As we arrived at the Ezimvelo Parks Board , I squealed and pointed to a demarcated space in the parking lot. Grant knew exactly what I was thinking. (How could he not? We've known each other for almost 50 years!)
Right here, the spot the grey pick-up is reversing into, Grant gave up smoking
He rumpled the packet still containing cigarettes and threw it into this garbage bin
BTW, can anyone outside South Africa work out why our garbage bins are battened down as shown in the photo ?
Before the start of the walk - Anni, Jen and Jen Grant, Anthony and Craig
It was a misty morning with promise of the mist burning off later
Our first stop was to view and photograph the Sterkspruit Falls
With the excellent December through February rainfall, (February measured 398mm - the highest in 50 years) the streams and rivers are flowing strongly and the waterfalls are gushing over the precipices at a rate of knots!
Now for the walk: the description our schedule said this is a fairly easy, but quite a long walk with not much climbing via the Sterkspruit Falls . The path then followed Sterkspruit upstream, passing the Hlatikulu Forest, Cascades and Junction turnoffs.
Grant and I had left our walking sticks behind. Can you believe it? Grant said he'd be fine without but I didn't relish walking without my trusty support. Within a few meters, Grant stepped off the path, found a largish mossy stick with a crook on the end and handed it to me.
It was an easy walk until the last part before the falls. We started to climb a contour path, winding up and up. Then leveled out through dense forests huge trees, fording small streams across our path.
Out in the open, the path meandered and wound UP and UP again! The gradient is rather challenging but quite doable. I was most grateful to Grant for the make-shift stick in my hand!
Finally we rounded a corner, and came upon several of the group sitting in a clearing with the falls thundering behind them.
A clearing in the trees - note the rain drops on my lens - it was wet and cool at our breakfast stop
With the plentiful summer rains, the trees and foliage on the water's edge were thick and lush; the boulders to the river were rather wet and slippery. I got as close as possible to photograph the falls.
Grant, Anthony and Alan were behind us on the trail, so I waited for the coffee and sandwiches to arrive. I sat with Jenny on a mossy rock and we chatted while she had her breakfast.
Jo and Jenny on a very wet mossy rock next to the river
Trish beckoned me to bring my camera: where she was standing, she spotted a Robin-chat flitting about in the undergrowth.
I'd not seen this Robin - chat before
Later that evening, Trish sent me a message identifying the bird as a Chorrister Robin-Chat.
It was very tame and kept hopping down to between our feet - obviously pecking up breakfast scatterings of crumbs.
Grant, Ant, Alan, Shelley and Jen [Braithewaite] arrived. After enjoying our breakfast, and [me, another] 15 minute rest, we set off back down the mountain.
Have you ever looked at the mountains from distance, seen the dense green forests on the slopes and wondered? Well, this is what it looks like inside!
Beautiful, isn't it ?
Most descriptions of this hike on the Internet fail to mention the beautiful forests which you walk through to get to Nandi Falls. The afro-montane forests of Podacarpus henkilli grow on the high, moist slopes of the Drakensberg. The tree is real yellow wood; protected and is South Africa's national tree.
Technology is never far. As we entered a certain area, you could hear smartphone, Iphone and cell phone messages going off.
Alan stopped on the path to answer a call
The rest of this group was happy to take a break and waited along the path
I heard a sunbird call and searched for the bird.
Although the photo is overexposed and blurry, I wanted to show the incredibly long bill on this bird!
Alan arrived and we were off again
The Spinx quite a way above us
Champagne Castle, Monks Cowl, Sterkhorn and the Dragon's Back shrouded in mist
As promised, the mist lower down burnt off and the sun beat down on us by the time we rounded the last bend to the Parks Board offices. A young couple passed us on the way up. I turned around and caught this on camera...
A young woman with sun protection
Jenny Braithewaite always has the stats of the walk on her Smartphone. In the car park, she gave us the figures: we'd walked 9.9km; done 14700 steps and climbed the equivalent of 29 storeys.
At the end of the hike, Grant took a photo of Jen and me. Note my home-grown stick!
Jo Hedges and Jen Braithewaite
Another tough day in the Champagne Valley! 👴👵👦👧