Chimanimani Mountains & Outward Bound Melsetter 

Senior Men's Course # 143 Outward Bound Melsetter June/July 1975 - Part 4 of 5
July 7 to 9 - final expedition to Haroni Valley canoe site and Hidden Valley

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July 7

Right on schedule at 5:45 a.m. both Masapa and Tandaai patrols climbed aboard the School Landrover, with kit safely stowed in Bill Bailey’s Peugeot truck and the two set off in convoy, headed South for Tilbury Estates. It was still dark and freezingly cold, so that the press of humanity, clothed in the weirdest selection of Balclavas and track-suits, bunched even together in the open Landrover, to gain some communal warmth.

Passing first through agricultural land and then forested areas; past slumbering homesteads, African compounds, schools and vast saw-mill complex, we arrived, about an hour later, at the end of our vehicular journey, to de-bus and gaze down into the deeply shadowed valley of the Haroni river with the lofty peak of Dragon’s Tooth, just catching the first rays of morning sunlight, almost directly opposite us. With rucksacks safely unloaded, the two Baileys, Bill and Baobab Mike, wished us happy hiking and set off in their vehicles for the return journey to the School.

Shedding, and packing various items of warm clothing into already overloaded rucksacks, the two patrols formed up in single file behind Owen Davies for a descent down to the Haroni River and the Canoe Site, some 1500 ft. below us. A blazed trail led us down to a very steep spur through some magnificent indigenous forests, the trees becoming progressively taller as we descended to the rock-strewn course of the fast-flowing Haroni. Here we had our first experience of river-crossing, with ice-cold water well above knees and rounded, slippery stones making progress for the novices somewhat slow and hair-raising.

Safely across the Eastern bank of the river, we turned downstream, following a path cut through the dense riverine vegetation, to arrive at the well camouflaged Canoe Site, at about 8 a.m. What a magnificent place! A long stretch of deep, calm water above a waterfall and below a series of rapids, with the Eastern bank being a relatively flat forested area, while the Western bank rose almost sheer from the depths of the pool. Through the framing canopy of the gigantic mahogany trees, glimpses of Dragon’s Tooth could be had, while the dense undergrowth included many guava trees, palms and even the occasional lemon tree.

Tandaai was to spend that day and night here, so, while the Chief Gauleiter took Masapa off to do their canoeing exercise, the Filthy Five set-to to make camp in this idyllic setting. The first essential, of course, was the kitchen, and once again Kurt designed, quantity surveyed and constructed another masterpiece with members of the patrol carrying along suitable rocks. To see Kurt working with his spirit-level, consisting of a mess tin, half filled with water, gave some small indication of his insistence on perfection!

Having completed their canoeing, the Masapa chaps gathered round to take tips on the culinary arts as Kurt prepared our lunch of French Onion soup and tacky biscuits. They then set off on their 3 day return journey to School, the first leg being straight up a path to the top of Dragon’s Tooth - the path, apparently, being aptly named "Long Drop". Masapa was to have the honor of being the first Senior Men’s patrol to achieve this feat - a fact which was only made known to them after the vent! Thoughts of possible mutiny dictated the need for this pre-climb secrecy, no doubt.

In the afternoon, it was our turn for canoeing, very ably constructed by Owen Davies. An hour of getting the ‘feel’ of the canoes on the quiet stretch of water, with only one mishap when, of all people, The Admiral, turned turtle and, after some anxious moments, underwater, trying to extricate himself from his canoe, surfaced with much blowing and spluttering. A ‘raft’ was quickly formed by the rest of the patrol, Alan’s canoe de-watered and up-ended and, the now half-frozen, canoeist re-embarked.

Then upstream to test our nerves and skills in shooting the rapids leading into the pool. Here several members were unseated and dumped, unceremoniously, into the icy torrent, on their first attempts, but by late afternoon, all had at least two clear runs through the rapids. It was only then that one felt that one was really getting the hang of the canoeing business and made one ‘almost’ wish for more time to indulge in this novel activity.

Canoe site camp (Click browser Back key to return here).

