Fanie Botha trail - 16-19 June 2006. Photos, (click for enlargement) by Nick Corbin.
It seemed like perfect weather for a hike in the idyllic Sabie area. Sufficient heat to obviate complete extremity freezing and ample cold to call for vigorous muscle exercise. Some arrived quite early on Thursday afternoon. However, due to the chill in the air, the usual 'braai and slaai' event was skipped for an early night in the woollies (or downs). The group of 12 consisted of Beverley Brockman, Sarah Proctor, Coen Terblanche, Oliver Oppler, Elizabeth Pickard, Ina Smit, Beverley Wilson, Mike Openshaw, Elsa Wloschowsky, Padmini Moodley, Tracey Abbot and led by Nick Corbin. The hike got off to a slow start from Ceylon Hut on Friday morning due to the fact that arrangements had to be made to leave one car at the end of the trail. We passed the time happily, stretching in preparation for the hike and watching Padmini and Ina go through their steps for the upcoming 75th anniversary celebrations. Finally, we got onto the trail at 10 am. The first day was an easy walk – 8,7 km rated “4” on the difficulty scale. So by 2 pm the first of the group arrived at Maritzbos Hut. All the huts were very adequate and comfortable – Ceylon Hut boasted hot showers along with the bunk beds complete with mattresses which were standard in each hut. All the rest of the huts had only cold showers except the final hut which had no shower. But ... we were delighted to find that at each hut the man in charge tended a roaring fire in a boma with a large container of hot water bubbling away over the fire. From this bucket he scooped out hot water into a bucket which could be purchased at R5 for what turned out to be a delicious hot “bath”. A bucket of hot water took on a whole new meaning! Not only did this wonderful fire provide hot water for washing, but it also provided a warm and cosy place to congregate when the temperatures fell at night. For most of us, the smoke and wood fire smell were a small price to pay for the warmth. Although some managed to stay up later, many of us found ourselves snuggled up in our sleeping bags long before 7:30 pm!!
Day 2 took us from Maritzbos Hut to Stables Hut – a distance of 13,3 km at a difficulty rating of 9. Going by the route on day one, this looked to be a doddle of a hike. But ... on day 2 we realised it wasn’t a doddle at all. Although this was not a strenuous hike, there were plenty of long uphill stretches. Day 2 provided probably the longest uphill of all. However these climbs were amply rewarded with the most stunning views over the Sabie area, shaded forests and beautiful waterfalls. Having started out at about 7:45 am we came upon Maritzbos Hut at 3 pm in good time for the delightful hot water bucket wash, tea and time to relax.
On day 3 we again started walking at around 7:30 am. Day 3 was a distance of 16,3 kms to Mac-Mac Hut at a difficulty rating of 9. Again there were stunning views to gaze upon, good uphill pulls and beautiful places to stop for lunch or a snack. On the way one of the most spectacular waterfalls was The Cathedral Falls followed shortly by Chockstone Falls. Once again the day’s hike ended at about 2:30 pm.
Towards the end of day 3 Elizabeth had difficulty with the return of the flu bug which she’d thought had been shaken. Come Monday morning, it was obvious that she couldn’t continue and arrangements were made to get a vehicle to collect her and drive her to Graskop. Elizabeth obviously has excellent connections because we arrived in Graskop to find her comfortably ensconced in bed at Harrie’s house as he turned out to be one of her customers. Our final day’s hike took us to Graskop via the Bonnet – a distance of 11 km at a difficulty rating of 6. As usual we started out at 7:30 am and arrived at Graskop Hut shortly after 11:30 am. There most of us relaxed while the cars were sorted out. At the hut some of us enjoyed sharing out the remains of our food and having a feast. It was still cool, as it had been for most of the hike and some got out sleeping bags to slip into to keep warm. Once the cars and drivers had arrived and collected us all, we headed for Harries Pancake Bar in Graskop to indulge in a variety of delicious pancakes before piling into the cars to head for home. Here it must be noted that during the trip to Sabie, despite efforts to tempt him, Oliver had firmly avoided suggestions of pancakes for dinner. However at Harries in Graskop he happily tucked into a black cherry pancake with cream and thoroughly enjoyed it! We now have a pancake convert in our midst.
From Maritzbos to Graskop Huts we had the pleasure of the company of a group of 8 young medical students who happily mixed with our group and added to the social enjoyment.
Good friendships were started and others re-kindled. A new habit of thriving in pristine mountain air was also formed. An old ‘habit’ of some to bring soya meals as a last resort, was dealt the death blow due to the realisation that most ‘suffering’ in life is caused by ourselves.
When the chips are down, true character often surfaces ... like when one forgets the bare essentials like coffee and tea, the observant unassumingly offers their provisions.
Our thanks to Beverley for her superb organisation of this hike and to Nick for leading.
By Sarah Proctor and Coen Terblanche
The following email was sent to SAFCOL.