Grant and I started hiking in the mid-80's when we lived in Kwa-Zulu Natal for a spell. We were coaxed by our then-14 year-old son, John to do the Drakensberg trails. At the time if was just me and Grant and John and Angus but we did every day hike in the book.
Later on, we progressed to hiking up crags, down through the valleys and over the high Berg passes; staying overnight or even two nights.
While Grant and I were in Africa, we didn't get to hiking much - the last time we actually did a mountain walk, was in 2013 with John and Debbie and the grandchildren.
If you click on the link I supplied above, you'll see these walks are designed for all. You can hare it up the pathway to the tea-spot or you can stroll along, stopping to look back over the valley and catch your breath at the same time.
The walk we did on Tuesday (which is when the club meets and walks) was rather challenging for us. It was a short, very, very steep climb which tested your lung capacity and your leg muscles to the limits. Fortunately we start early - 7am - and the first and hardest part of the walk is along contour paths in the shade.
A quick photo before we drove to the meeting spot way over t-h-e-r-e
below the mountains behind us
Getting ready before setting off
A modest incline lulls you into a false sense of comfort
I looked back and took photos of the walkers behind
For the next 55 minutes, I didn't manage to take photos - I was challenged to get up the steep paths and along under the Matterhorn. Stopping to catch my breath, I quickly snapped several of our group coming up on the path below.
You can see Anthony second in the photo - Grant was a little way behind him
Doggedly putting one foot in front of the other, I heard steps behind me. I turned and asked the gentleman if he'd like to pass. He introduced himself as Craig and said I was going quite fast enough - thank you very much - and setting a good pace for him. It turned out this was his first walk in the Berg and he was determined to make it to the breakfast stop. Having him for company made my walk much more pleasant and after another steep 10 minute climb up the forest path, we came upon a beautiful and refreshing sight. A high waterfall was gushing down into a pool. The three people ahead of us were already sitting on the rocks and cooling off.
A high waterfall gushes into a pool just beyond these rocks - the perfect breakfast stop
A fellow hiker kindly photographed me against the backdrop of the cascading waterfall
I only realized when I downloaded these photos, that I had water drops on my camera lens
Then it was time to head back down again... My up-route walking partner, Craig and another businessman in the valley, Graham were ahead of me
Although it's often harder to descend (one thing being your knees get hammered), I found was a lot more confident and energetic. I took many more photos than on the way up
I looked back up the trail and photographed the rest of the group coming down
Back in the forest, I caught up to the leaders and noticed there was a third hiker and a dog. When I eventually pulled alongside them, I was introduced to the other person, an 82 year-old Ms Carter who lives in the valley. She hadn't done the whole walk and a second Labrador came running back from ahead in the path.
From quite a way up, you could hear the barking of baboons echoing against the mountains. Walking along the path through the forest, I noticed a movement on a rock above me...
...a pair of baboons watch us from their high vantage point
The octogenarian hiker ahead of me as we near the end of the walk
So there we were: our first walk with the Champagne Valley Walking Club.
As they say: life's tough in the valley !
Here's hoping you're all having a wonderful week!