Fun outing on our doorstep


ENJOYING THE VIEW: Priscilla Bunyan and her daughter Phoebe taking a break at Bats Cave, Fish River, during a hike with the Oldenburgia Hiking Club on Sunday Picture: JON HOUZET

THERE are outdoor adventures and natural wonders just waiting to be discovered around the corner on our wonderful Sunshine Coast.

On Sunday I joined the Oldenburgia Hiking Club for their monthly day hike, this time to Fish River Sun, for a leisurely and mostly gentle trail to Bats Cave and the Old Woman’s River.

I had been placing diary entries for the hiking club in Talk of the Town for years, and many of the trails and trips sounded quite interesting, but I had never tried any out. A quiet weekend and the closeness of the trail provided the opportunity to go on one of these day hikes, and I’m glad I did.

About 45 people showed up for the hike, several sharing rides. Most were from Grahamstown, which is understandable as the club is based in City of Saints, but a handful of Ndlambe folk also joined the party. I found I wasn’t the only first-timer.

There was a great spirit of camaraderie in the group and it was easy to meet new people and perhaps make new friends.

Solo expeditions in the outdoors can also be enjoyable, but the human connection can enhance the experience, aside from the obvious benefit of safety in numbers and making sure no one gets left behind.

FAMILY HIKE: Joining the Oldenburgia Hiking Club for the day hike at Fish River were, from left, Benita and Babalo Bobo, and Nosiphiwe and Ezile Ngqwala from Grahamstown Picture: JON HOUZET

Setting out from the Fish River Sun parking lot, we headed for the trail to Bat’s Cave, well signposted by the Fish River Sun. There was lots of conversation between the participants as we made our way through dune thicket comprising red and white milkwoods, strelitzia, river euphorbia, silver oak and aloe.

The 2.5km trail also passes through riverine forest with many of the same plants as well as giant Eastern Cape cycads. This gave way to valley thicket with dune poison bush and common wild fig, not to mention more milkwoods, till finally we entered primary dune vegetation of wild date palm, vygies and bush tick berry.

There were signs warning of loose sand and steep inclines, not suitable for the elderly. We had to tackle one such slip-sliding dune to get to the beach, but it was not insurmountable, although the banter did stop a bit.

After a short stretch along the beach we got a little lost, somewhat humorously, as none in the group had ever actually been to Bats Cave. There were stories that it was inaccessible because of landslides, but our hiking leader Helen Averbuch was sure we could give it a bash.

While a few pioneers tried to see if they could find the path, most of us took a rest in a dune trough. Soon enough, a trail was found along a narrow but navigable ledge, which then took us through some dense waist-high thicket, but the path was still there.

We stopped to admire scenery in clearings along the way, till eventually we came to a sheltered cove which must surely rank as one of the prettiest places on our coast. The path

down was a bit tricky as the rocks are crumbly, but slow-going is safe.

OCEAN WINDOW: Bats Cave at Fish River was a tranquil spot to rest and just enjoy the lapping tide Picture: JON HOUZET

It was there we found what we believed to be Bats Cave, an open sea cave with a “chimney” – an opening in the cave ceiling. Most were delighted with the tranquil grotto, but a few hard-core hikers sniffed that this could not be the Bats Cave as there were no bats! No smell of bats and no droppings.

We didn’t let it perturb us but were content to rest and munch on something from our backpacks. A few people took a dip while others explored the cliff over the cave and took in the amazing ocean vistas.

After that we headed back for a longer beach walk to the blind mouth of Old Woman’s River, where we took another break and some folk enjoyed paddling on the canoes.

A walk across the golf course and we were back at the Fish River Sun, where we were allowed to use the pool and many of the group ordered light lunches.

AFRICAN EXPERIENCE: Visitors from Montana, USA, Lonny and Joan Guralnick, enjoyed their hike with the Oldenburgia Hiking Club to Bats Cave and Old Woman’s River. Lonny is working with Rhodes University’s botany and environmental sciences departments, studying the carbon intake of spekboom Picture: JON HOUZET


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