Owen Davies joined us in our campsite for the evening- and a most enjoyable evening it was too! Commencing with the civilized custom of having sundowners, we then leisurely progressed through another three-course dinner produced by our most incomparable Cordon Bleau Chef and ending off with Crepes Suzettes as a dessert. The eggs for the latter, had been broken into the C.E.O.’s plastic half-jack, the previous evening, and suitably preserved with rum against the rigors of the journey down from School to the Canoe Site! Between courses, the C.E.O. led us all in many hearty campfire songs, interspersed with much serious discussion on Outward Bound, until the time arrived for our usual night-cap and bed.

Quotable Quote of the Day: "This is just what I imagine the Garden of Eden must have looked like." Kurt looking round in awed admiration at the Canoe Site on the Haroni River.

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July 8

A latish start this morning after taking early-morning tea to Owen, still abed in the Pedigogues’ Quarters at 6:30 a.m. Having had, for a change, some breakfast first, he Tandaains headed upstream, at 7:45 a.m., along the Eastern bank of the Haroni, with Owen determined to beat us to our first objective, the confluence of the Haroni and Bundi, in his canoe. For us the going was somewhat slow, requiring, as it did, no less than six river crossings where bends in the Haroni squeezed out negotiable territory, first on the East, and then on the West banks of the river. Some considerable distance upstream, we met up with Owen, ‘booming’ his way downstream again, having been eventually halted by a long series of rapids, requiring excessively long canoe-portaging hauls. Thus was Tandaai’s honor saved by Mother Nature !

In the vicinity of our fourth crossing, we met up with the advanced elements of Bundi patrol, as they scrabbled their way downstream, towards the Canoe Site, clinging to precarious holds along a somewhat cliff-like bank of the Haroni. Having passed the time of day with them, we headed across the river and then North again, to be eventually hailed by one very wet, and very nude figure, to wit, Mike Bailey and his Alsatian, Lassie, who had come down from the river junction to see what had happened to the Tandaains, now about an hour behind schedule. Having heard us, so he says, for at least the previous 30 minutes, thrashing our way through the dense riverine scrub, Mike decided to take a swim, hence the wet nudity!

Two more river-crossings, some scrambling action along a sheer river-bank, and we were home and dry, to be met by the ever-cheerful Lorraine Bailey who, bless her kind heart, had a kettle boiling merrily in a sun dappled grove of trees in the apex formed by Bundi and Haroni rivers. The time was 12:20 p.m. and definitely time for some lunch, followed by a good wash in a rocky pool in the nearby Bundi.

Ablutions completed, and ever mindful of the fact that we were now mixed company, we left the junction at 1:45 p.m., heading Northwards up the fairly newly opened trail leading from this point, towards Hidden Valley, further up the Bundi Valley. The trail was steep and, in places, followed the topmost ridges of knife-edges, with bush-clad sides plunging down on either side of the path. The Tandaains here had their first real brush with the vicious Smilax, a creeper profusely adorned with needle-sharp thorns which managed, somehow, to snag the ankles and shins of the unwary at frequent intervals. Our verbal control was, to say the least of it, magnificent, on such occasions and no tell-tale blushes were to be observed on the cheeks of Asst. Producer, Lorraine Bailey.

While negotiating a particularly steep and thickly bushed side-valley, a somewhat irate Bushbuck ram came charging down the steep slope, hotly pursued by Lassie, and healed straight for the leading members of the patrol. Mike Bailey, Charles and Kurt, all took last-minute evasive action, to see the ram go hurtling between them, at such close range as to be within touching distance, to disappear into the thicker bush, further down. A narrow escape, indeed, from an animal with rapier-sharp horns, obviously determined not to be cornered.

And so, at 4 p.m., we arrived at a most attractive campsite, about half-way up between the Junction and Hidden Valley, with a fantastic view Southwards down the Bundi and Haroni valleys and with its own miniature waterfall and tree-lined pool and stream, close by. It had been a long haul, but the aches and pains were soon forgotten by the Old Crocks on being told by Lorraine, that she was most impressed by our walking abilities. With relatively little time available before sunset, we got stuck into getting the kitchen and camp organised with our supply of firewood being rapidly added to by the ever-willing and helpful, Baobab Mike. While the first cuppa was being imbibed, Lorraine carried out some running repairs, with the aid of the patrol first-aid box, on several members who had suffered from the attentions of the dreaded Lurgi and Smilax. The resultant picture of bandaged heroes could, perhaps, have been well described as, "The Walking Wounded from the Battle of the Bundi".

