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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Barrett’s Coaches to Wattles and back to Barretts.

Up bright and early and raring to go, the weather, fortunately, played along and it was a lovely cool and overcast day. The probability of it remaining so was very slim so with impatience much stomping around was done until all were ready to depart. (This is what happens when you decide to give up tea and coffee and so you have nothing left to do in the mornings besides have breakfast and pack your bag.) Cars were parked at the Berlin Forest Station and off we went.

As with all plantation walks there is often walking on the road, which has always been my pet hate on hikes (I have lots of others but non-hiking related). Fortunately we didn’t have far to walk on the road before we veered across an open veldt and from there into the pine plantation for a short distance. Upon leaving the pine plantation you descend alongside the plantation down a rocky path. Markers aren’t too great so you need to keep a watch for when the markers veer off towards the right half way down, across a boulder strewn area before plunging into a beautiful lush green indigenous forest.

The trail undulates downhill, quite steeply in some places, for quite a distance – or so my knees told me. On reaching the bottom you then cross over a small gurgling stream before the extremely arduous ascent – in other words, you had to grab on to trees to haul your backside up that gorge - until you reach the top of the escarpment where you flop down onto your back, take a couple of deep breathes and ask yourself why you are punishing your body this way. (Remember this section well, because this is the section you do on the return journey and I swear it feels even worse coming back).

When you get to the stage where you are ready to move on, you look along the vista and then you realize that in order for your soul to be refreshed, your body has to be put through some form of punishment. Man oh man, what a view. You can’t get that type of view sitting in a car racing down the highway, or even taking the back roads. You have to walk, and climb and suffer, and I have never yet known it to be a disappointment. The body pain goes away but the memories linger on making it worthwhile – every step of pain (Ok,ok. I’m exaggerating slightly. Can’t be that painful, if there are so many hikers out there and doing it regularly).

From there on the trail undulates for quite a distance, actually a helleva long distance, along the escarpment. A couple of sections are badly marked so a close watch needs to be kept otherwise you find yourself bundu bashing backwards and forwards looking for the trail, which is not only time consuming but energy draining. One of the reasons why it is an advantage to always walk at the back. By the time you have reached the group they have done all the bundu bashing and are back on the right path so you are able to conserve what little energy you do have left. (Not much at this stage what with racing along the escarpment and the sun beating down on your head).

I wouldn’t advise planning on eating lunch at Starvation Creek Falls unless you are a runner or you are planning a late lunch although your stomach might dictate otherwise but there are some nice areas along the escarpment where you can sit and recuperate a while before heading on. Once Starvation Creek is reached you veer away from the escarpment, and ascend alongside the plantation for a short distance before turning into the plantation And then starts the painful, agonizing energy sucking climb through the plantation. It’s not a steep climb, just one of those climbs that seem never ending and seems to suck the life right out of you but you can’t understand why because it’s not quite flat but neither is it steep.

Not having much choice at this stage you put one foot in front of the other and plod on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Shew, lots of “on’s” there. Totally exhausted you reach the top and behold, before you is the farmhouse. What a magnificent sight. With renewed energy you manage to drag yourself to the front steps but that is as far as you get before collapsing in a heap. To hell with finding a bed, I need to get these shoes off. I need a cigarette. I need a Jacuzzi. I need an ice cold drink. I need a masseuse. I need some gorgeous hunk telling me not to worry, he’ll carry me back to Barretts. Fat chance of that happening.

So you do what you can. Take your shoes off, have a smoke – conveniently forgetting that all the way there you swore you would give up smoking – and relax. After a gloriously hot shower and feeling like a brand new, albeit sore, person you reflect back on the hike - the beautiful green moss growing on the rocks and the old man’s beard dangling from the trees. The tiny flowers and the colourful grass. The butterflies dancing ahead of you and the wild plums. The aloes that look like they are welcoming you with open arms (if you are falling from the sky) and the rock formations – So much beauty, so much to take in. And then you feel invigorated. Not enough to go back on the trail, but just enough to get you through dinner before passing out for a deep dreamless sleep. (Hopefully with your mouth closed and no unearthly noises coming from your nasal passages).

Up bright and early the next day you watch the sun peeking over the tree tops. In my opinion there is only one thing to beat a sunrise and that is a sunset. But either way, they are both beautiful and you feel refreshed and ready to face the return journey – until you pick up your back pack and wonder why you carried all the stuff considering you didn’t use half of it. (Some of us just never learn).

Heading out the gate on the right side of the house you follow the road alongside the plantation and then veer off to the left until you reach a crossroad. This is where we came a little unstuck. Nary a marker to be spotted we, myself included, went first up one road and then another road and then back again and back up the first road until, perchance, a marker was noticed hidden on the rocks amongst the tall grass. So now you know. You don’t go along either of the roads but head along the only section that is veldt and pick up the markers there which, takes you to a concrete road. Another one of those energy sucking up hills that never seem to end and which just go on and on and on and on and on. Phew, so early in the morning and all your energy is already being sucked out of you.

Upon reaching the top, you then veer off across the veldt where you can take a breather (or for smokers, a couple of breathers) amongst some lovely rocks before continuing alongside the pine plantation before ascending once again into the plantation. At least this time it is not one of those energy sucking up hills. Steeper yes, but easier. From there the trail splits. One section towards Kaapschehoop and the other towards Barretts. The trail to Barretts continues across the veldt through some boulders strewn here and there

For the life of me I can't remember the trail from here on out so had to finish this with the help of Sue Desmond. Thanks Sue.

From Barretts you walk gradually up hill to the edge of the escarpment and along the escarpment to the top of the waterfalls, then through the forest to a river with lots of tree ferns and shortly thereafter you come to the Wattles house.

From Wattles you head out on the opposite side of the house the markers are not great but the trail leads off left of the tree line. You then come to a road that is used to get to a building or masts (I can’t quite remember). You take this road for a short distance, the trail is well marked from there (mainly in open grass and rocks along an escarpment. When the trail goes into the trees you will come to the junction to Barretts and Kaapschehoop. It is mainly forest from there.

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