by RIKKI ABBOTT
July Camp 2016 at Lotheni in the Southern Drakensberg was a most enjoyable event.
We continued our trend of recent years of an increasing number of very young Campers. We believe very strongly that this ensures not only the future of July Camp, but also of the Mountain Club. About ten adults asked for KZN MCSA membership forms. Very grateful thanks go to the President of the KZN Section, Murray Saunders, who shared the concern of the July Camp organisers over the low number of KZN Section members who attended July Camp. He pro-actively challenging all the KZN Section Committee members to attend the opening weekend and had a very pleasing response. More Section members attended than is usual.
We had more overseas visitors than in the past and let those of us who are still here catch up with news of many distant friends. Maybe we should get these erstwhile Natal Section members who now live overseas to compile and distribute an annual newsletter?
It was also special in that, at last, we have broken through the colour bar. Thanks to the commitment of Taffy, Miles and Afifa, and their intention to be back again next year with more of their hiking friends.
After years of trying to establish contact with the Scouts, this year we seem to have pushed the right button and had a party of 25 Cubs, Scouts, leaders and parents for the second weekend of Camp. They all seem to have enjoyed it very much and are eager to be back again next year. They scored a hit with the organisers when some of them came back at the end to help with dismantling the Camp.
The Camp was well attended with the final number of man-nights even increasing during the Camp as we welcomed first-timers and old friends who made spur of the moment decisions to join us. Fortunately we had sufficient food and our chef, Vusi Ndlovu, son of the legendary Ishmael Ndlovu, took all in his stride and produced very tasty and satisfying meals that astonished newcomers and kept the regulars coming back for seconds.
Graham Smith led a very fit young party to the top and all returned very pleased with their trip. Other sub-camping parties were led by Norman Owen Smith, Liz Warren, Gerhard Venter and Rod Saunders. Every day saw at least one day party going out and these were led by Dave Morgan, Rachel Saunders, Margaret Brown, Liz Warren, Andy Hackland, Kate Davies and Roger Paul.
An outstanding feature of this Camp was the exceptional hospitality we received from the Ezemvelo staff. Sibongiseni Mica Khoza, the Acting Officer-in-Charge of Lotheni Nature Reserve visited us almost every other day, just to make sure that we did not need anything and Bongiwe Duma, the Receptionist was a most gracious and caring hostess. We thoroughly enjoyed their visits and were able to reciprocate by inviting them to share several meals with us. Another pleasant surprise was a visit from Dumisane Mpontshane, the Officer-in Charge of Vergelegen, the July Camp venue of two years ago.
The weather was relatively mild, with most days being typical for July, cold in the mornings until the sun reached the Camp site (about the end of breakfast), and then warming until it was quite warm to hot at mid-day and the earlier part of the afternoon, and then suddenly dropping when the sun left the Camp site at afternoon tea time. The evenings were still and certainly cold enough to ensure that we needed campfires.
I am immensely grateful to Ezemvelo KZNWildlife for the unique privileges they accord to July Camp. Such is the relationship that we have built up with them over the years that we are allowed to have three fires at July Camp, the essential cooking fire (although we do take gas if the weather prevents the wise use of a kitchen fire), the fire under the hot water donkey and the camp fire (weather permitting). This year we had wonderful camp fires and enjoyed their warmth that encouraged chatting and singing.
After such a successful Camp, surely every July Camper must have left Lotheni refreshed in body and spirit.