Listen up
subs are due this month, Pay up soon and save on the late fee.
Please remember to post the deposit slip to our treasurer, and please
write what you are paying for on the back of the slip.
a/c No. 072528451.
To the top
25 to 30 May 2005
a leisurely drive from Port Elizabeth via George we arrived at
Bredasdorp where we
provisioned for our trip.
We were first to arrive and went to the Visitor's Info Centre and then
to have a look at the chalet which slept 12 people and sported a large
and decent ablutions.
and Tommy from Cape Town were the next to
arrive. Bagged our bunks in the corner and slowly the rest of the 12
All settled in after a lot of shuffling around.
We braaied in a howling wind, steaks and mushrooms and rolls but
that was going to be the only braai for the five days. The wind was so
it scoured out the braai pit after we'd all gone inside. It died down
night and peace descended. A collective snore went up from our chalet.
A tough start up the Potberg to
611 m. All you regular hikers, don't laugh! Rocky and quite steep.
too hot. Saw a colony of vultures circling in the distance a bit too
far off to
really see well but a welcome sight nevertheless.
Further along a steep ridge overlooking Malgas on the Breede River
we stopped at a viewing point to admire the panorama sweeping off into
light drizzle of rain started but didn't last.
A Chanting goshawk circled overhead. Protea, fynbos and restios
around us as far as the eye could see. Beautiful!
The longest bit of the hike, 15,4
km and very rocky but worth it for the breathtaking views of flowers
welcome sight of Cupidoskraal hut at 3 pm with lots of time to make
copious cups of tea, shower and relax.
The weather continued to be kind to us, not too hot or cold. Perfect
hiking weather. Left Cupidoskraal behind. And we lost Mary!! She
front walkers who had stopped for tea behind a koppie, she streaked
managing not to get lost en route.
The highlight of the day was Yvonne doing a crossing on slippery tree
poles half-submerged in gungy-water. Half way across she turned to ask
for her stick!! Didn't see much wildlife apart from birdlife. But most
spectacular sight of Noetzie hut at a river mouth down below. Upon
Mervyn whether it was a sharp decent and being told 'no' we climbed
fairly sharp decent to the hut. Found Mary had arrived 3 hours before
and had surprised a duiker grazing at the hut.
This was probably our least comfortable hut as we slept fairly squashed
up. Lovely boma area, Tommy made a bonfire after supper but the rain
and we all scuttled inside. The sea crashed against the rocks all night
disturbing sleep. Saw three pairs of oystercatchers along the way and
white-breasted cormorants and duikers. Walked the 5 km along the cliff
face and stared down in awe
at the scoured out bays with angry seas crashing far below. One,
Stilgat, had a
rope ladder and one could clamber down for a swim which would have been
a hot day. Steve. Barbara and Vicky did.
Had lunch just before the next hut, Hamerkop. Got quite chilly. Took
time, had to concentrate so as not to fall off the edge!!
Arrived at 2 pm at
absolutely best hut we'd had so far, huge compared to last hut. Some of
party had an afternoon nap.
Yvonne, Tommy and I did a beach sortie and collected driftwood, and
we took to be the femur of a cow, and saw otter tracks up a dried river
Lots of plastic and glass bottles washed up on the beach. Most things
smashed to smithereens with the velocity of the waves. The only things
survive were anything plastic such as life buoys, slipslops, tackies
bottles. Plenty boat parts lying around too. Amazing rock formations on
caused by wave action.
Stopped for lunch on a sunny rock in a kloof. Steve went to look at the
blowholes, which were spectacular, and the water spewed back out of
force. A lovely rainbow out to sea on the horizon made our tea break
All we need now is a whale someone said and as if by magic a whale
right in front of us a couple of times.
My shell guide wasn't much use as most of the shells on the beach were
from the wild seas. Got to our hut to find no portaged bags had arrived
killed time by watching the cormorant colony nesting right opposite the
cottage. Spectacular cave underneath our hut with wild crashing waves.
After showers and warm tea and a fire we thawed out and made our usual
camp. Getting easier as we go along as food reserves getting depleted.
as yet! Lovely fire inside to warm us and we did our washing and hung
clothes inside to dry.
Beautifully sunny day greeted us. I brushed my teeth staring straight
out to sea with the waves rolling in. A bathroom with a view!!
Same whale from yesterday wallowed in the shallows lazily spewing forth
but no skyhopping or breaching today.
Lovely cliff top (lower gradient) walk admiring coastal fynbos as we
went. Lots of flotsam and jetsam awash still. Had a tea stop on an
beach with the sun shining. Spotted lots of oyster catchers. Barbara
took a skinny dip (two actually) and said it was soooo refreshing.
