AFRICA reprise – Royal Natal National Park – 16th Oct 2018 – Day 33

I had no intention of an early start – just as well as the clouds and mist was low. I was unsure what to do, having accomplished all I intended here yesterday, apart for the ambitious planned drive and walk to the Sentinel peak. A model in the Visitor Centre shows the truth of it, not an easy trek. However the weather was improving, David and Ailine were considering the gorge walk, and I still had the Thendele camp shot to do. I saw them off at the car park with some concern. David would go to the end as usual, and he was very unprepared. Ailine would walk slowly, with limited water and biscuits like I did. With two cameras!.

I drove back to the Centre, and decided to walk the Tiger Falls, Lookout, and Cascade, as the Lion walk looked too boring in the open. I was informed by a park guide that it was best to go up on the Tiger side, returning on the steep Cascades side. Good plan as the Tiger is slow and steady with some steps, but the Cascade is so steep that a ribbed concrete path was constructed a long time back. Hard to come down, but very tough going up. Both ends start at the Mahai parking area. It is a good walk, should take 2 hours, but I stopped several times to chat, and have lunch (limited again as there was nothing in the Centre). About 3.5 hrs. Tiger Falls is in a small patch of rainforest in a ravine; more a fast drizzle today than a fall. I had a chat to two older white women in the shade, waiting for the husbands to show up. I was asked about the Karroo sandstone here which gave me a chance to mention the Creationist view. They were also uncomfortable when I told them I was staying at the black run B&B. This is near the high point so it was all down from here. The Lookout rock certainly provides a very long view down this valley – I would guess at least 70km, while the sandstone cliffs rise up behind and to the side. As I sat having lunch, I wrote “1pm. I’m sitting at the top of the tiger falls track looking down the long green valley of rolling hills, and deep rain forest ravines of rushing streams. The only sound I hear is the cascading water carried up here on the cool breeze. An occasional bird calls. I feel the cool breeze and hot sun. It’s worth the 6km hike.” It is a pretty area.

I descended the steep concrete track to the cascades, not large today but sufficient for a good image, especially with the red stained cliffs of Plowman’s Kop soaring above. The track is easy after that, much is wheel chair friendly. I emailed Ailine who replied she was back at her car, dead tired, having almost accomplished what I did. But David was not back. It was now 4pm so we were worried. Many had returned, none had seen him. When the last couple came out, they said the same. I was ‘home’ by then, and finally met the old lady owner, hunched over her sticks, who kindly assured me that David would be out ok. I drove back, asking at the gate what the procedure was in case he didn’t get out. They provided phone numbers and said the gate would be kept open for us. I found Ailine still waiting alone ie no guard and no cars. She had already called the numbers here at the track start, being told to wait for nightfall. I talked to distract us – and then David called. Reception is poor to none on the track. He was 30 mins away, which became 45 before he was out. At 6.30 the Park guy called to ask whether David was out. I am reassured by their competence. David had gone to the tunnel end, in a difficult poorly marked slippery boulder area. He has hurt a knee, and his ankle, which slowed him down. (Later I discovered he also had a bad cut on the buttock which became infected.)

Dinner was late but good, at their lodging again. And that’s it for the holiday.

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