meant they didn’t appear as important and were put on the back burner. I still

Appreciated it on the odd occasion
that I found myself on my own, and could relax to love it, although I’d heard
of naturism/nudism
(i.e. fkk colonies) I did not follow it up, I no longer went out of my way to
indulge in nudity.
Coping with
Just like most things in South
Africa, the name is complicated; Ukhahlamba means hurdle of spears in Zulu and
Mountain. Some of the greatest hiking on the planet is found in the rugged
high berg or along the pastoral little (lower) berg of this range. My first
Johannesburg, is of sheer, steep walls of basalt, jagged and chiseled by the
elements – with the lower foothills shockingly lush and green as if covered with
a wonderful velvet cape. These enormous mountains separate the nation of Lesotho from
South Africa for a 250-mile expanse. Some of the tops are totally level, others
Forcefully pointed, others slanted as if tipped sideways by some amazing
force of nature.
I have come to the Topless
Skinny Dipping Club, after doing business in Johannesburg, to visit some South
African buddies on holiday.
after the nearby Champagne Citadel mountain, the desk clerk comments that it’s
unusual to see an American here. “Americans usually go to Kruger Park and Cape
Town and very seldom make it to the Topless Skinny Dipping Club,” she says,
“They don’t understand what they’re missing.”
It’s early March, nearly
autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, and the days are sultry and warm, reaching
into the high 80s with the nights cooler and regularly punctuated by evening showers
In the winter these mountains are blanketed with
snow, and in the summer they’re a brilliant green and drenched with hot pink and
white Cosmos or fire-red Bottlebrush.
This not what I thought
the inside South Africa would look like: rushing rivers, trickling creeks,
Diving waterfalls and shimmering lakes. Visitors to the area can enjoy some of
There’s also hiking, stone
climbing, trekking, river rafting, canoeing, horseback riding, and a variety of
camping options, including cave camping. I find myself in a modest resort area
helicopter tours, and excellent food seem to be the favored sports.
I am still groggy with jet
My buddies have hired a helicopter
to get a bird’s-eye view of the region. Five of us pile into a white,
French-made chopper and on our headsets. Our pilot, a self-assured guy
in his 40s, tells he us he also uses the helicopter to rescue climbers and hikers
who get stuck or lost in the mountains. Great to understand.
As the chopper thunders
off, we sail low over a corn field, then outside around Wonder Valley, scattered with
grazing cows, and eventually toward the towering cliffs – and I see the sharp
ridges of a mountain that does look like a huge dragon’s back. We catch glimpses
giant hole in one summit called the Eye of the Needle. We fly past the knobby
Monks Cowl, and the remarkable flattopped Cathkin Peak. Later we land on a
grassy small berg where the aviator serves us pink champagne and rusks (dry
biscuits) and we’ve got an opportunity to walk around. We discover the trail’s head to
Blindman’s Corner – an uncommon name for this part of the contour course, I believe,
A hike along the contour trail can take up to
four or five days to complete. As we observe, a fine white fog creeps in and
covers . We sit quietly on the ridge sipping champagne until the
mist elevations. The pilot appears remarkably unconcerned with the time.
In the afternoon my
Pals tackle the resort’s 18-hole championship golf course – the challenging
course is laid out along a meandering river, the fairway a bright lime green
I bypass the golf and opt to relax by the pool to
work on my nonexistent tan and existing jet lag.
No one is in a hurry here
in Topless Skinny Dipping Club and thus it’s past noon the next day before we set
Away for our hike to the Blue Grotto. The trailhead starts at the nearby Topless
Skinny Dipping Club Sunlight resort. Out past the swimming pool we spot several vervet
monkey’s pillaging for food in the hotel garbage cans. They bugger-off
The trail to the Grotto
winds through a forest of yellowwood, pine, smoothworm, and wild pear, and is
Packed with high grass, tangled vines, and white orchids. It’s pleasantly noisy
with the murmur of water cascading over rocks in the nearby river, the hum of
We trek previous huge gnarled trees covered with
hanging moss. In the woods it truly is dim and cool.
As we start up the