When we got to the end of the trail the 'Ouplaas' school bus was there
to greet us and take us on a 40 minute ride back to the Potberg
reserve. In one
foul swoop we had gone from intrepid explorers to soft bus-viewing
Spotted Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok, ostriches and Eland along the
game we'd seen all five days.
After a spruce up and shower for the trip back to Cape Town we took one
last photograph for the
album and all went our separate ways after a wonderful, relaxing five
spent with some new friends. Hope we can do it again sometime???
Karen and Peter Duffell-Canham (visitors from PE)
To the top
DID YOU KNOW?
is 240 million years old, and is one of the oldest mountains in the
world. The Alps are only 40 million
was originally three times higher than it is now. It has eroded away
more fatal mountaineering accidents on Table
every year than on Mount Everest.
… If it were
not for the fresh water from Platteklip stream, Cape
would probably have been located at the safer natural harbour of Langebaan.
To the top
BAY OYSTER TRAIL. SUNDAY OCT 2
I am going to sound like PeterP now. Where
were you all? Paul and Wendy,
Rosemary and Vasco debated whether to cancel due to low turnout. The
looked promising after the previous day’s rain. We bundled into
my Opel and
within an hour arrived at Grotto
be met by a magnificent floral display. The route to the South turned
out to be
rather overgrown and wet, so we turned around and repeated last years
We were happy to amble along at an easy pace and Paul and
I had a
wonderful day with our digital cameras, zooming, magnifying and
The flowers were better than I had expected and the photographic
good that one of the pictures is now on my desk top. Tea was taken
over a picturesque bay and lunch observing the behaviour of the Oyster
after which the trail is named. At the end of the day we were glad that
made the effort to do the hike as the fresh air and spectacular scenery
done us all the world of good.
To the top
PETER P'S LOST STEENBERG BUTTRESS
Eager members met with PeterP on a Saturday afternoon to
with Steenberg Buttress. Cars were shuttled and the little group
steep incline to the start of the path under the rock band. On the way
began to notice that the path was not as clear as it was the last time
used it. The rock band was reached and the start of the path found.
ten metres the path disappeared into a carpet of aliens that has sprung
after the fire that had ravaged the area a few months ago. Port Jackson are
coming up like
a lawn, they are so tightly packed. Any way we could not find the path
descended and went for a beer.
To the top
Self inflating Insul-A-Mat hiking/camping mat; ¾ length
i.e.51x122x3.1 cms. Compact and light (800gm). Used very sparingly.
strap & patch included. R125.00-Contact Paul Taylor 021-7155382 or
To the top
NEW WILD CARD
The NEW WILD CARD, exclusively
for Capetonians, allows entry to Cape Point, Boulders, Oudekraal,
and Tokai. You can use it to allow you 12 entries over one year or you
it to allow six entries for two of you. You can also invite up to four
to go with you for three entries. It is exceptional value @ R45.00. One
to Cape Point, without a card, will cost you R45.00 as from November 1st.
So go and get yourself a card.
To the top
ON THE SIMONSTOWN-SMITSWINKEL TRAVERSE
The road up to the start in Watsonia Rd. is a sobering
must be the steepest in Cape
The experience continues for two hours as one ascends directly for
The frequent, and necessary, stops are rewarding-both in catching ones
and seeing the beauty of False Bay
Higher up the Atlantic coast comes into view, the distant Sentinal and
Karbonkelberg reflecting the morning sun. The tea stop on top of
Swartkop has a
360ºpanoramic view, breathtaking. The path continues Southward
Boulders and Millers Point. Cape Point comes into view with Paulsberg
it’s near vertical face running into the sea. The descent is
but rewarding. A hike which must be added to the “TO-DO”
list with the proviso-
have an early night before.
To the top
These quotations I read in magazines
etc. appealed to me and I
felt it would be good to share them with you.
“ I have found that there
ain’t no surer way to find out whether
you like people or hate them than to travel with them”
Eg. Go on a trail with them
To the top
Amatola Hiking Trail - September
Phil, Mary, Paul, Di, Geoff, Karen, Dave, Gesine, Marie-Paule, Anthony
Julie. Mervyn our leader
distance walked in 5
days: about 82kms
trail, described as
“tough” on the map, is semi-circular, following the range
of Amatola mountains
in the Hogsback, Eastern Cape.
It is set in one of the most scenic mountain areas of Southern Africa. “Amatola” means
“place of many calves” – and we certainly
walked past many cattle and dodged many cow-pats! The full hike is 6
we chose to do only 5 days. This area, apparently, was immortalized as
place that “kindled the imagination of a young Tolkein with
visions of hobbits,
dwarf lords and elfin kings of the Middle Earth kingdom!”
