Vaalribbokkop and Zulu Caves, a hike with friends – June 2011

Even though I have been spending lots of time hiking in the Drakensberg lately as a mountain guide, I was looking forward to sharing the Berg with some of my friends, just for the sheer love of it. Without the weight of responsibility I could relax and admire the mountains I love so much.

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.

Sarah posing with the Sterkspruit Valley, Cathkin Peak and Sterkhorn

 

14km after the start of our hike at the Monk’s Cowl camp we could finally feel away from civilization. The Mhlawazini Valley just before sunset

 

An overexposed version of the same picture.

 

Matt on the ridge that separates the Mhlawazini Valley from the Culfargie Area. The ever-present Cathkin Peak in the background. The Zulu name for Cathkin Peak is, very appropriately,  Mdedelelo which means the “bully” or “the one that stands out”.

 

Matt, dish-washing in the bush (with biodegradable soap, of course)

 

We spent the first night in Vaalribbokkop Cave in the Hospitalspruit Valley. As we were about to leave, Matt had to unpack his backpack after discovering a leak in his water bladder.

 

On our second day, we followed the Hospitalspruit Valley down to the Mhlawazini Valley.

 

Protea trees thriving in the warm slopes of the Little Berg

 

After an hour’s walk we reached the Mhlawazini Valley which then we followed upstream.

 

A picturesque spot in the Mhlawazini Valley – Not many hikers come to this part of the valley.

 

The path runs high above the river before dropping down to the river again. Here my 3 fellow hikers (Sarah, Matt and Kath) admiring the landscape.

 

Looking downstream. The Mhlawazini river joins the Mlabonja river 15km later in the Cathedral Peak area.

 

Sarah and Kath with Clarens sandstone cliffs for a background.

 

Lunch in the Mhlawazini river. Yes, that’s Cathkin Peak.

 

My friends had a swim before lunch. I decided to take pictures instead 😉

 

And we had good snacks for the trail. What else can you ask for?

 

Zulu Cave, our second overnigth spot, in a side valley of the Mhlawazini Valley.

 

In Zulu Cave we were joined by the rest of our friends, who could only come for 1 night.

 

Jack, one of our friends suggested climbing to the top of Intunja (in Zulu, “the Eye of the Needle”) or in Afrikaans Gatberg (“the Mountain with a Hole”) I thought it was a great idea so up we went, Jack and I. The rest of our friends took the path back to Monk’s Cowl

 

One of the rewards of climbing peaks, apart from the sense of accomplishment, is the bird’s eye vistas. Intunja is a great vantage spot. Here looking down into the head of the Mhlawazini Valley. From Left to right: Sterkhorn, Cathkin Peak, Monk’s Cowl and Dragon’s Back.

 

From left to right, The Amphletts’ and Turret below Sterkhorn (out of sight on the right hand side).

 

I couldn’t help myself and I asked Jack to take a picture of me.

 

Self-portrait with the hole.

 

Jack and I joined the rest of our friends on the way down Keartlands Pass. Here a panoramic shot of the broad Sterkspruit Valley (named by the Zulus Mpofana) where Monk’s Cowl  Camp is set on.

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.

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