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History of Mountain Meanders

In 2006 Mike Scott invited Tony Heher to join the Cape Computer Club where Mike was the convenor of the GPS group.  This led to an invitation to various GPS users to form a GPS User Group to share information on GPS use and to exchange tracks collected when hiking.  About 70 mountain users, 2/3 of whom owned a GPS, subsequently joined the group.  It quickly became apparent that GPSs did not work well in steep mountain terrain.  At first it was thought this may be limited to certain types of units but a series of GPS test meets confirmed the problems were systematic and common to all units tested. (See the companion article  GPSs in the mountains – the good, the bad and the ugly” for more information on the tests conducted by the GPS User Group.)


Two events then came together to sow the Meanders seed...   Tony Heher had been putting together a photographic record of various walks he did with both U3A and the Mountain Club.  These were shared with various participants who commented on how useful this was for depicting a route.  Tony Heher and Karen Watkins had also been working together planning a web-based update of Karen's book. However, the difficulties and costs of setting up a website inhibited progress. 

In May 2008 Chris Clarke of the Cape Computer Club offered to help a club member to set up a free web site as an example to see how the whole process worked. Mike and Tony "volunteered" to set up an integrated website, pulling together these resources of GPS tracks, photographs, maps and route descriptions in a way that made them easy to access and easy to update by multiple mountain users.  The mountain-wiki concept was born!


The initial draft was shared with the Cape Computer Club and the GPS group, leading to many useful comments and several revisions. On the 12 August 2008 the concept was presented by Mike Scott and Tony Heher at meeting held at the MCSA Clubhouse in Hatfield Street. Invitations were sent to all the main hiking clubs in Cape Town and virtually all were represented amongst the 39 who attended.  There was strong endorsement of the concept and many useful comments were made. 

The site was initially hosted on Google Groups but towards the end of 2008 the limitations of Groups became apparent and a new platform was sought.  A number of options were considered and tested, but eventually Google Sites was selected as the most appropriate. The process of moving all the content over (and a substantial restructuring) was completed by May 2009 - now the real work can begin of populating the site.  

During 2009 Tony Heher became rather caught up in the MCSA website and newsletter, and Mountain Meanders languished. But Mike Scott (and a few others) kept adding routes, so in May 2010, the navigation and structure was revisited and many changes made to make it easier to add new routes.  This has been helped by ongoing developments by Google of Google Sites and things that were difficult a year ago are now much easier. 


Which is as far as the history goes so far!  As this unfolds, key events will be recorded....


Where does Mountain Meanders come from?  

The answer is simple - it comes from nowhere! A name was needed to register a website and this was plucked from the air as being relatively neutral and not obviously linked to any existing hiking club. It is in fact the name of one of the U3A walking groups started by Tony Heher in 2007 and subsequently taken over by Tim Cronin, but this U3A group has no direct link or association with (They have kindly refrained from suing for copyright infringement!) The "meander" connotation was also suitably vague and has gathered an amusing double meaning as in "meander be dammed" when some walks ended up rather more adventurous than anticipated. On a more serious note, some concern has been expressed that the "meanders" appellation implies that the walks are all easy, hence the big bold warnings that the many of the routes described are difficult and dangerous and not to be attempted by the average walker without an experienced guide.

 How much does it cost and who pays? 

Nothing, so no one pays (well not quite, but very nearly...) Using a free resource was felt to be important because as soon as any organisation has to pay there would be a tendency for the site to be "owned" by them.  A wiki needs to be owned by the users.  The free website comes from using Google products which offer a range of free services for both websites and photo sharing. This has some limitations in terms of the freedom of design compared to a HTML-coded website but this was felt to be a minor disadvantage given that Google Sites is specifically designed to support a group of users working on a shared site. 

The only cost incurred to date (and which will be ongoing) is the domain name registration. This is $8,50 per annum. This is being underwritten by U3A through the U3A walking group Cape Mountains for the Curious and Adventurous   It is this group, who have explored a number of old forgotten routes and opened a number of new scrambling routes, who have generated much of the information included in Mountain Meanders.  A big thank you is owed to Margie Growse, Peggy de Kock, Martyn Trainor, Colin Bridge, Lucille Krige, Moiragh Girdwood, Kathy Holtzhausen, Liz Trew, Gill Blignaut, Jeanne Myburgh and many others for putting up with being dragged up rock faces and through the bush backwards (and every other way) while exploring.

Tony Heher

August 2008

 PS I have been told that the last sentence does not adequately convey the rain, hail, gales, thick mist, thunder and lightening that the group has been subjected to, and last but not least, having to wade half naked chest deep through freezing floodwaters.  And who said climbing wasn't fun....