2 days of travelling
from Cape Town
we arrived in King William’s Town on the sunny afternoon of
September. Our Guest House, Mandarin & McGregor was comfortable and
hosts, Rob Roy and his Chinese wife, very welcoming and hospitable!
prepared a dinner feast for us (including some Chinese dishes, of
course) – and
the next morning sent us on our way with a full breakfast!
of us spent our last
hours at the Guest House waterproofing boots and finalizing what we
take in our back-packs! Fortunately someone spotted that our visitor
relative novice to hiking, Anthony, was carrying FAR TOO MUCH! He was
on a serious throw-out, for which I am sure, he was later very
Anthony also, unwittingly, set a new hiking fashion on the day we set
appearing with knee-high gaiters meeting his knee length blue surfing
Throughout the hike he swore the gaiters were not hot or uncomfortable!
One: from Maden Dam to Gwili Gwili Hut
kms, 8-9 hours: a long, uphill day.
get to our starting
point we were first driven 22kms along a dubious gravel road to the
Maden Dam. After a photo session and last minute instructions we set
last on the trail which we had been dreaming about for so long! Anyway,
group of 13 (no need for superstition) set off in high spirits! We had
to split into two: a faster-paced group led by Ian and a moderate-paced
led by Mervyn. I was in the latter!
of this day’s walk
was uphill through indigenous forest. It took us past the bottom of a
massive rock where some scrambling was required. Looking back through
the trees we often caught sight of the dam, giving us an idea of how
far and high
we had climbed. Mervyn had only just bought a new gadget that told him
metres we had climbed and what the weather outlook was! He kept us
informed! Yellowwoods abounded as well as some cycads. We passed many
mounds in the ground which apparently were worm-hills. A few days later
us saw a very long, fat worm, slugging its way down the track. We moved
of harm’s way!
mid-day some of the group noticed that our visitor was struggling.
keen, strong swimmer and tennis player, obviously, hiking was a
ball-game! Marie-Paule observed that he kept himself going with the
“yellow foot print … yellow foot print …”
every time he saw the painted trail
indicator we were following! It was getting late as we eventually
timber hut, Gwili Gwili, situated on a hillside. Mist obscured any
were exhausted and cold. Some of us wondered if Anthony would make it
day as he staggered in last with the Tail-End-Charlie! Phil was already
use of the out-door braai. His group had already discovered the gas hot
– which we then also enjoyed. Sadly, this was to be the only hut
with a hot
shower that worked! The gas geysers were all faulty, despite desperate
determined efforts! We
they had not
removed the old-fashioned “donkeys”! It was a cold night
– with a few snorers!
Phil listened to his pocket-sized radio – and the next day
announced that snow
had fallen in nearby Elliot! Mervyn’s gadget predicted rain!
Two: from Gwili Gwili Hut to Dontsa Hut
kms, 8 hours: mostly
a long, undulating day through
was agreed that the
moderate group would begin walking 45 minutes or so ahead of the faster
We then would meet for lunch (they had usually passed us mid-morning)
then again at the huts! This was to be our longest day. We began by
our wet weather gear: it was freezing, drizzling and misty. I put
over my socks as I knew my boots were not very waterproof! (This idea
Geoff proved very effective, except for the little hole in the plastic
base of my left foot!) The trail took us through more indigenous
drizzle got stronger, and suddenly we discovered that we were being
upon! The forest seemed enchanted and magical, with lots of
hanging from the trees. It must have been a day like this that inspired
Tolkein! At times loeries could be heard and some of us sighted them.
mostly followed a ridge overlooking the Keiskammahoek valley where, at
clearings, we looked down onto local villages. What a setting! Anthony
to be coping better this 2nd day: he seemed to have a
“hang in there” despite the demands! Approaching Dontsa Hut
at the end of the day,
we crossed a stream – not far above a high waterfall. The hut was
basic and a
bit cramped, but had a cheerful, if somewhat smoky fireplace. Phil had
there was a mattress short – so phoned for another one. We were
entertained that evening by Dave, who, after borrowing Paul’s
(whatever that is) zealously fixed the squeaking wooden door which was
low”. With political correctness he sought Geoffrey’s
advice and received many
other opinions! The operation was successful.
Three: from Dontsa Hut to Cata Hut
kms, 8-9 hours:
uphill to the plateau, around Doorn Kop, descending to the Eseka River.
began this cold day
heading up again through indigenous forest. Some of the terrain was
and slippery: a few of us found ourselves suddenly sprawling!
scrambled around and up the side of a waterfall to the top of the
an exhilarating moment with wonderful panoramic views of the mountains
valley below. It was now open grassland with cows grazing here and
chose to walk around Doornkop and on down to the Eseka River.
