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.
Hiking through the Kruger National Park provides a close-up view of nature. If the truth be told, this is the correct way to observe nature.
There are two sacred rules when entering the Kruger National Park: never leave one’s vehicle after exiting the camps and never walk in the bush. In contrast, on the walking trails through the Kruger Park, all such safety rules are ignored in their entirety during the hike.
All of these superb photos were taken by Andrew Royal, Malcolm Royal’s son and co-canoeist in the epic 2013 Orange River Trip where the pair managed to capsize on every rapid no matter how insignificant it was.
Of course they claim that rather than capsizing, they were deliberately bailing so as to cool off in the water.
Few of the other canoeists accepted this story but rather described the explanation as codswallop or something more uncouth.
I will let you be the judge of the veracity of that vignette.
Other Galleries of Stunning Photographs:
Photos taken at just the Right Moment
The World’s Most Beautiful Places
Imagine this scenario. You are on the fourth day of a hike. By now one craves something special, anything different from smash and bully beef and possibly – heaven help us – perhaps an unexpected treat. At that moment one of your co-hikers produces a skillet from their pack together with a pancake mix. At first one believes that one is daydreaming but even the smell is too real for a dream. Arnold could have charged us R10 a pancake but instead he made us all a few pancakes each.
Such is the temperament of fellow hiker Arnold Jonathan Paikin, a considerate selfless friend and co-hiker. In fact the best adjective to describe Arnold’s signature trait is solicitous which means to be characterized by or showing interest or concern.
These are the photos of Arnold Paikin
The bookings for all of the year’s hikes are all made at the beginning of the year. Allowance is made in their timing for events such as the Comrades, the Two Oceans and the Argus as many members participate in these events but never for a Sports Final. But woe betide us when an ardent Hiker and a Rugby Fanatic is forced to choose between the two.
This was one such hike where this dilemma arose, but little was I aware of the looming travails and what it would take to view the test match despite being in the middle of the bush far from any television set. At least they could have provided some prior warning as they schemed and plotted their nefarious stratagems and communicated in ciphers.
The Rhino’s Horn is not one of those hikes that many people are aware of except for the ardent hikers. I only became aware of this little-known gem of a hike in the Drakensberg because a member of our Hiking Club, Clive Cameron, had hiked it many times as a youth having been raised in Kokstad in the southern Kwa-Zulu Natal.