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Giant's Cup trail and Nkosana Lodge (19 to 26-Sept-04)

These are really two stories, the hike of five days was followed by a stay in Nkosana Lodge in the Monks Cowl area, where we were joined by others.

Day 0

Transport arrangement was somewhat complicated and had caused a fair amount of discussions beforehand and was finally solved by Frans pulling rank and telling us how it works. So we left Allen's car at the lodge and took the others to Bushman's Neck at the end point.

Day 1

The hike starts at about 8km from the Lodge, but seeing that we had no transport we had to make do with the short cut to the hike indicated to us by Richard, the lodge owner. That was 2 km up the road and than along the stream, at the pool we would hit the path, that was the theory. When we got to a pool we thought it was the pool and couldn't find our path. The GPS indicated that we were at approximately the right point, so where was that @#$% path.
Fortunately some hikers came along to tell us that our path is about 2 km on. Off we went, there was another pool and also the bridge the guidebook was talking about.
Now there was only 8 km left to do, but first we had to navigate uphill. In the process Tania slipped, fell and twisted her knee. That was bad news, but she pushed on at great speed. Once on the downhill it was more like a race to get to the Cobham Hut. It was a nice hut, we could make a fire inside the lounge, that was very welcome since a cold front had come over us and it was fairly chilly.

Day 2

Tania was not going to hike, her knee had suffered some damage. A taxi was called and she went back to begin, that is the Sani Lodge.
From Cobham to Mzimkhulwana Hut, 9 km, a really short hike. But because it was so short and the weather was nice we sat around for long periods.
Mzimkhulwana Hut had no fireplace and the wind was cool. Also the kitchen area was half in the open. For dinner we put the big table into one of the rooms and had a communal dinner at 18h15 followed by lengthy discussions about the usual such as male/female interaction and how males should try and see their female side.

Day 3

What happened on day 3? This was 12 km from the Mzimkhulwana Hut to the Winterhoek Hut. Initially up and up to about 1900m and than down and down. We got to the hut by about 15h00.
On the way was this lovely swimming pool. I was shown off by Bernice jumping into the icy water, whilst I was still moaning how painful my legs were from the cold water. I never managed to get past ball line.

Day 4

The tree-cutting fascists are active around here, that is around the Swiman Hut. They are having a go at the Bluegum trees at this stage and it looks like the lovely conifers standing around the hut are also in their visor. I am sure it's all in the name of conservation, down with all the non-indigenous stuff. Personally I think its conservation gone mad.
I am starting on day 4, that is despite an initial resolve to write my story every day. So I have to work backwards from here.
Today's hike was 13 km and took us from the Winterhoek Hut to the Swiman Hut. The initial up was soon overcome and we motored down, on the way Tania came up the path to meet us. At this stage we were about 5 km from our destination. She had got bored in the Lodge and decided to make a dash for it to see whether she can sleep with us.

Day 5

Because it was the last day it was important to us to leave early, I think we managed 7h30. We lost the trail for a while, but only until I could tell them 'I told you so', having pointed out the right path at one of the forks earlier on. The first bit was up and over, not much of a climb. After a short stop out of the wind at the bridge over the Mzimude River the climbing started in earnest, up to 2100m at Langalibalele Cave. A lunch was called for at the cave. I amused myself by looking at some faint rock paintings and by finding some stone age tools (stones).
And from now on it was down hill, all the way to the cars. That was done in no time. Just a bit of panic at the end, Tania had come up the path to meet us, but we never saw her. Allen charged up into the mountain and after a while came back with her in tow. She had gone to the hut, which we never went to.
Next problem, Frans's bakkie wouldn' t go, something about air lock in the diesel supply. It took a fair amount of fiddling before we got that right.
We had to get to Nkosana Lodge in the Monks Cowl area. That is where other club members had gone to. We made it just before suppertime.

Day 6 & 7

We now spent two days in the lodge, here we entertained ourselves by doing a hike through the Hlatikulu forest. It was supposed to be 6km and turned out to be 9, nobody complained. And on day 7 there was a three-hour hike from the Drakensberg Sun to the Blue Grotto. Initially it was up through the black wattle forest (the tree cutting fascists have not been here yet). It also took us past Barry's grave, a climber who fell to his death nearby in 1938.
The return trip from the grotto was especially beautiful; it was completely through indigenous forest and the best part of the hike.

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