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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Woodcliffe Trail

Arrived there about 12.15 – 12.30 (875 km’s.) This was when I found out that on the second day, the trail brings you back to the cars so you don’t need to take all your food and drinks with you. After resorting out our bags and listening to the instructions by the owner we set off about 2:00pm. There was a lovely wind blowing which was a life saver as it was blazing hot.

We started walking along a jeep track, we continued along a jeep track and except for about 200m we finished walking along a jeep track. The monotony was broken by crossing three rivers of which I just had to walk through instead of hopping from one stone to another. As the stones were quite far apart I could just see myself falling flat on my face, although considering how extremely hot it was, that might just have been a welcome relief. I love hiking, I really do, but to me there is nothing worse than walking along a jeep track.

The last section – approximately 1km, was extremely steep. Once we had reached the rock with the big ‘CAVE’ sign on it we gratefully departed from the jeep track and made our way to the cave. Unfortunately, although the trail is well marked, there is no footpath which made for difficult going. Upon reaching the cave we sat and put our feet up and relaxed for half an hour before getting our stuff sorted for the evening.

Cave was quite low in places with four rooms built in towards the back and one to the side. There was a braai area in front with a small slab for a table. Wood is provided and there is a long drop further down the mountain although once again there is no path leading towards it which made it difficult. (It was bad enough trying to get there during the day but I would have really hated to go there in the middle of the night). The cave is situated behind a small waterfall from whence you obtain your water. Could be very time consuming and not something I would want to do in winter and you are liable to get very wet in the process.

After supper it was Doreth and Pauline’s turn to wash dishes. I was horrified. I specifically don’t take dishes so I don’t have washing up to do and here everybody takes turn washing dishes which means the following night it would be my turn. It was enough to make me cut and run.

Not sure if I was getting flu or it was my menopausal symptoms rearing its ugly head but I was getting hot and cold flushes all night so was thankful when the sun rose. From being promised that it was going to be a hot, clear day, it was initially very misty and the day remained overcast which, in my opinion, was a good thing. After partaking of a hurried breakfast, trying to dry my socks and then packing we departed for the second day’s trail which was graded as relatively easy. HaHaHaHeeHee.

Back up the ‘path’ which was not a path, down the jeep track for about 600m we than veered off to the left and onto a proper trail. Thank goodness. It was lovely walking midway up the mountain with the river below us and the area was really beautiful. The trail contoured for about 1.5km’s at which time we crossed ‘Skinny Dip’ pool and then we did a steep climb for a short distance. Remember this climb because you will be doing more of them, lots more. We then contoured for quite a distance. Not having hiked much in the last 3 – 4 years and due to menopause, not really enjoying the hikes either – depleted energy levels – it felt really great to be outdoors. To watch the wind chasing the clouds and the grass and flowers dancing to the sound of the wind whistling amongst the trees and boulders. The birds showing off their flying prowess and the gurgling streams. I cannot explain the utter peace and contentment I felt at that time. It was absolute bliss.

And than we started climbing, and we climbed, and we climbed and than we did some more climbing. Very short contours to break the climb and then climbed some more. And then you get to thinking that you can’t climb anymore, you climb some more. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there were actual foot paths that you could follow but you had to make your own path which makes it more difficult. Eventually when you do reach the top you aren’t given much chance walking along the top to enjoy the scenery before the trail takes you down to where you cross a small river. Fortunately we got to contour for a short distance after that major climb before the trail took us straight down. And I don’t mean going down in a zig zag path but straight down on a trail that has no path with sections where erosion has taken place. I found this section to be particularly dangerous and you had to be very careful because one false step and you would go rolling down the mountain. That was an extremely difficult descent and it seemed to take forever. Although it was very beautiful, I don’t think that the beauty warrants the lack of path and the danger.

After eventually reaching the bottom, with our hearts thumping in our chests and our legs feeling like jelly, we contoured for about a kilometer or two, although it felt longer than that, when we, thankfully, came upon the farm house where we had parked the cars and where we were supposed to collect the remainder of the food and drinks we had left behind before heading back to the cave we had slept in the previous night, which meant walking up that horrible jeep track once again.

Not a chance. Not me. No way in hell was I going to go up that jeep track again. I loathe jeep tracks and besides the fact that it would have been my turn to wash the dishes notwithstanding, there was absolutely no way I was going to manage that climb to the cave. Especially as the third day was supposed to be relatively difficult and what we had just done was relatively easy???? Who grades these trails?

Think I need to clarify at this point. I am diabetic and take neither sugar tablets nor insulin but try and keep it under control through diet. Living a relatively sedentary life at home it was quite easy to keep under control, except when somebody offered me a Cadburys chocolate. I originally packed for the Outeniqua Trail but due to circumstances I was unable to do that trail which gave me more time to try and work out a ‘proper’ diet. Although the Outeniqua Trail, including the Harkerville Trail, takes 9 days and the distance per day is longer, apparently the trail itself is classified as average to difficult. What I had packed originally would have been perfect for Woodcliffe but I thought I might have overdone it somewhat and therefore repacked. Not realizing how extremely strenuous Woodcliffe is, I miscalculated somewhat the amount of carbohydrates and fats I needed and therefore found Woodcliffe to be extremely difficult. Add that to the fact that fitness wise I had let myself go over the last 5 years. I think if I had continued the trail it would have been a disaster, for the other hikers at least. I might have no will power but I do have an eternal supply of perseverance so I would have made it – eventually. Think everybody’s tempers would have been extremely short at that time though.

So, there is a distinct possibility that it is not as strenuous as I think it is, therefore I would suggest that you read other's reports, although I do think that it is dangerous in certain places.

As Pauline had originally intended just doing the first two days and from there head on the Ugie to see family, Jenny and I decided that we couldn’t, in all honesty, allow Pauline to run amok in this beautifully stunning area all on her own. Also, as we had so much charm to spare we really needed to spread it around and therefore we elected to go along with her.

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