Boksburg Hiking Club Web Site
Wolkberg, entrance to camping site.
Wolkberg Wilderness Area (as planned) 21 / 24 March 1996
This is four-day backpacking expedition for experienced and fit hikers who also have some rock-climbing ability and are not afraid of heights. Trail is not marked and there is a possibility of getting lost. Hikers must have good sense of direction. Three nights will be spent camping on the trail. It is recommended that hikers carry tents, while camping stoves are necessary. Maximum size of a hiking party is 10 hikers and club members will be given preference.
We meet Thursday morning 10h00 at Shell City, 10km before Pietersburg. From Shell City we travel to Wolkberg, another 70km away. We will have lunch braai at Serala forest station picnic site and then start our hike at 13h30 to spend our first night in the wilderness.
Day 1 (7km): We descend into the Klipdraai River Valley, stopping frequently at waterfalls and pools to look for suitable overnight camping spot.
Day 2 (16km): We follow the rivers upstream making frequent river crossings. For this part of the trail sandals are suitable footwear. Then through Wonderwoud to Devils Knuckles. There's where your rock climbing ability will come handy. After climbing The Knuckles we descent into the Thabina River valley and follow the river to is waterfall, where it plunges into the Lowveld. No official campsite is at this area and we must find and clear our own.
Day 3 (17km): From here we start our hike back. First to climb out of the Thabina River Valley, across the mountain and down into Mampa's Kloof. We continue walking in Mampas kloof, an easy stroll now along the Mohlapitse River and on a jeep track. We spend the night at the Ashmole-Dales River
Day 4 (13km): Steep zigzag jeep track will take us up and back to the forest station.
Hike Leader: Stan (tel. 826 4743)
Wolkberg Hike (as executed) 21 / 24 March 1996
This was very successful four-day backpacking expedition for experienced and fit hikers who were not afraid to double as rock climbers. Trail is not marked but we were always following the correct path even thou at time most hikers thought we are lost. Three nights were spent camping on the trail and two of us who did not carry tents did not suffer as there was no rain and the nights were warm. Size of our hiking party was 9 hikers including 9 year old Darien who in now experienced hiker. Frequent river crossings, while bothersome obstacles for adults, were fun for him.
We met Thursday morning 10h00 at Shell City, 10km before Pietersburg. From there we traveled to Wolkberg, another 70km away, 35 of that on gravel road not much suitable for saloon cars. After lunch braai at Serala forest station picnic site we started our hike at 13h30 by easy stroll with dramatic views down into the river valley to spend our first night in the wilderness. Next day we hiked through Wonderwoud and admired impressive yellowwoods and other vegetation that obscured our views. We decide to break camp in the saddle between Serala mountain and Devils Knuckles. In the afternoon some of us left to conquer Devil's Knuckles. They look formidable from a distance but actual climbing is well in capabilities of average hiker. Soon we were standing on top of the highest knuckle admiring the 360-degree view. On Saturday we started to climb the Serala Mountain, at 2050m the highest peak in the area. Path was unbelievably steep through dense vegetation. All of a sudden the vegetation ended and so did the path. We found ourselves standing on the face of the mountain with sheer drop of couple of hundred meters to our right and steep rockface to our left. We climbed that rockface, but it was really dangerous with nothing to stop our fall into an inaccessible valley below. Once on top we just walked around and down the mountain to our first night camping site. That meant that on Sunday we only had to walk last 8km uphill to get back to forest station at 13h00. But of course we did not miss swimming in the waterfall again.
This hike was scaled down a little from what planned but still it was very strenuous and challenging hike and one of the most beautiful. Nevertheless there are large areas of Wolkberg wilderness left for Boksburg Hiking Club to explore.
Stan (tel. 826 4743)
SWAZILAND ADVENTURE - NDHLOZANA RIVER GORGE
April 19th to April 21st 1996
This hike is in remote western corner of Swaziland, 330km from Boksburg. It is real wilderness hike suitable only for highly adventurous hikers as there are no facilities whatsoever, not even a path. We sleep in our tents in the wilderness on all nights. Fires are allowed on this trail but stove is not. Water from springs flowing into the river is clear and safe for drinking. Some additional equipment not normally carried on hiking trails will be required. We need axe or machete to get our wood and clear our path. Grid over fire for cooking. Larger kettle as river water must be boiled for drinking. 12m of rope. Line and hook as fishing can supplement our food supply. Black refuses bag to float your backpack when swimming across the river. Depending on water level, some river crossings can be difficult but the river is slow flowing.
