Mini Hike Reports

04 Nov 2018 15:11 - 04 Nov 2018 15:15 #74166 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports
Martial Eagle Cave Hike

In 2005 I was part of a hiking group led by Dave Sclanders that visited the Martial Eagle Valley and cave.  This was a 4 day trip that started at Bannermans Hut in the Giants Castle area and continued on to Centenary Hut, with the third day being dedicated to exploring the Martial Eagle Valley cave and surrounds.  This was not an area often visited by the public as its hidden in the lower Berg amongst the many high ridges and valleys and according to Dave was only known by the staff in the early days and used for ‘VIP’s.  This was borne out by the fact that it even had a toilet built above the cave with a wonderful view.  Very few people know of its existence.  Richard and I decided to revisit this place some 13 years later to see whether we could find it again.Our hike from the camp site to Bannermans hut  was long and hot.  We detoured down a ridge just before reaching the hut, heading down into the long valley below.  The going was tough as the grass was very thick and long which made walking difficult and hard on the feet, not to mention the extra energy involved in picking up your feet higher than  usual.  After an hour or two of negotiating side gully's and steep contouring we could see the tree lined gorge where we thought the cave might be.  Sure enough a little further on we came across the toilet, still sitting there intact and pretty well hidden as its in a slight hollow. We duly took the obligatory photo and then made our way down to the cave. It was clear that it has not been used in years and as there are many trees and a massive boulder in front, is very dark, gloomy and dusty. I was intrigued to note that there were several tree stumps arranged neatly on one side, each with a rock deposited on the top, and I wondered what that was about.  I contacted Dave who told me that it was he who had put the rocks on the stumps to see whether baboons  or hikers would move them.  It would seem that this cave has remained largely undisturbed over the last 10 years or so.  Dave also mentioned that many years ago the dagga smugglers used this cave and when he first found it, the cave was full of litter. It is not used by Park Rangers as they no longer stay out overnight.We had noticed a lovely tenting spot just prior to entering the gorge so we set up camp here, right next to the river.  It was a perfect afternoon and evening.We were up early the following day as we wanted to get going before it got too hot. We had to negotiate our way up, down and around quite a few massive ridges with more bundu bashing to endure and although it was rather a tough day, we saw some beautiful valleys and waterfalls and the vastness of these huge and at the same time secret spaces was once again impressed upon us.  The Berg is always much bigger than you think!  It was incredibly hot and it was with much relief that we trudged into camp at 3.00pm  - that beer and cider never tasted so good!

I recently read a book called ‘Drakensberg Ranger’ by Dr  George Hughes who spent his early years at  Giants Camp under the mentorship of Bill Barnes.  Dr Hughes  went on to become the CEO of KZN Nature Conservation Services and I am currently trying to contact him as I am sure he will have more on the background of this cave and area.  I will post any further information I receive.

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Heading down Martial Eagle Stream Valley



The gorge where the cave is situated - you can see the air vent for the toilet in the middle of the photo



The loo in all its glory



Martial Eagle Cave





A serene sunset looking up the Martial Eagle Valley towards Bannermans Pass



Camp site for the night



Almost home - looking over Giants Castle camp from the Secretary Bird Trail

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Last edit: 04 Nov 2018 15:15 by elinda.

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04 Nov 2018 19:31 #74167 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Mini Hike Reports

elinda wrote: Martial Eagle Cave Hike

It is not used by Park Rangers as they no longer stay out overnight.


!

Surely that is one of the perks of the job ?

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08 Nov 2018 09:22 - 08 Nov 2018 20:22 #74185 by andrew r
Replied by andrew r on topic Mini Hike Reports
Bannerman Pass - Langalibalele Pass Loop

When my Dutch friend Martin (who now lives in the Netherlands again) asked me to arrange a bush walk or Berg hike during his visit to South Africa, I was not too disappointed that the Umfolozi Trails were fully booked during the time he had available, and a hike in the mountains became the only option. We decided on a 2-night trip from Giants Castle Camp since it involved the least amount of travelling (theoretically) and we had not been there before, with our plan being to do a loop up Bannerman Pass and down Langalibalele Pass, with some scouting about on top of the escarpment if we found ourselves with free time. It’s a 4.5 hour trip (plus food/fuel stops) from home to the EKZN Giants Castle Camp, but unfortunately we found ourselves well on the way to Monks Cowl Camp before we realised that Giants Castle Reserve on our GPS is not the same as Giants Castle Camp, with the resulting detour adding another hour to our trip which meant that we arrived after the office had closed.

