Thursday, May 25, 2017

Champagne Valley Walking Club - Sunset trail

On Tuesday I deemed myself well enough to do a hike in the mountains with my fellow hikers. Grant opted to stay home as he was busy on a project.  We all met at Champagne Castle Hotel car park and at 8am (now that it's winter) five of us intrepids set off.

Neil, who was the leader said as we started, that this is by far the most strenuous of all the walks we've done as a club.

*Ergh* (thought I,) but once I'd taken the photo below, I strode up behind the group.
Five of our regular 12 hikers set off for Sunset Trail and the Matterhorn
Just past the hotel, I photographed these beautiful aloes in full bloom

Then I stepped onto the road and saw a path to the left of me. It said Sunset Trail with an arrow pointing in the direction of the mountain. I called out to fellow hiker, Trish who said they were up that path and to just follow! 

Then reality struck! The climb started IMMEDIATELY. Not one kilometer into the hike; not a gently incline. We started to hike up and up and around the mountain - for two solid hours! 

The beginning of the hike was an immediate climb 

We climbed, straightened out for a few meters; climbed again and straightened out for a few more meters. On and on and up and up! 
 Trish, Josh and Neil had got to a resting spot 
a few minutes ahead of me and Price 
 The view of the hotel and the valley beyond

The hike we did is in the 29000ha Mdelelo Wilderness Area of the Ukhalamba/Drakensberg. Familiar landmarks are Monks Cowl, Cathkin Peak, Gatberg and the Dragons Back. Below is Gatberg which is Ntunja in Zula and means "the eye of the needle". 
Gatberg was one of the first peaks we saw on our hike on Tuesday

When I arrived at the second rest stop (Neil said he didn't mind admitting but he's legs were like jelly - I was glad for the rest for the same reason) Neil was pointing to a property down below. When I heard him mention the very rough gravel access road, I remembered that we were originally supposed to go and live there. It was a beautiful huge house with five rondawels nestled in the trees under Cathkin Peak. The idea was that Grant and I get the homesetead and rondawels up and running as a Guest House.  

Then Grant became very ill and between John and Debbie they decided that the purchase is called off. Now in retrospect I'm so pleased we didn't take on that challenge. I hear quite a number of horror stories when Guest House owners relate about difficult guests and often the same ones who leave the accommodation in a terrible state when their stay is over. 
Neil points to the road leading to the property Grant and I would have taken on as a challenge project 
Price coming up behind me on the incline shows how steep our path is
 Onwards ...

...and upwards again

 Again, when I stopped to catch my wheezy breath, I turned around and there was Price, resting lower down on the path
 Another stop two-thirds of the way to our first tea break
The views are well worth the slog up the mountain 
 As we hiked up the last few hundred meters to our tea break, I captured one of the peaks mentioned above : Monks Cowl  
It felt surreal to be almost on eye-level with this 3234m high monolith. The visible snow is in the neighboring country,  Lesotho 
 My friend, Trish already sitting on the knoll waiting for Price (just ahead of me this time) to bring the flask of tea 
 Tea and sandwiches taste 5* when eaten at this altitude! 
The scenery is dominated by Cathkin Peak (3149m). The Zulu word for it is Mdelelo, which means ‘make room for him’ and refers to the theory that Cathkin Peak pushed aside other peaks to make room for itself

 While having my tea, I couldn't resist photographing the wildflowers ...
...and grasses nearby 

We descended from our tea spot and then ascended another hill, and another. 
 ...and another 
 Time to stop, catch your breath and survey the beautiful scenery
 Trish was the first to spot these, the mountain rhebuck running up a hill to the right of us
 Hiking across the plateau with the mighty Cathkin Peak above us
 Josh had to stop and retie his bootlace; we were pleased to stop and rest 
Far ahead to the North, we could clearly see The Bell at Cathedral Peak  (My photo)

Cathedral Peak and The Bell (Google image) 
Then it was downhill for a while

 Our second tea stop was at Breakfast Stream 

One of the most popular routes in this area is the contour path via the Sphinx. This route takes you to the higher peaks and passes of the area and gains some 450m in altitude. 
Then we wended our way downwards... 
...and ever downwards to the Sphinx  

Three members of the hiking group had opted to do a slightly shorter route to the Sphinx. Alan (87,) Anthony (76) and Jenny (support lady!) walked from Alan's house to the Sphinx where they waited for us to meet them on the way down. 

Meeting up with the other group of our hiking club who had waited for us at the Sphinx

Then we set off for the rather long downhill descent back to the hotel. 

As you round the Sphinx, legend has it that if you toss a stone into the hollow (visible about a third of the way up on the right)  you will have a good life. Price and Neil tossed stones successfully into the pool but I only took the photo below AFTER the fact! 
The contour path under the Sphinx 
 The path below gives an idea of the height and descent of the hike 
 I stopped to photograph this Leonotus Leonurus against the rugged cliffs 
The last few kilometers is through the yellowwood forests which thrive on the mountainside 

For those of my blog readers who enjoy hiking, the outdoors and generally exerting yourself, I hope you enjoyed this post. I certainly enjoyed the hike and also retelling (and reliving)  it here. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

Although I've posted this bird before (and quite recently) I just cannot resist showing it [off] again. I was at the kitchen sink when I saw the female in the  Tecomaria capensis  / Cape Honeysuckle near the rose garden. 

