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Diepdrift is about 50km northwest of Warmbaths. (Sorry I'm not using the new name. Nobody on Earth knows where "Bela Bela" is!) Its only about two and a half hours drive from Johannesburg. The last 15km is gravel road and in places quite corrugated. They seem to have a brick factory somewhere near there and you have these great big trucks going back and forth on that stretch of road. Diepdrift itself is a game farm and we got to see some game. Unfortunately they also hunt there, so the animals are very nervous and run at the slightest sign of a human.
We got there at about 3:45. The base camp as usual had good facilities although no tables. Two big rooms and hot showers are available as well as a kitchen with fridge, gas burners and washing up facilities. A nice braai (barbeque for the none South Africans) area also exists. Another couple had arrived before us and we spent a very pleasant evening with them. They were doing the other overnight route, but we were told there were going to be two more people doing our route.
Next morning we were off by the usual 7:30. The markings are white arrows that they nailed onto the trees. Unfortunately they used the same markings for different routes, so we promptly got lost and ended up at a big Donga (Crevice usually caused by erosion).
At least the thing was quite spectacular with its erosion formations. Anyway after backtracking we finally found the correct route.
Along the way you have to cross a few game fences.
The bush is really beautiful here. At times it got quite thick and again we had to backtrack a couple of times because we could not see the markings anymore. The bush is criss-crossed with animal tracks. It does not seem as if this trail is used very much, so often we did not know if we were still on the right track. At one stage around here we heard heavy thumping like that of a herd of big buck. It turned out to be five Giraffe. As soon as they saw us they bolted and we only saw them again once we started to climb into the hills. Some Warthog also crossed our path here.
A big Naboom (Euphorbia ingens) in the distance. Its a large cactus-like succulent tree. They can get up to 12 m in height. Apparently the sap is very toxic but if you use it correctly you can use it as a purgative or for the treatment of ulcers. The Venda people even use it in the treatment of cancer. As they say.."One mans poison is another's medicine"
At this point you start climbing some large boulders at the base of one of the hills.
The view is really great from up here and we could see our five Giraffe again on the plains below.
After coming to some flat rocks we decided to have a break and enjoy the view.
The first day is not difficult but quite scenic. The hills are not high either. Maybe about 150m-200m. The trail takes you up and then between the hills onto another farm. Along the way you cross some more game fences via some very high sty's.
Another part takes you a bit along a small dried out stream. The area was very dry and even some of the boreholes had started drying out with the only water still available along the route being drinking troughs for the animals.
The second farm has some cattle on it as well. Fortuanatly not very much.
We got to the overnight hut at about 12 already. Thats when the fun started! For a starter the hut was basically just a Kaya (African name for a shack). You battled to open the steel doors. Inside there was nothing. No bunk- beds or anything. The lady at reception had promised to bring us some mattresses the previous day. There was no water. Nearby there was a 22KVA power line which I followed to its end about 150m further on and found a borehole with pipes leading off it and a switch. After switching on the borehole we had water...great progress!! We left the pump on for awhile and filled our water bottles. I then went back and switched it off again to prevent it running dry. The place had a reed enclosure with a pipe and tap for a shower. At least there was plenty of wood as well and we had a nice fire that evening. At about 1 the lady from reception arrived in a bakkie (pickup car) with a platoon of girls that cleaned the Kaya floor but still no mattresses. The excuse being she could not open some or other lock at some place where the mattresses were kept, but she promised us that she would come back with mattresses. A little while later the other two arrived. In anticipation we waited for our mattresses to arrive....
No luck...but then this is Africa..dont believe anybody. We had to sleep on the freezing hard cement floor. What a night! One of the other two guys, after having consumed a considerable amount of warm-up fluid in the form of many beers and Cherry lifted the roof off the Kaya with his snoring. His mate took his sleeping bag and fled into the bush. At least he probably had a softer floor. Luckily being old and experienced hikers we had our earplugs with. It all boils down to the old boy scout motto: "Be prepared"...so true!
Next morning we were glad to get going.
The second day seems to be longer. After doing a lot of boulder hopping up in the hills, you eventually get back down to the relatively flat plain.
Along the way we came across a black Eagle and some smaller buck.
Sometimes the trail takes you across a few rocky knolls for variety.
The area is really nice but be prepared..!
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