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Nothing beats hiking with ...
My son and I

First hike, lunch break, Craig looking at map!

Check out an assortment of photos submitted by Mark Wilson.

Relationships with your children are so important and it is for this reason that I eventually gave up cricket on a Saturday afternoon for the experience of hiking with my son. After making a few noises at work Alison Moolman a fellow hiker suggested that I join the JHB Hiking club. She gave me the web site and the Bluebird hike was first on the list.


Initially, I was not impressed as there were no paths as I had envisaged and I am sure that word got out to the brambles and thorns that they should attack anyone venturing up the Magaliesberg. We got semi stuck at one point but then walked around the cliff face to an easier path to the top. We headed for the beacon and Craig my son experienced his first twisted ankle.   Thanks to fellow hikers, we were able to bandage the ankle for support.  He never had proper hiker boots, as I bought some but without taking into consideration the thickness of hiking socks, so the hiking boots were left at home that day. It was as Craig and I have defined it a “dry” hike, no water pools at lunch. I was told that the hikes get better from now on.


Second hike - Castle Gorge, which is quickly becoming my favourite.  A slow meander to the saddle and then once again we elected the slow group and headed off to the top of the hills opposite to the pools.  Again no particular path to follow but just meandering in the general direction. Our guide Dave, Craig’s favourite, pulled out his GPS and said so far to go in that direction.  It was then that I realised we just walk anywhere until such time when we find the pools as indicated by the GPS system.  The pools that day were freezing, however, both Craig and I ventured in but not for long.  The trip back was straight forward along the path, which is what I expected when first considering hiking.  I now much prefer the unexplored paths.


Third hike – Foothold, must learn to pack our passports next time, this is some distance away from our meeting place. The slow group comprised of just 5 !!  The first 1.5 k is straight up and all the squash playing I do didn’t prepare me for fitness level required to get to the top.  I was pleased that Dave stopped every 500m for a break.  However once at the base of Magaliesberg, things started working out ok.  The chain ladder was great as it adds something different to a hike.  Again at the top we meandered in a general direction towards a pool that was again only detected by the GPS system.  The 13th cheque this year has been budgeted to include one of these on my Christmas tree.  The pool was smaller than Castle Gorge and it was very noticeable this hike, how dry the area is, how we need the summer rains.  A quick swim and lunch and we were on the way back.  It was then that I decided to take pictures of any flowers, these will then be sent to my mother for identification.  She is into that stuff.


We now qualified to be members and subsequently submitted our application forms.


Fourth hike – Uitkyk, another dry hike, this is really an easy hike and we were finished  early. Nice thing about this hike is there are ablution blocks much the same as Footholds.  Saw a serious looking snake and a tree that grows around other trees, botany not one of strongest subjects.


Fifth hike – back to Castle Gorge and this time to the pools via another direction.  The rock formations are amazing and the hike through these was most enjoyable.  The pools were a welcome relief and the temperature a few degrees up from last time.


Sixth hike – Heydays at Foothold.  36 people on the slow hike, poor guide had to try and keep a pace suitable to all, making sure that everyone was still together and cater for the chain ladder which really slowed the group.  At the top we headed towards the beacon and once there we watched the Cape vultures soaring out in front of us, magnificent. On the way back, Craig kept pace with brisk group until we departed our ways, the slow group going down footloose gully and the brisk group disappearing into the distance.  A huge thanks to Milly and her helpers for the wonderful spread that met us at base camp.


So what is the conclusion after 2 months of hiking.  This beats cricket, the pleasure of backpacking with one’s son is truly not to be missed.  Pack more than 2 litres of water, choose a hiking boot one size bigger than normal to cater for the thicker socks required. “Dry” hikes are not as pleasurable as “wet” ones, a pool at midday is most welcome.  It amazes me that there are so many different people each week that turn up.


Mark Wilson