I grabbed my camera from the office table, she'd moved to the Leonotis leonurus / Wild dagga which is in full bloom at the moment. I snapped her ...

...and then spent the next two hours photographing the male of the species. He was also feeding off the Leonotis leonurus .  
 Note how the sunbird grips his perch with his feet 

 Another acrobatic feat from this agile bird 

Greater Double-collared Sunbird (male)

I don't know what I was supposed to be doing that afternoon; all I know is that I didn't do it. Instead, I had great fun photographing this beautiful bird.

I'm linking to Wild Bird Wednesday here


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Parkrun # 16

I didn't post about why I haven't posted any Parkrun events. It's because we haven't done any for two weeks! Grant got sick with a flu bug and I dosed and nursed him for ten days. He never lay down (he never does) but he was very ill with a chest infection which we managed to cure without seeing a doctor. 


As he was on the mend, I caught the tail end of the bug. I suppressed the symptoms and ended up with terrible sinus. All through the time we had our visitors, I suffered with terrible headaches and  a clogged up nose. I never told anyone (what would it have helped, LOL) but eventually by Friday last week, I'd shaken off my malady.

Saturday we were at our 16th Parkrun since Christmas Eve last year. 
 It was a beautiful day with a slight chill in the air. Note the young lad in blue shorts is barefoot. I walked behind him and the little girl in pink top and wondered how his feet felt on the cold wet grass 

 I like impromptu shots: this young woman was running off somewhere although the Parkrun race hadn't started yet! 

 Grant chats to friend, Terry while his wife, Karen chats to a young man from one of the hospitality spots in the valley
Friend Pieter always volunteers as a timekeeper - 
here he and Grant and Roy share a joke 

Grant's erstwhile walking partner, John (Anthony's brother) is recuperating after a double knee replacement and doing extremely well, I might add. Grant now walks with newbie Roy who's in remission from stomach cancer. Because Grant is still one of the last two people to come in, this week I put his name forward as a volunteer. He was the sweep. A sweep is in cell phone contact with the events co-ordinator, Esmarie, at the start/finish. He ensures that everyone is in before him and should a participant be injured or have a severe medical or physical problem and cannot continue, the sweep (Grant in this case) would contact Esmarie who'd send a vehicle to collect the person. 
A young woman in advanced stages of pregnancy also ran the race

Esmarie called me before the race and said she hoped the pregnant lady didn't have problems on the walk as it would be Grant's problem. We had a chuckle about this. 

While walking I remembered something that had actually happened to Grant when he was about 19 in his first job. He worked for a grain company just outside Greytown;  we'd both grown up in Greytown. We  subsequently lived here after we were married and our older son, John was born in Greytown.

Back to the story: one morning Grant's boss called him and told him to take a young - very pregnant - Zulu woman to town. She was in labor and needed to get to hospital very quickly. Grant helped the woman and her friend onto the back of the work pick-up, jumped in front and roared off. As he turned onto the main tarred road, the friend banged frantically on the cab window. Grant pulled off the road, stopped the vehicle and jumped out. When he reached the back of the pick-up, both women shouted hysterically that the baby was coming. 

Long story short: he delivered the baby - a healthy boy - right there on the back of the pick-up; tied the cord and with the new mother's headscarf wrapped around the baby and cuddled in her arms, he jumped back in behind the wheel and sped off into town. He dropped the mother, baby and friend off a the hospital where the trained staff took over.

Later Grant's mum rang the hospital and enquired after the mother and baby. She was told they were both doing fine and the little boy's name was Grant!

Fortunately for Grant, on Saturday, the expectant mama was fit and still had a few months before she delivered. 

On my run, I'd been concerned that I'd push myself and I knew I shouldn't. The first 750m after I ran quite easily. Then I slowed to a quick walk and continued this way until the last kilometer. I'd been walking well when I heard friend, Jenny behind me. She was chatting to a lady from Johannesburg. Among other things, she told her about our weekly walking club. And then she involved me in the conversation.

Of course, it's my belief that when I start to talk on a Parkrun, I somehow lose concentration and therefor - time. But there you have it. I joined in the conversation and although the three of us continued at a good pace, when I passed Pieter, he told me my time:

47 min  42 sec


However, at least we're back at the Parkrun and I'm sure next week my time will start to improve again.

I walked back to meet Grant who looked as though he was "herding" little children ahead of him! 

 Grant wearing the hi-viz volunteer's jacket and the last stragglers. I'm not sure what the lady with dark glasses is holding so carefully: was it a baby or a puppy? I never found out! 
Grant with Roy whose young daughter(in black tee shirt)  ran back to meet him after she'd completed the run

I'm linking to Our World Tuesday here

As this post is aired I'll be joining our fellow hikers on quite a strenuous five-hour walk up the Matterhorn. This is also the first time in two weeks back in the walking club. Grant won't be going along; he has a project to finish.