Mahai campsite in the Royal Natal National Park:
Our group of twelve arrived during Friday and Saturday for what was to be a wonderful long weekend in the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. Mahai Campsite is situated in one of the most picturesque locations in the Drakensberg and there are many different hikes to suit all levels of fitness and enthusiasm. The campsite is well maintained and has adequate ablution facilities most of the time.
Saturday: Everyone split into small groups and set off to hike some of the numerous shorter trails that started from the campsite. It was imperative to have a good hike as everyone was keen to work up an appetite for the feast which Rob and Beryl had kindly prepared for the group. After showering everyone met at Rob and Beryl’s tent for a relaxing happy hour during which we got to know each other and compare notes on the days hikes. Our ravenous group were then treated to a meal “Fit for a King”! Rob and Beryl’s ox-tail potjie lived up to all expectations and this was followed by a tasty helping of “Ginger Pudding and Custard”. Rob’s special ingredient in the Ginger Pudding much to our amazement was Worcestershire Sauce!
Sunday: The weather again was perfect for hiking. The two Jim’s plus Frances and Alice set off for Tiger Falls returning via the Cascades which due to the steep downward gradient gave the knees a good workout. They returned for lunch then set off again this time along the popular and beautiful Tugela Gorge hiking trail, which unfortunately wasn’t completed due to time limitations. Paul, Shirley and family took on a sterner challenge when they decided to hike up to the “Crack” and return to camp via the “Mud-slide”. Their aching limbs and in the case of Liesel, blistered feet bore testimony to the severity of the hike. After a refreshing shower we all relaxed around the glowing braai, which Clive had expertly organised in anticipation of our voracious appetite after a hard day in the mountains. The next morning Paul (who had taken a late night walk to quieten some noisy neighbours) enlightened us that it wasn’t a late night arrival on a Harley Davidson that some of us thought we had heard but Rob enjoying a good night’s sleep!
Monday: The two Jim’s, Alice, Frances and Jean set off for what was to be a long, strenuous but extremely rewarding hike up to Witsieshoek via the “Crack”. Jim Hutchinson proved again to be an excellent leader as each challenge was met along the way and overcome. Climbing up the “Crack” gave us the opportunity to have a “total body workout” and admire the geological beauty of the rock face at the same time. From there it was up the steep slopes to the crest of the hill. This steep incline tested Alice to the limit but she persevered. Once we reached the ridge the full force of the wind hit us and Frances hit the deck but was up again in a second. We walked along the ridge fighting the strong and gusty wind. Below us, on the mountain slopes we observed a small herd of mountain reedbok plus some baboons. Around lunchtime we finally reached the Witsieshoek holiday resort nestled in the mountains. Looking out through the hotel window as we relaxed over a cup of coffee we were elated to see an aerial tussle going on between two buzzards (unfortunately not identified) and a Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture). After a while the Lammergeier landed at a “vulture restaurant” close to the hotel where we were able to observe it along with a White Backed Vulture and a feisty Crow who didn’t want his much larger competitors to share his lunch. Our return hike to the campsite was another opportunity to observe the sheer beauty of the Drakensberg as we traversed the narrow footpaths, which zigzagged the mountainsides. We had plenty to talk about that evening as we enjoyed an egg and bacon supper prepared on the skottel by the two Jim’s. Whilst bending down to light the skottel Jim Yetman managed to singe his reseeding hairline. To make him feel better about this little mishap everyone tried to convince Jim that this would promote much desired new growth! Just after enjoying supper the weather abruptly changed and a strong wind forced us to pack everything away and turn in for the night.
Tuesday: After a wonderful long weekend of hiking, comradeship and fun we packed up our tents and headed back to Gauteng. A special thanks to Jean, Beryl, Rob and Jim Hutchinson for their time and effort in making this such a rewarding weekend for all the group.
by Jim and Alice Yetman