Fortunately a prior call to ghaznavid gave us sufficient confidence to set off up the trail to Bannerman Hut at 17:30 on Sunday afternoon. All was not well with Martin however, as the tummy bug he had picked up the day before was still in his system, sapping his strength and resolve. We pushed on but when it got dark and thunderstorm clouds started rolling over the edge of the escarpment we decided to put up our tent on the first available piece of flattish ground, just in the nick of time with the thunder, wind and rain hitting us as we were pegging in the guy ropes. Buffeted until the early hours of the morning by the wind and intermittent rain, we woke to calm clear skies and Martin feeling a little better.



We set off at 6:15 for the contour path and Bannerman Hut,



getting to the hut two hours later which we found to be very tidy and stopped for breakfast.



Martin was still feeling sub-par but we decided to head off up Bannerman Pass at 9:15 and if it became too much we would return to the hut for the night and go home. We took a break for tea at a lovely little pool at about 2600m, then continued on up in bright sunshine, reaching the top at around 13:15 where there was a strong wind and we huddled in the lee of some rocks for lunch.



The weather began changing and a rain storm went past to the east while we ate, and when another approached us from the north we decided to look for better shelter in Bannerman Cave. Despite the warning on the Langalibalele Pass thread we made the classic mistake of heading too far west in the wrong valley and it took us a couple of hours in wind and light driving-rain before we worked our way around two valleys and eventually found the cave, whereupon the rain stopped and the sun came out.




Bannerman is a great cave and really well protected from the weather with a built in veranda (but gosh it’s a LONG way from water) and we spent a very comfortable night listening to the wind howling past outside. We woke at 6:00 and at 6:45 hiked to the summit start of Langalibalele Pass where we had breakfast with some horses and the spirits of the Carbineers by the stream before setting off down at 8:15.



9:15 and we were at the waterfall and pool that marks the bottom of the pass, where we stopped for another cup of tea before setting off for a lot more descending down the verdant green hills and valleys of the lower berg. This was by far the most enjoyable and scenic walk out I have done and it was over all too soon when we arrived back at Giants Castle Camp.

 

(photos to follow)

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Last edit: 08 Nov 2018 20:22 by andrew r. Reason: layout & photos
The following user(s) said Thank You: elinda, JonWells, ghaznavid, hikingle, Papa Dragon, Dave, WarrenM

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08 Nov 2018 14:43 #74190 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Mini Hike Reports
Glad you guys came right in the end!

andrew r wrote: This was by far the most enjoyable and scenic walk out I have done and it was over all too soon when we arrived back at Giants Castle Camp.


I suspect you now realise why I have done this pass 20 times (6 times this year) :lol: Very fast way from the top to the car, all on a good trail and with some pretty cool views. I love the bit of Langalibalele Ridge where you have a big drop-off on both sides of the trail - also seen eland on that ridge very often.

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08 Nov 2018 20:25 #74194 by andrew r
Replied by andrew r on topic Mini Hike Reports
Yes, thanks for the help ghaz.
here are a couple more pics of the hike out:




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12 Nov 2018 14:35 #74205 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Mini Hike Reports
Last weekend I lead a hike up Ntunja and Sterkhorn - which was event 5 of the MCSA Mountain Challenge.

We had perfect weather, and the 3 of us that went up Sterkhorn were at the MOTH memorial at 11am on 11 November, the centenary of the end of WW1.

Here are a few photos:
  

The full story is at this link:
jonathantheghaznavid.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/ntunja-and-sterkhorn/

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The following user(s) said Thank You: elinda, Stijn, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall, andrew r, Dave, WarrenM

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