Thank you. To the newbies, thanks for coming along with new enthusiasm and energy and to the oldies of the Big5Hike, thanks for your loyal and constant support.

For the newbies, The Cavern has been our family home since 1941 and our grandparents’ vision was to leave the world better. Our thanks extend to everyone today because your hike enables us to do just that. The other part of their legacy was to make the land more fertile. So, The Cavern is a Site of Conservation Significance because of its natural beauty, the endemic species and the rock art which tells us a story of an ancient culture. There is fauna and flora and I share two of my favourites.

The Eland. The largest of the antelope, weighing a tonne, but graceful and elegant, simply scaling a 6ft fence from standing position. The last eland in the Northern berg was shot in the RNNP in about 1949. A lone solitude creature that became a menace to hikers on the Tugela Gorge hike. But, about 10 years ago eland moved back into the area from the Sterkfontein reserve and now they roam in abundant herds here. They move freely between properties and are possibly the only free-roaming game in KZN.

My other favourite thing about Autumn is the Leonotis. The Wild Dagga. Uthswala bezinyoni. It’s bright orange, it pops as it flowers and it sways tall in the grasslands. It’s beautiful and we have always had large flowering expanses of Leonotis. Well, we did. And I particularly loved photos of these plants. Bright, beautiful Insta stories, easily shared and always loved. But, in comes the eland and suddenly there are no large spaces of orange because every flower is munched. So, it’s a real disappointment when I do my dam loop with the dogs – to know what was and what is no longer.

A bit like this hike perhaps. Awesome surrounds but limited views. Ah, disappointment.

But, as I walk to the dams, I now have had to be more intentional in finding a blossom and so I delight in just one bloom instead of many. I take great pleasure in seeing one that the eland hasn’t found. The hidden gems. I hope that while this weekend wasn’t all that you expected, and there may be a little disappointment, I do hope you have been able to hone into the beauty that is there.

And so I just need to thank a few people for their incredible help in making it a success. We have grossed over R1m…

To our Corporates; Total Gateway, Melville Douglas, Clucas Gray, Mooney Ford, Out in Africa Tours, Dezzo Roofing, Colenbrander and SORO. To Wimpy, Mugg & Bean and Sparkles. To Spier & Lyngrove for being on the ground and VDP for the donations. Thanks to Marge for being the paramedic on standby.

To our teams at Royal Drakensberg & The Cavern. You are an awesome bunch and we have so much to be thankful for. Willing, flexible, helpful and so supportive.

To our family at The Cavern & Montusi. There is a steadfastness in this family that carries us all.

To Jonathan Boynton-Lee, thank you for coming and sharing our story and to Grant Pitcher for always being the most fantastic photographer!

Then, congrats to Liam for raising over R25k and for leading this race. To Tina who celebrates 40 with a host of friends, to Noah & Aiden for taking the challenge to the top of Camels Hump. Awesome. To my Noah, Olivia, Liam and Jono for doing the Big5 and reporting back that we’d made the right call…

To Hilton and Georgie that continue to get more out of me… to do things better, to face the challenges confidently and for the support always.

It has been a different Big5Hike but it has been a wonderful celebration. Thank you all.

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