Had a fantastic hike this last weekend. Joey Monson, Holger Reichel, Paul Courtnage, and myself left early Saturday morning in Vanessas zoot Pajero, The sign to wolkberg from Moria (site of the massive pilgrimage over easter) are no longer there so we decided to pop in to Cathy & Brian Slaters place in haenertsberg, where we had the thrill of seeing their 3 day old baby of which none of us were aware. Brian was real helpful and his route from the MCSA hut (4x4 essential) around Serala to the Devils horns and then into the wonderwoud with a breathtaking view over the Devils knuckles was a winner. The place is beautiful, my camera is still man down but go to these pages for some great pics http://www.icon.co.za/~dvanzyl/wolkberg.html
We found the walk up from the hut steep going through the thick grass but sightings of a herd of eight Grey Rhebok and two separate sightings of klipspringer as well as the bochum of a troop of baboons certainly made this a special walk. Once on top we had a very late lunch with stunning views over the lowveld to the east. The cold that night enforced an early sleep after a hasty lekker supper.
Next morning we spent time at the top both enjoying the veils of the waterfalls plunging to the forest below as well as the challenge of finding the way down, which proceeds with a path upwards appearing to then go straight off a massive spur. We defied logic and Holger set off on a recee over this cliff, he did thankfully appear 30 minutes later, he was no Houdini and there is a steep narrow path down over a hidden spur, it is worth it requiring a little scrambling with the aptly named Wonder Woud spread out like a magic carpet below. Again the path lost us, but a bit of scramling, we found the wonderful way down through the thick forest, spotting the elusive Samango monkey on the way past. We walked alongside a mountain stream, with stunning pools, vegetation and sound!.
The walk then left the yellowood Forrest and entered the bushveldt, with the cliff-strata a magnificent red as opposed to the greys higher up. We found another magic campsite complete with enormous boulder and fig-tree growing out and around it. The next day was mainly along the jeep track, but we spotted both bushbuck and Nyala as well as the remnants of earlier mans stay in an ancient grinding stone now used as part embankment for the track, we quickly made the access boom, dropped our packs and set off to do the very steep five kms back to the top (it had seemed really easy in the Pajero) to finish off a wonderful, hike.
And here's some further very interesting stuff
Wolkberg A Vast Wilderness
On Haenertsburg's doorstep is the Wolkberg Wilderness. This area, declared a wilderness in the early 1970's, consists of 42,000 acres of dense virgin forest, rolling hills of virgin grasslands, waterfalls, vertical quartzite krantzes, kloof after kloof, and flora and fauna of indescribable beauty. It's far more rugged than the rest of the Transvaal escarpment.
The Wolkberg Mountain Hut, built and owned by the Mountain Club of South Africa, is the only overnight man made structure. Its huge fireplace, with the big verandah overlooking the 'Four Knuckles' of the Wolkberg, was built some 50 years ago. A local, the late Clifford Thompson, carried pockets of cement, on his back, up the steep mountain to lay the foundations.
ItR17;s an easy two-hour walk from the Hut to The Horns, a spectacular waterfall, which drops from the 'Knuckles' into the Lowveld. Another walk is from the Hut to the Mohlapetsi River. It's a very steep downhill to a series of big pools, which includes a fun 80-meter bum slide. Wonderwoud (the Wonder Forest) is one of the biggest indigenous forests in South Africa. The strikingly coloured Cape Parrot lives amongst the hundreds of huge, old podocarpus falcatus (yellowwood).
The Aloe thompsoniae (named after Clifford's mother) is indigenous to the wet sides of the Wolkberg. Bright pink Watsonias cover an entire mountain slope. Other areas are massed with red-hot pokers, diarama (pink hair bells) or Scilla natalensis. The flora species diversity is estimated at 2,000.
Eighteen bird species that occur on the Wolkberg are included in the 2000 Red Data Book for Birds. The Blue Swallow is one of the rarest birds in the country and nests at the foothills of the Wolkberg. It is listed as "critical." The Black-rumped buttonquail and the Cape Parrot are listed as 'endangered'. Four species are listed as 'vulnerable' and eight species as 'near threatened'.
Bushbuck, porcupine, bush pig, rooikat, and leopard live in the Wolkberg. It's the only area in which all five primates of South Africa can be seen. These are the baboon, vervet monkey, samango monkey, 'nagapie' and 'bosnagapie'(bushbabies)
Portions of the Wolkberg, including the area around the Hut, were illegally planted with pines many years ago. When the Wolkberg was declared a wilderness, the Government bought the land from private landowners but not the timber. Cor van den Berg of Environmental Affairs is spearheading the removal of all the pines and converting the land to its original grassland state. Cor says, "It will take two years to establish ground cover and another fifty years to get it back to its original state."
The high altitude mesic grasslands are second only to the fynbos in the Cape in bio-diversity. The pines in these grasslands are also at the source of the Mohlapetsi River. They have disturbed the run off and their removal will improve the catchment area of the mountain. This River is a vital source of clean water as it dilutes the mining and agricultural pollutants of the Olifants River.
The Wolkberg is going to be included in the Kruger to Canyon's Biosphere Reserve. This is a UNESCO-recognised initiative which will ensure the conservation and development status of the area. The final application was submitted to UNESCO in France in July 2001.
The foot of the Wolkberg turned into a gold mining operation in the late 1880's and Haenertsburg came into existence as the centre of activities. The first mine was called Eerste Geluk (First Luck) and this was followed by several more, including Wellcome and Houtboschberg.