This is a cautionary tale on the perils of hiking. Not that it was the fault of the trail or the environment per se, but rather the stupidity and bravado of the hikers themselves. In both incidents it was a dog that saved the day.
Main picture: Lesoba Hiking Trail
The simple hiking hut eponymously called Oom Japie se Huis was probably originally the living quarters of one of Dr Okie van Niekerk’s ancestors, all of whom have resided on this huge plot since 1911.
It overlooks various streams that ultimately flow into the Komati River. Being on the escarpment, it is more Highveld than Lowveld. At this time of the year, the brown grassland is crying out in its anguished thirst, tortured by the expectation of the imminent summer rains.
Main picture: Huts among the sandstone rocks at Rooikrans Camp
The Num-Num Trail is located in the Skurweberge between Machadodorp and Badplaas. There are a number of trails on this site and one is theoretically able to start at any point on the trail. Our usual starting point is the Pongola Express which comprises an actual train’s dining car together with a carriage. On this occasion Saturday’s hut was Candlewood with its panoramic view of the full drop of the Uitkomst falls.
Main picture: How the The Pongola Express managed to take a wrong turning and end up in the Skurweberge, I will never know
My initial reason for doing the Giants Cup trail last year was to ascertain whether we were fit enough to hike the Fish River Canyon this year. We only completed the first days hike to the Mzimkulwana Hut.
I re-booked the trail for this year hoping for an improved performance.
As 2016 will be the 10th anniversary of this hike which from a personal perspective was noteworthy in that I hurt my back so badly on the descent on day one that it ultimately culminated in my 2nd back operation a few months later. As a commemoration, I have elected to reprint / re-issue the two blogs on this hike as one blog: The Report Back and the irreverent – or maybe that should read irrelevant – awards. Of the 9 of us who completed this hike, Walter Baumgartl has since passed on, long before his allotted time.
Main picture: Fish River Canyon – Viewpoint at the Start. Naturally the only way down, is down Continue reading
The die has been cast. Age and lack of ability cannot be reversed. We will have to accept that Quo Vadis is an ex-hiking club; it is no more. This does not imply that the Club is extinct like the Dodo but rather that its modus operandi will have to accord with the new realities.
Thinking back on the days when Mike Brown, Kurt Radzom, Mick Crabtree and I were hiking together 25 years ago, it is unbelievable that the Quo Vadis Hiking Club would ultimately be transmogrified into the genteel Quo Vadis Slack Packing Club. Continue reading
The Blue Wildebeest Hiking Trail outside Badplaas cannot by any stretch of the imagination be classified as tough let alone difficult but it was just what the members of the Quo Vadis Hiking Club needed: an insouciant hike through the savannah on the escarpment overlooking Swaziland in the distance.
When I first started hiking 35 years ago, I would vehemently oppose any suggestion of doing an easy hike. About five years ago without so much as an official injunction, the hikes evolved from route marches into – how should I put it without deflating too many egos – little more than a walk in the park. I have firmly placed this lackadaisical attitude to rights. Our next hike will be a 3 day affair in the Drakensberg Mountains.
Main picture: Arthur the Greek’s sketch of the view from the hut
After a long hiatus, I heard it again on the Florence Hill Trail at Kaapschehoop last weekend: blister juice as the punctured blister squirted its clear liquid in all directions. Every sport has its own unique vernacular. Often this argot is used regionally whereas often it applies only to a coterie of friends. So it is with the Quo Vadis Hiking Club. This blog covers the transformation of Quo Vadis over a 25 year period from the first blush of innocent youth to a club of geriaterics.
In our youth – when I was 40 years old – a lot was left unstated. Instead it was the competitive male spirit which generated the signals and subtle unobtrusive signs. The six day 120 km Amatola Hike in 1989 epitomised that unspoken communication. Unfortunately Kurt was at the peak of his Comrades and Iron Man prowess while Mike Brown was not a laggard in the running stakes either. Having recently completed a marathon in Edinburgh, Scotland in a whisker over three hours, he certainly was no slough.
Main picture: Looking back to Kaapsehoop
By far the most imposing feature of the Drakensberg is the Amphitheatre and also probably the most recognisable. A hike to the top – not recommended for the faint-hearted – also involves a near vertical climb up the chain ladders.
Rising over 1000 metres from the Tugela Valley, the Amphitheatre is a mighty wall of granite which ascends all the way to the Lesotho plateau which is almost 3000 metres above sea level.
Deterred by blustery winds and icy cold conditions combined with a huge dollop of lassitude meant a truncated hike. Unlike the Quo Vadis Hiking Club of yore where despite the inclement weather or raging floods, the members would embark upon a hike with alacrity, it would not so be on this occasion. Never in the annals of the Club did I believe that such lassitude would prevail.
Never before could the Quo Vadis have been accused of disinclination to get up let alone hike. The disinterest was palpable on Saturday morning. Everybody procrastinated. With an icy blustery wind scything through the huts, nobody dared to rise. Even though my sleeping bag was rated to minus five, I was shivering. I dozed fitfully aware of the cold at all times. Having endured an uncomfortable night when I would awake every few hours due to the penetrating cold, I was not over enamoured to get moving. Inertia pervaded us all.