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14-16 July 2006
The reaction I got when I mentioned I was hiking for the weekend somewhere past Middelberg was “Are there any mountains out there? It looks so flat & boring!” Well, the reality is that the Slagthoek/Kingdom hike is definitely one of the most beautiful and interesting hikes I have ever been on and I can now highly recommend it to almost anyone to try from the not so fit to the seasoned hiker, there is lots of variety from walking along jeep trails and animal tracks to crossing rivers and scrambling uphill and over boulders along rivers and up kloofs.
We met at the Slagthoek house on the Friday evening which is large and has many bedrooms and two bathrooms. Hot water but no electricity. Comfy beds and a good base to start from. After meeting everyone the next morning and the new hikers – welcome to Rina & Vaughan, Jonathan, Mark, Claire, Wiloe and Liesl - getting advice from Peter and Bev on packs, Peter as the leader told us what to expect and a brief description of the trail. We set off in high spirits, trying to memorise some new names and adjusting to the weight of the packs, lots of chatting and good natured bantering – Nick started teasing the newcomers with the usual hikers jokes – the “10% rule”, “yes, we are nearly there” and Peter’s “only 100m to go & it is all downhill!”
We walked through a private game reserve on both days, most of us saw some buck and baboon. The river always seemed nearby on this hike, we crossed the first one around mid-morning on the Saturday morning, very slippery and chilly waters but everyone managed with a little help from their friends, Nick & Juri particularly, in the difficult parts. Lunch was enjoyed at the Grootdraai hut which was 6km from the starting point., a little up on the hill next to the river offering an awesome vista across the plains we had just walked over and the winding river below us.
The real climbing started soon after leaving the hut, a steep uphill and then down to another valley and within a few hours we were at the camp for the night, many chalets to choose from, a big boma, kitchen and dining area…lovely large swimming pool – covered in winter – super for summer though. A group of 4 hikers – Olga, Juri, Sarah and Bev - had chosen to do a longer route to this camp, they arrived a couple of hours later, thankfully before dark,after enjoying amazing views from the summit of the surrounding hills. Happy hour and dinner followed with us all ending up gathered around a logfire in the boma before retiring early to bed.
Sunday dawned revealing clear blue skies and crisp mild country air….oh the hard life of a hiker! New recruits were a bit stiff but spirits were high, Peter told us that this day would be a bit more technical with walking along rivers most of the day and a bit of rock climbing adding to the fun as well as another river crossing to look forward to! All went smoothly and we reached a fantastic spot for our lunch stop – a series of short waterfalls where a few brave (slightly insane?) hikers had a dip in the pools and lay baking in the sun to dry off before heading along the river again making our way to the crossing. The cable at this crossing had come loose on the opposite side so Nick went across first sans his pack to try & secure it but the support was nowhere to be seen so we crossed aided again by fellow hikers.
After drying off and donning boots once again we set off on the last leg up a kloof, over rocks and up, up and before we knew it we were back at base camp. A quick shower and swapping of cell numbers, then we all headed back to the city…weary but very content after a wonderful weekend spent outdoors in the company of friends. Thanks again to our leader Peter and Bev B for all the organising making for another successful backpacking weekend!
Tracey Abbott with photos by Nick Corbin