As summer was coming to an end in late March, ten of us escaped from the city and congregated in the tiny little village of Swinburne, on the N3 half-way to Durban.
Swinburne is remarkable for a couple of reasons: it is a major truck stop on the way to Durban; it is overlooked by a massive solitary sandstone mountain called Rensburgkop, and it is just about the best bouldering destination in South Africa. Literally hundreds of house-sized boulders rolled down from the mountain eons ago and is now strewn across the mountain side and farm yard, offering dozens of single pitch bolted routes for all skill levels, short bouldering problems and even a couple of multi-pitch routes up the side of the mountain itself.
Accommodation is in the old farm house and barn, boasting bunk beds, amenities and a wonderful fireplace for late night conversation with some good red wine. The farm also sports some rather luxurious en-suite rooms constructed later on. The farmhouse stands under ageless gum trees on vast stretches of emerald lawns and faces onto the mountain, whose face changes expressions with the very changeable weather patterns of the area.
It is not often that a group of people that goes away on a weekend like this “gels” as well as our group did. Not all of us knew each other before the trip, but everybody just got on. One of our number was a French girl who was an absolute treat to have along. We laughed till our sides ached watching her chasing the livestock. We climbed, hiked, biked, talked and ate like kings. We sat around the fire till the wee hours of the morning relating tall tales from years gone by.
Despite dreadful weather forecasts, the days started crystal clear and ended in an infinity of stars.
Saturday was dedicated to climbing: while the more experienced climbers set out to tackle 17 and 18 grades on Spearhead Boulder and surrounds, the newbie climbers headed for Whale Rock, where we set up a number of 14s and 15s. Late afternoon we headed down to the farmhouse for a shower and a braai that lasted late into the night.
While some just couldn’t get enough of the climbing and headed right back to the hills at the break of day, Andrew and I took our mountain bikes for a ride on Sunday morning. We headed out through Swinburne, across the N3 onto gently rolling dirt roads hemmed with cosmos flowers towards Ladysmith. After a couple of hours of riding we headed back to base, where I cooked up a storm for the weary climbers returning from the mountain.
After brunch we reluctantly packed up and headed back to Joburg.
I always find it amazing how a simple weekend like this can feel like a full length holiday, and can stay with you for so many months to come.