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I wasn't on this hike, for many years this has been a regular and one of my favourite hikes, but this time I had to sit it out because of knee problems. Christopher wrote this report.
After the lockdown and all the things that transpired in 2020 I felt the need to do a backpack, for a while Mnweni used to be a staple for the end of the year as it was warm enough for us to swim on many occasions, making it the perfect hike selection for ending the year.
We arrived at the Mnweni hiking and cultural centre at around 1:30 PM, Us being Jorg, Frans, Anmarie (the newcomer to the group), and me. Upon arrival we noticed at least 20 cars parked at the centre, this was rather surprising as you normally never see anyone else besides the locals. As usual, we grudgingly paid our hiking fees but gladly paid R50 pp for a lift to the start of the route. We made our way up the mountain and followed the usual route to our standard campsite close to the Mnweni pools, along the way we spotted what seemed like four kids that had set up their tents not too far from our crossing point, it was odd seeing outsiders en-route. We made it to the crossing point and after some discussion made the crossing and set up camp on the usual spot, after a successful camp setup we decided we needed a swim and made our way to the pool in what seemed like ice water but once you are in it's great.
We started the day with a lovely swim, packed up our things, and headed a couple hundred meters to our first of many river crossings, at this point my memory failed me and to the detriment of people trying to keep their shoes dry I couldn't recall how many crossings there were, it ended up being about 6 on the day. We made our way up to the path and followed it until we reached the now famous Jimís pool, to our horror there was a group of about 12 people who had set up camp right next to the pools, after a bit of small talk we headed a few meters up and had lunch. After lunch we had a swim with some more small talk, packed up our things and headed over the Icidi river to follow the path to 5 star cave, halfway there it started raining and we had to put on some rain gear, the rain made it very slippery and getting up to the cave was harder than usual.
We packed up and headed down the same route we came up, however we stayed too far to the right and somehow ended up at the river, this caused a riot and the group decided to split Anmarie and I went along the river, Frans and Jorg headed up and over. We still had radio communication, after checking in, it seemed they had somehow gone too high up and we attempted to guide them down a steep mountain. After they made it down safely I felt too bad to tell them we didn't even get our feet wet. We then headed to Jimís pool and had a swim in the original Jimís pool which seems to have cleared all the rocks in it and made a lovely swimming experience once again. After some discussions about lunch we decided to do all the river crossings and have lunch back at our original campsite, we found a nice shady spot and ate lunch, this was preceded by a swim (obviously)
After a night of on and off rain, which continued into the morning we quickly ate breakfast, packed up our things, and headed for the crossing point which looked much harder than it was previously. We decided to walk a bit higher up where the water was more spread out, it made for easier crossing, but still no easy feat. Following the path back we met a large group of young hikers who told us they had come from the top of the berg and are heading back to the camp, it was raining so we kept our heads down and managed to keep up with the young hikers. We arrived back at the camp, proceeded to shower pack up, and headed on our way home, we planned to have a lamb burger at Little Switzerland only to find out they are not open to visitors, the small restaurant just outside Little Switzerland would have to do, I very much enjoyed that burger.
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