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A backpack hike near Newcastle in Natal. Starting point is at Dunblane about 20km out of town. The Friday night was spent at the Grey goose lodge just out of Newcastle. They have a backpackers section. At that night we decided to rather have a meal in the restaurant, made things easier, there wasn't much cooking facility in the back packers and it was much more social. There were six of us: Tania, Allen, Michael, Christopher, Frans and me.
Saturday morning off we went to get to the starting point at Dunblane, the Vulindaba golf estate is where we left our cars. Our guide, Johannes, was with us. The guide is needed in this case to get the overnight accommodation sorted out at arrival and also to guide us on the route, there are a few options.
Initially up and up we went from 1430m to 1800m, a difference of 370 meters. This got us to the escarpment of the Drakensberg, going was slow. Just before the top we were offered a choice, following the official route which would take us along a contour and after a few kilometres up to the top, or to the top now, which was in sight, and a easy walk from there over undulating country, not many or severe ups and downs. Our choice was unanimous, rather the up and easy than the ups and downs of the contour with difficult walking conditions.
We didn't regret our choice, walking was easy. By 11h00 it was announced that we'll be at the hut in one and a half hours. This disturbed me a bit and I demanded a long sit down lunch. This we had at some river, not sure, was that the Ingogo?
A few highlights of this part of the hike. Cows storming towards us, obviously seeing us as food suppliers. We had to disappoint them. A nice hut of some locals and some ruined farm building, somewhat off the trail and only I and Frans visited them.
The huts were quickly made habitable by Johannes and that was because everything had been locked up since otherwise it would get stolen. First thing was the generator and the pump to get water into the tank. The donkey had to be started, and here we noticed something that went against our engineering knowledge. The water inlet was at the top and the outlet at the bottom. No wonder it took ages to get hot water out of the system, the whole drum had to heat up before we got hot water and then we had plenty.
It was getting quite cold in the afternoon and it started to rain which made life a bit uncomfortable. We solved that problem by setting up the table inside the kitchen for supper and other activities and once in our sleeping bags we were very comfortable.
The weather was still cold and drizzly when we started out the next morning. We took no notice of it because the hike kept us occupied, along a stream, crossing streams, through wooded areas, past water falls and up some rock fall. That last one was a bit hairy, it used to be secured by a chain and later a rope, but both had been stolen. So, now we had to free climb up, at one point Tania touched a rock that came thundering down on the hikers below. Not a nice feeling when you are at the receiving end of a falling rock of an unpredictable path.
When we got out of the rough stuff and onto the top plateau things improved, there was even a call for sunblock, but only for a few minutes and the mist came in. I enjoy hiking through the mist, especially with an unerring guide.
And then there was the sharp down that took its toll on my knees and legs, but I survived and can tell the tale of a beautiful and adventurous hike.
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