A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg – February 2011

Another beautiful sunrise from Roland’s Cave

Oliver and Ben from the UK were attending a wedding in South Africa, so they took the opportunity to combine it with a 2 week holiday and do some of the things they love most, including kite surfing and hiking.  Naturally they were both very fit and were keen for a hiking challenge in the high berg.  Fortunately they had time and dedicated 6 days to their challenge. The choice of hike was obvious:  start at the northern extreme of the Natal Drakensberg, the Sentinel Car Park, and walk southwards as far as we could, potentially including Mafadi, the highest peak in the Drakensberg, along the way. It was an ambitious idea but it had been done before. With a high standard of fitness and long days it was possible.

However, plans in the mountains are always weather dependent. Sometimes it gets to a point that it’s not worth fighting the elements any longer accept the circumstances and change your plans. His time it was the mist. Days always started with beautiful clear skies above a sea of clouds. After sunrise the clouds would start rising which then enveloped us late morning. It was a complete whiteout with navigation only possible by GPS.

We managed to keep on schedule the first 3 days, but Ben and Oliver understandably couldn’t face another 3 days in these conditions and wisely decide to go for shorter days. So, we forgot about Mafadi and came down Gray’s Pass in the Monk’s Cowl area.

It was nonetheless, a great hike. We stayed in characterful caves like Roland’s, Didima and Zulu Caves. Mornings always offered fabulous views of the peaks surrounding us and the Little Berg below. We were also lucky to see mountain reedbuck and baboon. Some Basotho shepherds and dagga smugglers offered an interesting cultural element too, all just going to show that no matter what conditions, every berg trip is unique with its own highlights.

If you would like to do this hike contact us at [email protected] or have a look at our website www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za for other exciting options.

The night before the start of our hike we stayed at Witsieshoek Mountain Resort.  We had a great sunrise.

The start of our hike at the Sentinel Car Park. Oliver and Ben looking strong and fresh, posing before the Witches and the Sentinel. We couldn’t ask for better weather, although it didn’t last long.

The famous chain ladders to access the Amphitheatre. They’re been since 1930!

Ben was brave enough to take a picture while climbing up the chain ladder

He was 15 meters above me! Thanks Ben for this amazin picture!

Tugela Falls, with a total drop of 614m is the 4th highest waterfall in the world.

You don’t want to get too closed to the edge. Look at that elongated neck. Oliver was awestruck by the huge drop.

During our 6 day hike we have to walk in the mist for many hours.

Around midday, the mist would eventually win the battle and navigation would only be possible by GPS

Intercultural encounters by 2 Englishmen and a Basotho. It’s like a banana split!

No comment. Too good for words! Another amazing picture of Ben’s.

This pictures was taken right after walking past the Saddle. The Cathedral Peak range is barely visible above the rising clouds.

A swim in the Kwakwatsi River – Featuring my retiring “old” Bestard Advance K after more than 40 hikes in 2 years!

Oliver and Ben “swallowing” the river.

A brand new Basotho pony.

Roland’s Cave, one of the finest High Berg caves in the Drakensberg.

In the mornings the weather was 100% clear. This was the start of our 4th day, after staying at Roland’s Cave. Oliver’s face telling of the toughness of the previous 3 days.

Oliver improvising a sun hat.

Didima Cave, a great but very little known cave in the Cathedral Peak Area

It’s a fantastic and confortable dry shelter for 3 or 4 people.

The clouds were raising again the next morning. We decided to cut the hike a little shorter tired of walking in the mist for hours every afternoon.

Red hot poker (Kniphofia northiae, I think), a common flower in the Drakensberg.

Along the long ridgeline that runs from Didima Dome to Champagne Castle

Protea dracomontana, one of the 5 species of Protea in the Drakensberg.

At last we came down the escarpment via the very wet and slippery Gray’s Pass. Here we’re on our way to Zulu Cave for our last night.

Zulu Cave features a perennial waterfall. The cold shower was very welcome.

The end of our 6 day epic at Monks Cowl Camp.

Carlos Gonzalez

Life has been good since his arrival in South Africa. It was September 2005 and he fell in love with the country straightaway. Places like the Drakensberg, Wild Coast and the Midlands provide all the inspiration he needs. After the taste of freedom, working in an office again was out of the question. He has since qualified as a nature and mountain guide, and as his friends joke, embarked on a serious love affair... with the Drakensberg, where he spends most weekends.
One thought on “A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg – February 2011
  • Anonymous

    Tugela's official height is established at 948m, making it the second tallest falls on Earth. You're only counting 2 or 3 of the 5 tiers. Some have actually argued that more of the cascade should be counted- as they do with the Angel- and that Tugela should be named tallest in the world.I've personally seen Yosemite and several of Norway's super tall ones (all taller than your listed height of…