For each day we give the following information: (Distance, walking time*)
*Walking time includes rests.
Day 1: Pholela Hut (13.3km, 6h)
The starting point is at the bottom of the famous Sani Pass, the highest mountain pass in South Africa. The Ngenwa pool is a great spot for lunch and a refreshing swim. If the weather is miserable there is a rock shelter a little further along the way. After this the trail ascends around Ndlovini Hill and down to the Pholela valley, crossing a suspension bridge to the Pholela Hut. The Pholela Hut is one of the original farmhouses. Hot showers are available.
Day 2: Mzimkhulwana Hut (9km, 4h)
This is the shortest day and a good day to explore the surroundings or laze around the natural pool close to the hut.
It’s a long climb past Tortoise Rocks before dropping into the Mzimkhulwana valley. Bathplug cave is a lovely lunch spot, named after a hole in the cave where the water disappears.
The Mzimkhulwana Hut is the most remote of all, a quaint cottage with hot showers.
Day 3: Winterhoek Hut (12.2km, 5h 30’)
After crossing the suspension bridge below the hut the trail climbs quite steeply towards Little Bamboo Mountain. The gradient finally eases below the mountain where blue cranes frequent the area around Crane Tarn on the grassy plateau. On the way down to the Mzimkhulu Valley, time is made for a swim and lunch at the beautiful Boulder Pool.
The path follows the Garden Castle sealed road for 1 km before going over a farm fence. Winterhoek Camp is a group of thatched bungalows shaded by oak trees below the Garden Castle, the mountain after which the area is named. Cold showers only.
Day 4: Swiman Hut (12.8km, 6h)
The climb up the slopes of Garden Castle to Black Eagle Pass is the most challenging section of the hike. There are few streams flowing along the way, especially in the dry season, so sufficient water needs to be carried from the top of the pass the trail levels off. Below lies the valleys of Mzimkhulu and Mlabonja, the serpentine meanders to the left past the ox-box lakes of the Mzimude. The massive wall of the escarpment with the ever-present Rhino Peak provides an incredible backdrop to this overnight spot.
The Swiman hut is situated here. Hot showers are available.
Day 5: Bushman’s Nek Camp (12km, 5h)
After crossing the Mzimude River via a suspension bridge, the trail climbs steeply to Langalibalele cave where faint Bushmen paintings can be seen. The cave is located on a low rock band and is partially blocked by a collapsed chunk of rock. It is a good lunch spot and is the last water point.From the cave is a short climb to a level valley before the final long and steep descent to the Bushman’s Nek Camp.
You don’t have 5 days?
The hike can be both shortened. For example, day 5 can be skipped to make it a 4-day or if you skipped day 1 too it is then a 3-day hike.
If you are very fit, there is the option of doing the whole route in fewer days. For example, day 2 and 3 can be done in 1 day.Either way we can advise you what is best for your time available.