A recent trip to the Giants Castle area was rewarded with fantastic game viewing, but dampened by the sad sight of the Giant's Hut without a roof and in a terrible state of disrepair.
Game sightings included Oribi (classified as "Critically Endangered" in the SANBI Red Data Book), Eland, Blesbok (possibly moved up from Highmoor), and Mountain Reedbuck (as well as the ever present Chacma Baboon). Birds spotted along the route included "Vulnerable" Bald Ibis, "Endangered" Bearded Vulture and Cape Vulture, amoung other birds.
The route we took was up Oribi Ridge, past the hut, to inspect the damage, down the middle ridge back to the Main Caves. Giant's Hut was a great stop over for those hikers wanting to take an easy first day to the hut, and then on to the top of the Giant, or for a few walks in the area around the hut. The view from the hut have always inspired many, and when you see the view through the new "skylight" it is plain to understand why. Easy options from the hut include the eastern ridge (as daunting as it may seem...), Giant's pass, or a traverse across to Bannerman Hut (along the contour path).
**These images will be republished soon - please bear with us**
| The hut as it currently looks
The hut, as can be seen from the pictures, has been burnt again recently, subsequent to the initial fire (the first fire was about 2 years ago) which destroyed the roof. The damage includes the windows (the frames are still in place, but no glass exists anymore); door frames, now charred remains; sink, which has pulled away from the wall; and a blackened toilet, complete with melted seat... It appears that some hikers or Basotho have recently taken refuge there, although they left most of their rubbish behind, not sticking to the hikers credo.
The theories of how the hut burnt down abound, ranging from a lack of firebreak management around the hut, to the Basotho burning it down intentionally. Whatever the case is, the hut currently is not much of a shelter from a downpour - or wind for that matter, since there is much broken glass in corners where one could shelter from wind.
Evidence of Basothos using the hut are minimal, and even the contour path seems to indicate only animal use for the most part. The old jeep track (from Gaints to Highmoor) is in the process of being rehabilitated, and will probably take some time to be integrated back into the landscape. The contour path, and the path up Oribi Ridge past the old Vulture Hide, still remains a clear scar on the landscape. It does seem that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are working at rehabilitating the track and the contour path where erosion has been creating havoc. Basotho use now seems to be more on the south side of the Giant, and on Bannerman Pass. Evidence suggests that Jarateng is a well used alternative to Langalibelele now also, but we never got close enough to investigate further on this trip.
The way forward appears to be that the hut will either be destroyed, or fixed up. The purpose of this article is perhaps theoretical, or historical. We would like to generate some discussion around the hut, and for those who have good memories from there to share those. If you have bad memories, please feel free to share those too. We want to know your thoughts!