(Contributed by: Len Stoop)
On Saturday morning we met at Game at 07:30. We waited a while for more people, but after a while we left for the farm Moorfield. This farm is situated at the top of Mullers pass, ±25 km from Newcastle.
The main trail starts there and carries on into the adjacent Ncandu Forest reserve, which is supposed to be managed by the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (the old Natal Parks board).
There is the main 2 day trail that takes a person to the 2 overnight huts, then into the gorge through the indigenous Ulumbe forests and back to Moorfield. Then there are various other day hikes to waterfalls, into the side gorge, through forest and around the top of the mountain. The road is quite bad, especially the last part leading from the main road to the farm house (luckily my old Nissan made it!).
When we arrived at the farm house, we paid our dues to Deon de Waal, the new manager. The new owners, Thomas & Sonnya Holtz were in Johannesburg at the time. They would like to create a greater nature reserve in the area with the help of neighbouring farmers, Ezemvelo and work that botanical and wildlife researchers are doing in the area, etc. New accommodation, new ablution and kitchen facilities for day visitors and campers have been built.
It was a clear and sunny day. Henry and the 2 young men were going to arrive a bit later, so we made some coffee and waited for them. We decided to walk to the small waterfall and pool close to the house, then along the top of the eastern side of the gorge. I decided to return to the farm house and wait for Henry & co. Gerhard, Maria and Lulu carried on. A bit later, Deon followed Gerhard & co., to show them the absail anchors and the path to the bottom of the high waterfall. Henry & co. arrived at about 11am, because they missed the Mullers pass turn-off. They eventually went up Normandien pass and through the Freestate to Moorfield.
Henry, the 2 boys and I took a walk along the top of the eastern side of the gorge, looking for Gerhard & co. Later we returned to the farmhouse, where we had lunch. Gerhard and Maria brought their abseiling equipment along and they suggested that we go absailing after lunch. Gerhard wanted to fetch Lulu’s shoes and their walking sticks, that they left on the path to the bottom of the waterfall. I went with Gerhard, who was walking in front. We hardly left the farmhouse when Gerhard jumped backwards, shouting “SNAKE!!”. There was a spitting cobra in the grass next to the path. Well, after we let the snake sail off, we retrieved the shoes and sticks and then returned to the others.
Later we all went to the anchor points, where Gerhard and Maria set up the equipment and gave a lesson to the rest of us. Eventually Maria, Marc, Henry, Gerhard and Lulu (strapped to Gerhard), abseiled down a vertical, 25m high cliff.
After all that excitement, we returned to the farmhouse. Soon afterwards, Gerhard, Maria and Lulu returned to Newcastle. The rest of us pitched our tents, made a camp fire and then had a nice braai.
On Sunday morning, while we folded up our tents, Tjaart and Marianne arrived. We took a walk to the upstream waterfall, round the hill to the top of the waterfall and then back to the farmhouse. From here, we walked the same path as on Saturday, but this time into the gorge, where the path leads to the bottom of the high waterfall. We did not climb all the way down, but followed the path through the indigenous forest, to the top of the high
waterfall. While we negotiated some boulders, I slipped on a muddy spot and fell backwards into a small puddle. Needless to say, I was very wet and muddy, with a painful calf muscle.
Henry and the boys decided to leave us there and return to Newcastle, because Benjamin did not feel well. Tjaart, Marianne and I had lunch at the waterfall, while I tried to dry myself in the sun.
I planned to walk along the western side of the gorge after lunch, but because of my injury, Tjaart and Marianne recommended that we don’t, so we returned to the farmhouse, packed up and returned to Newcastle.
To summarise, we did not walk to all the spots that were planned, but it was still quite eventful and enjoyable. This area is the most beautiful in the Newcastle area, especially in summer when all the streams are running. The trial needs some work, but we should go there for a 3 day excursion.