A Day Out of Clarens

 Article and photographs by Lauren Moorcroft

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I woke up early to a beautiful sunny day to go hiking with Damien Coulson (our head ranger). My drive to Fouriesburg was extraordinary with breath taking views and a smooth cool morning breeze.

I arrived in Fouriesburg and met up with Damien at Meiringskloof. We paid a fee at the office of R15 per person and made our way to the hiking trails.

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The trail was shaded by the trees with some light breaking through the gaps. Our first stop was the Skoorsteen Chimney, the formation was tunnel shaped. The rock face was enclosed in water sodden and dripping moss.  Against the rock face there was a vertical concrete breaker wide enough to walk on. The vertical breaker looked like a dam wall, mud on the one side and 10 meter drop the other. Damien explained to me that each side was equal over 100 years ago, and over time mud brought from the stream had collected there.

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Our next stop was my first cave, the Holkrans hollow cave. I saw for the first time what it meant by “light meets dark”.  The cave had a large overhang, and the further I went into it the darker it became. I could hear every step I took as it echoed off the rocks, with the sounds of dripping water drumming in my ears.  I suddenly felt a chill up my spine, as my imagination began to run wild.  I felt the urge to leave but the fear to move overpowered me.  I heard the crunching of pebbles behind me… I turned around but it was too late.  The creature pulled me, knocking me off my feet and to the ground and began to drag me further into the cave.  I shot out my arms in every direction trying to cling onto anything to save me, only to find loose dirt… Powerless against the creature’s strong grip.  I pulled my bag off my shoulders to find my phone to call for help. But could only find my camera, I turned it on and the flash lit up the cave. I finally got a glimpse of the creature, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. With small black eyes, pale hairless skin that looked burnt and scarred, with razor sharp teeth. It was hunched forward balancing on its hands like an ape.  The creature screamed, cowering away from the light and I finally managed to break free.  I got up and began to run for my life towards the light at the end to the cave. I looked back to see more of the creatures… Adrenaline kicked in and I made it to the entrance of the cave into the light, feeling the safety and warmth of the sun. I woke up from my daydream.

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We left the cave and made our way to the chain ladder, the rock face overhangs became more narrow with a shallow stream running through the middle. Damien then explained to me the formation of Mieringskloof  and that it was originally  a water filled tunnel underground but that over time with water erosion the rocks had began to break.  We could see that large amounts of water had once passed through here, from the water lines on the rock face. Where the tunnel had broken above, light could shine through and plants had began to grow:  making Mieringskloof the beautiful place to hike that it is today.

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We found a  Ladder, which was very steep and not for those who are scared of heights. After climbing the ladder it was like stepping into another world. The scenery of the previous part of the hike was surrounded by trees and overhangs, whereas this next part had the burning sun reflecting a golden colour off the sandstone, no trees and scattered bushes.

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We walked to the dam, crossingWe walked across a rusty bridge that creaked, and spend some time enjoying the view of the dam. The dam was peaceful and worth the journey. I thought about the tunnels and how, without the dam, the water here would of flooded them. We started to journey back to the car and go our separate ways. What a beautiful day and a good way to spend a day out of Clarens.

Screenshot 2015-04-10 09.36.18I would like to thank Damien for making sure I didn’t get lost. And a big thanks to Toni for a day out the gallery.