The evening was yet another memorable with Lorraine and Mike joining us for sundowners, dinners and the now customary camp-fire sing-song. The company demanded a completely new repertoire and it is with justifiable pride that it can be said that the Filthy Five rose nobly to the occasion. The sound of Mike’s great rollicking gusts of laughter, will long remain with those of us who had the pleasure of his company that evening. The only near catastrophe happened when Lorraine accidentally spilt her tot of rum, a commodity now reaching desperately low levels of supply!

At the end of the evening, and on the proposal by Lorraine, seconded by Mike, it was unanimously decided that this campsite should henceforth, and for all time, be known as, "CAMP TANDAAI" ! Cartographers, please note.

Quotable Quote of the Day: "Oh fiddle-dee-dee, I’ve stubbed my tiffin toe against a piece of African vegetation!" Les the Teaboy, rehearsing the "new" language prior to meeting up with Lorraine and Mike.

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July 9

An even later start this morning, with the C.E.O. usurping the Teaboy’s job of rekindling the fire for tea at 6 a.m. A very leisurely breakfast, followed by a thorough scouring of all cooking and eating irons in the nearby pool and then we were joined by Mike and Lorraine to set off, soon after 9 a.m., for our next port of call - Hidden Valley.

Another steep and winding trail, up the Western side of the Bundi Valley, with glorious scenery all the way. This was to prove the shortest haul of our entire O.B. trip and, at about 11:45 a.m., we arrived at our camp-site on a rocky spur looking across a grassy valley to the rugged feature marked on the map as Spot Height 5746, situated some distance to the S.W. of Southern Lakes. Yet another small waterfall close-by, tree-lined pool and stream, cascading down to the Bundi, made this a perfect camp-site, set in a grove of large umbrella-shaped trees.

Kurt’s eyes literally shone as he espied a cluster of rocks at the Eastern end of the camp-site, overlooking the waterfall and pool. The possibilities for kitchen development here were virtually unlimited and this, coupled with the fact that this was to be our last night out on O.B., spurred him, no doubt, to this supreme effort in which he created his Masterpiece, complete with eye-level grill and plate-warmer! The fact that we had nowt to grill, nor any plates to warm, was of little consequence to the Master.

After a welcome cuppa and a pleasant session of talking about the Chimanis, Lorraine, Mike and Lassie, set off on their return to the School, leaving us to spend the rest of the day as we wished. Lorraine, very kindly, left us with a cake of soap - whether as a hint or not, we’re quite not sure - and this was very well used by the time the day was over.

Kurt and Peter pushed off, after a late lunch, to walk to, and explore, a forest area to the West of Point 5746, while the Scribe went off on a lone scramble across some rocky features overlooking the magnificent Bundi Valley, from which the rush of water over the Ragon Falls could be clearly heard but, unfortunately, not seen. The other three members of the gang, elected to stay in camp and discuss, no doubt, weighty problems of the world !

At this stage of our journey, the supply of fortifying "medicinal" liquid had all but disappeared, and the unenviable task of sharing it our equally between the six of us, was delegated to the C.E.O. This "happening" was delayed as long as possible, and well beyond the civilised hour of sundown, when, with mugs of steaming coffee held out, the patrol grouped itself around Charles as he carefully measured out approximately two thimbles full of "medicine" into each mug, his every move being watched by five pairs of eyes, lest one drop be spilt and wasted !

Despite opinions to the contrary, expressed by various members of the Supporting Cast, the Filthy Five, this evening proved, quite conclusively, that they could sing just as well, tell just as many good stories and enjoy themselves just as much, without "medicinal" stimulus as they could with it. Another very memorable evening, during which the final touches were put to our orchestral offering which was to be rendered at the final Course Concert, the following night. And so the bed at 9:30 p.m. in readiness for an early start next day.

Quotable Quote of the Day: "There was a young man from Stroud, Who was…CENSORED…CENSORED…CENSORED, Just like that, not loud!"  Who else but the King of Limericks!

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