After a lunch-stop the faster group elected to do the strenuous route
After very quick
dips in one of the waterfalls (Karen, Di and Paul), they then had to
very steep ascent to the hut! The moderate (yes, slow group) chose to
through the forest, past a waterfall and stream to the jeep track and
surrounding pine plantations! It was easier to stride out along this
but we didn’t reckon on just how long and how much up-hill till
we would reach
Cata Hut! This new wooden hut was beautifully situated in an
dominated by Geju and Cata
enough, it had no internal kitchen so we all cooked in our separate
was cold showers again! The remains of the burned down hut next to us
modified to provide some shelter – but it was far too unprotected
from the cold
of the hike on Day
3: “What mountains are these?”
Four: from Cata Hut to Mnyameni Hut
kms, 7-8 hours: climb Geju
was a stunning day! The weather was warming up and the views
grassy gradient of the zig-zag route up Geju was kind! Our path
a sheer drop in the mountain-face giving us our first stunning view of
to enjoy the vista.
We could see where our trail had started and where we were next headed!
course, the top was even better - a real high-light! We (the slow
for a while, soaking it all in. Rameron pigeons were identified flying
and Marie-Paule pointed out for us, map in hand, where we would be
next day! It looked hectic from where we were! Heading
down all too soon, our
big-boulder-hopping skills were put to
the test as we tackled 2 screes. The faster group were waiting for us,
up the sun like dassies! It was soon after this that a fish-eagle was
sighted. The trail followed high above a river with waterfalls and an
unnerving, precipitous drop to the right! After a steep descent we
lunch under trees, dodging some large cow pats! How some of these
balanced on the steep slopes without free-falling into the river below
us! A few hikers cooled off in the freezing water. The rest of the day
descent through wonderful indigenous forest, following the river with
waterfalls. Mnyameni Hut, the remotest of all, was another new wooden
without internal kitchen area. Again, an older, now derelict hut stood
Of note was the very hazardous long-drop we had to use. Animated
were had about who would be the first to fall in, and what to do if you
to get out! We were also fascinated by a swarm of grasshoppers intent
heading towards the hut. In spite of it all, most of us slept well that
Five: from Mnyameni Hut to Zingcuka Hut
kms, 8-9 hours: lots
was to be our hottest day! After a steep climb through indigenous
forest, we continued
our way around Hog 3 (Mnyameni
on grassy slopes,
avoiding more cow pats! Some baboons were heard barking in the
crossing Mnyameni Ridge we descended into the Wolf River
catchment area where we soon stopped to dip (with accompanying yells)
first of many refreshing, beautiful pools and waterfalls! We soon
dipped at another. A stunningly beautiful part of the
deforestation which we encountered later were from the removal of black
Towards the end of the day the trail followed a cliff edge before
steeply down the “Razor Edge”. It was here, fortunately not
on the cliff edge,
that Anthony’s walking stick broke! He was very lucky to land
stick broke too: never quite found out the details!) The final distance
hut eased off through the dense indigenous “Schwartzwald”
Zingcuka Hut promised hot showers, we were out of luck again! It was a
beautiful evening, however, and we were soon bemused by the arrival of
hardy athletes who had come to RUN the trail in 2 days! Definitely a
breed! Fortunately there were enough beds and the hut had a spacious
outside with tables and chairs. It was here that we celebrated the end
hike with a sumptuous feast: roast lamb, rice, brussel sprouts, creamed
spinach, etc. It all went down very well with a few bottles of wine!
organized this with a local Hogsback Hotel and Gary, our friendly combi driver
brought it in
for us. (They had omitted the anticipated pudding, but who cared!) If
a prize for perseverance, Anthony would have received it with flying
Other prizes would have gone to the Tail-End-Charlies and certainly to
leader, Mervyn, for organizing such an adventurous and most enjoyable
the hut the next
day with a short walk to the combi, we drove into the Hogsback. Here we
collected our other gear from King’s Lodge before heading for a
together at the local Deli. It was festival time that weekend in the
but sadly we had to depart for our 2 day trip back to Cape Town!
lessons learnt from the Amatola:
2 groups is a great idea for hikers with a widely different pace.
to enjoy cold
To the top
HOW DO I GET A REPORT INTO
Answer: Your editor has an address.
E20 Ambleside, Lwr Hope Rd.
He even has an E mail address.
You can even fax your report to 447-4182.
Marked for his attention.
See, it’s easy. You have no excuse. Send your reports and/or
The only sure cure for seasickness is to sit under
To the top