“SNOW” HIKE - Wednesday, 2 August 2006
No, this is not an account of the real snow hike in the Drakensberg, but of a scheduled Wednesday hike in Johannesburg in that freezing first week of August.
Most of the usual Wed group heeded the weather forecast and stayed away. As Milly, Mike and I set off from Johannesburg about 8.00 am we noted a clear blue sky-hardly a cloud – and wondered why the fuss. By the time we arrived at Laurentia 45 minutes later, the sky was almost covered with unusual ominous multi-grey clouds and a freezing wind was blowing. Jim H, Frances, Jim Y and Peter made up the rest of our group of 7. We set off in a direction to the right. Jim H, our intrepid leader, discovered an old ox wagon track, wide with well-constructed stone walls, winding through indigenous bush including many proteas, and we marched along this for about 5 kms, ascending all the time, in intermittent sleet. I really envied those with gloves – my hands were quite numb! Then – surprise- in the distance a light and a familiar sight – the “Big 5” Lodge (situated on the road to Krugersdorp). A unanimous decision was taken to call there for coffee/hot chocolate and it was SO welcome! As we arrived at the Big 5 our hopes were rewarded – we had a minute of real snow! Then back to sleet again. Sleet falls on the ground in minute hail-stones and does not seem to wet one as rain does.
Afterwards we returned across the ridge in better weather on a totally different route, and descended into a steep gorge, quite beautiful, with still much indigenous vegetation, and perennial streams. I saw one hillside completely covered in aloes! One would not imagine that such pretty places lie beyond the unimpressive hill that one sees from the car travelling on the N14.
We arrived back at Laurentia about 1.30 pm and had lunch in a “sheltered” spot, while watching the wind tearing through the avenue of jacarandas. An enjoyable and memorable hike!