Thursday March 20th: We meet at 17h00 in P&P parking area near Engen garage and drive in direction of Swaziland. Border post will be closed so we overnight in municipal Caravan Park nearby.
Day 1 - Friday (14km): We leave this caravan park at 07h00 and go to park our car safely at a private house in town. From there transport is arranged to take us 20km to the border. Border post opens at 08h00 and we cross into Swaziland with our backpacks only. Taxi is waiting on Swaziland side and it will take us to the beginning of the trail some 10km away. There we'll disappear into the depths of the Ndlozana river gorge. 200m high walls will surround us and even at noon the sun can hardly reach the bottom of the gorge. Progress is slow due to frequent river crossings and overgrown path on the bank. Night is spent in the open on the riverbanks.
Day 2 - Saturday (17km): We'll continue walking next to the river. Gorge will gradually open up, but high mountains will be around us all the time. The area is remote and devoid of humans. Our day's hike will end at the confluence of Ndlozana and Asseggai rivers. The Asseggai is a large river, up to 50m wide and we will have to cross it at this point in order to break our camp on the other side
Day 3 - Sunday (8km): We are in the lowveld now and to get back to the highveld we will have to walk uphill all the time. But path is shady, at first through ingenious forest and later through gum plantations. Also it conveniently ends near Casino where we will have time to get some refreshments. From there we take taxi to the border, some 25km away. After crossing the border we phone for our transport to come and fetch us.
Usutu River rafting - Swaziland
This is an annual event.
Plunge through a series of challenging rapids in the Usutu River with Boksburg Hiking Club.
"How many ks till we get there?" asked one of the guys in our expedition. He was still caught up in the city whirl of facts and figures and distances that can be measured in metric terms. But we were on a deserted gravel road in the middle of Swaziland. Darkness around us was pierced by light beams revealing impenetrable bush on both sides of the road. Suddenly a wide opening appeared on one side. "Lets check the possibility of getting nearer to the river". "Yes, its a decent farm road" shouted Stan and drivers swore as they had to negotiate a sharp turn across the culvert. And we were "there", our home for the night, a level clearing in the bush overlooking the Usutu River. It was a great setting for that great weekend nights pass time of standing around a fire, beer in hand, braai going and anticipating events of the next day. Mood was a little bit subdued due to unfamiliarity of the place and soon we retired into our tents.
The rafting began the next morning when we travelled back to the bridge and with Kathys man-sized air pump inflated our canoes. The first rapid was straightforward and very good practice for those of us whose only experience of white water rafting was hearing horror stories of mighty Zambezi. But it didnt help much. We capsized in the next rapid and then our canoe got wrapped around a stone. From there we had a grand view of perfect run through the rapid by George and Kate. They were whipped from the still pool, down a narrow tongue of fast water, into the standing waves. Kate looked scared, but if you are not scared when rafting, you are not having a fun.
There were more rapids where we had fun and also long lazy stretches where languid paddling is optional, but most people seemed to prefer simply floating. The river was moving fast and countryside was effortlessly passing by. The rapid however are fairly treacherous looking with rounded rock sticking starkly out of the rushing water. Waves in the rapids stand still while the water moves unlike the sea where the water stands and wave move.
Unfortunately we opened some old wounds in one of our canoes, which started to leak and we had to pump it up periodically. Later we simply loaded it into the other canoe and embarked on a nice 2km hike along the river bank while others continued rafting through some gentle rapids to our meeting point. Towards the evening we moved our camp to a waterfall to explore the area around.
We viewed the falls during late afternoon when sunshine didnt light the plunge pool and the cataract, but still cast a colourful rainbow as a cloud of mist surged into the air from tempestuous pot 30m below. The river was full and waterfall really impressive. There is something intensely seductive about it as we watched it for some time from whatever vantage point we dared to reach. The we had a last swim some respectable distance above the falls, returned to our camp and soon fell asleep around the fire.
The most exciting rapids are just above the falls and we went for them again the next morning. But the might of the falls lingered in our minds, robbing us of some fun and excitement of shooting through them. The fact that Stan was standing on a boulder in the river to show us where to stop did not calm us much. We did only one trip and got ready to leave the mighty Usutu River.
In the meantime a commercial rafting company showed up and we watched as every one of their 20 customers capsized to be picked up at the bottom of the rapids by men in two kayaks. Their total rafting experience was only about 300m long.
We were leaving proud that we did it ourselves and better.
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