Barbara Maregele

TWO George musicians lost on a local hiking adventure trail had to spend the night in a gorge with a female leopard lurking nearby.

Well-known violinist Avigail Bushakevitz, 24, and her 27-year-old brother Benjamin who plays piano and violin decided to go for a hike on the popular Kaaimanskloof hiking trail on Friday morning. The pair were not familiar with the area and by the time they realised they wouldn’t be able to navigate back down the gorge, it was too late.

They were reported missing on Friday evening by their parents.

Emergency personnel had to call off a search for them as they could not see in the dark.

However, after managing to rescue the pair the next morning, personnel familiar with the wildlife in the area found paw tracks of a female leopard only 150m from where Bushakevitz and her brother had slept.

George police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said that with Emergency Medical Services, Fire and Rescue and the Skymed helicopter services they were able to find the siblings, unharmed, in a ravine near the Nelson Mandela University in George.

Avigail Bushakevitz said their biggest mistake was not checking on three very important facts before going out.

“We didn’t know the distance or the difficulty of the trail, we should have also researched to find out what weather would be best to hike there. We really didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

They had planned to attempt the trail along the gorge on Friday as Benjamin had a piano rehearsal the next day, she added.

“We parked our car by the Saasveld Pass bridge about 11am and then decided to walk in the gorge. The terrain was rough and we had to climb over rocks. At that point we thought it would be best to swim across the river, but this left us both drenched and cold.

“When we decided to turn back it was already dark and we ended up walking in circles,” she said.

Bushakevitz said after spending seven hours walking, they ran in circles, jumped on the spot and hugged each other while walking in attempts to fight off the cold.

“After a while we just got tired and fell asleep. There was no (cellphone) reception, but we got through to our mother at about 1.30am and in the moment screamed that I thought I was going to die,” she said.

Yesterday Bushakevitz said that as well as her swollen hands and feet and Benjamin’s back pain, they were grateful to have been rescued unharmed.

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