The Free State section organised and presented this national meet, or “minicamp”, which took place from 10 to 16 April. The meet was attended by 45 mountain enthusiasts, representing 8 of the MCSA sections and coming from as far as Cape Town, Robertson, George, East London and Durban. The camp was opened with a fine dinner at the nearby Basotho Cultural Village, adding a cultural flavor to the event.
Most of the attendees were over the age of 60, with 93 being the oldest. One of the younger members remarked that base camp looked like an old age home, but I would rather describe the people concerned as highly esteemed, active senior members of the MCSA. Our President, Dave Jones, also attended. Everybody enjoyed being in the mountains and participated with zeal in the various hikes being offered. Obviously the moderate day walks enjoyed the most support. But quite a number of the not-so-young took on extended hikes going up to the escarpment, while others preferred to explore the valleys with the beautiful gorges and sandstone formations. The absence of paths and the lush vegetation made the going quite rough.
Base camp was in one of the valleys next to a typical Drakensberg stream, with two toilets and firewood being the only facilities provided. The road to base camp was rough and muddy. A shower on the day of arrival turned it into a challenge and a few vehicles got stuck in the mud. But the worse (and most discussed) feature of the access road was the infamous sinkhole, four meters deep, swallowing a large part of the road. You had to drive around it, with your wheels passing uncomfortable near the edge of the hole. When the road was wet (which was most of the time) this passage became scary!
The weather did not spoil any of the hikes, but quick late afternoon showers often chased the campfire sitters back to their tents. Temperatures were mild and actually pleasant for April. The escarpment hikers had a bit more trouble with mist and showers. A shower and some wet rocks caused one of the hikers to fall and break her nose. That was the only casualty of the meet.
The local population in QwaQwa was fascinated by our visit and many walked quite a distance to observe base camp and all the strange things to be seen there. We hired guards every day to safeguard our property and to keep unwanted visitors (including Lesotho-type dogs) out of camp. The cows grazing on the nearby slopes, however, were welcome to stroll through camp late afternoon. Some had bells around their necks, making lovely sounds and resembling the cows of the Swiss Alps.
In conclusion, it was a very enjoyable meet in beautiful surroundings, with nice (and sometimes challenging) hikes, where new friendships were formed and old friendships cherished. The feedback was very positive, proving again that a small section of the MCSA can organise a very successful minicamp. I am sure everybody left with gladness in their hearts, uplifted spirits and a renewed awe of God’s wonderful creation.
Derek Odendaal – Organising coordinator