Dad and son in Berg cave ordeal

2014-01-30 00:00

A LADYSMITH man and his son spent a harrowing night in a cave in the Drakensberg at the weekend when they got separated from their group while returning from an outing.

Moulana Aslam Sheik, a Muslim religious teacher, took a group of senior boys from the Islamic Education Centre and his son Ahmed out to the Tugela Gorge for a hike.

“I like to encourage the students to get out and spend time in nature, because these days kids spend too much time indoors with computers and social networks.

“It is so beautiful in nature and we get to experience more out of life. I try to take my students out at least once a year,” he said yesterday.

Sheik was quite familiar with the gorge walk, but on this occasion the scenery was a little different because of heavy rains in the past few weeks and the heavy overgrowth.

As the boys started their return journey, Sheik and his son lagged behind the group.

“I missed the path that leads out of the gorge, and soon we realised that the boys were way out of earshot and we must have gone too far. We doubled back and tried to find the path, but I just couldn’t find it.”

With no cellphone reception and failing light, Sheik realised that they would need a safe place to stay. They spotted a cave in the gorge wall and settled in for the night.

In the meanwhile, the remaining students had made it back to the car park and alerted park rangers to the missing pair.

A search party was dispatched, but fading light made it difficult for the search to continue and it was postponed until the following morning.

Sheik and his son managed to drink water that was dripping inside the cave, but they were very cold as the temperatures dropped low overnight. He and his son had to huddle together to keep warm.

They were spotted the next morning, but it was impossible to reach them. The pair were then instructed to climb back down into the gorge, from where they were airlifted to safety.

“Although we were not seriously injured, we were exhausted from the exercise and lack of sleep. Our family and friends had been praying for us, and we got a tremendous welcome,” Sheik said.

His misadventure had not put him off exploring the beauty of the Drakensberg, but he said: “I will make sure I am more alert and prepared next time in case of emergencies”.

Lieutenant Jack Haskins, who was called in as part of the SAPS K9 rescue team, said many hikers get disoriented when hiking and it was essential to let people know when they are expected back.

“The Drakensberg can be an unforgiving place in the wrong conditions, and this man was lucky he remained calm and kept his wits about him.”


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