Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave – A 3 day hike in the Monk’s Cowl area – January 2011
|Walking on sandstone towards Vaalribbokkop Cave|
Adele and Bruce Arnott come from Johannesburg and, as many other South Africans, love outdoors. Life is fast in the biggest city in South Africa so they try to go for escapes around the country as often as they can. They had done a few day hikes in the berg in the past but lately they had been thinking it was about time to take a step further and experience the mountains a little more intimately.
One day Adele ran into my website and felt very inspired by the Northern Drakensberg Traverse, what is commonly known by hikers as the Mini Traverse. However, the Mini Traverse is not a suitable hike for beginners, regardless of their fitness. The fact that one has to carry a heavy backpack with all their gear (including tents) and food for 5 days, makes a hike of this nature a challenge that only gradual introduction into backpacking can prepare you for. So I suggested a 3 day hike in the Little Berg (not little at all!) staying in 2 different caves instead: Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave. Sleeping in a cave is one of the highlights of hiking in the Drakensberg and it has the major advantage that you don’t have to carry a tent with you.
Adele and Bruce are very lucky to have a great group of friends with whom to share their adventures. Four of them decided to join this hiking party: Nicky and Sean from Scottburgh, and Belinda and stormin’ Norman from Durban. The 6 of then turned out to be a star of a group and made me feel not as a guide but just another friend.
We had to delay for an hour our start because of the rain but for the rest of the time the weather was perfect. Quite unusual for the berg in the summertime.
In spite of blisters, aching backs and sore shoulders, the hike was a memorable experience for all of them and they were inspired to do more. Perhaps they are up for a Mini Traverse?
|Adele & Bruce Arnott|
|The first kms on the manicured path out of the Drakensberg Sun Hotel|
|Van Damm’s Cascades, our fist water stop|
|Belinda negociating a slippery river crossing|
|Top of Jacob’s Ladder – 700m higher than the start of the hike|
|Walking by Clarens sandstone|
|Cathedral Peak range viewed from top of Jacob’s Ladder|
|Sean and Bruce helping out blistered Norman|
|Cape Valture nesting on sandstone cliffs|
|Cape vulture colony|
|Stormin’ Norman enjoying the heights!|
|Evening at Vaalribbokkop Cave|
|Another amazing sunset in the Drakensberg, from Vaalribookkop Cave|
|A stay in a cave, one of the highlights of hiking in the Drakensberg|
|Belinda and Norman loving it!|
|Coming down the contour path towards the Mhlawazini river and Zulu Cave|
|A beautiful waterfall on our river crossing|
|Nicky and Sean in the Mhlawazini Valley|
|Zulu Cave – Our home for the second night|
|Enjoying shady Zulu Cave|
|Hungry hikers waiting for their dinner (and wine)|
|Zulu Cave is a fantastic and spacious shelter|
|From left to right: Cathkin Peak, tip of Monk’s Cowl, Champagne Castle and Dragon’s Back|
|Among the Themeda triandra, the most common grass in the Drakensberg|
|Norman eventually had to put on crocs to be able to walk with a blistered ankle|
|A makeshit buckle – A pot handle and a rubber band|
|Coming down from Breakfast Stream for our last downhill – Overlooking the Sterkspruit (Mpofane) Valley|
|The Sphinx, a well-known feature in the Monk’s Cowl area|
|A bushbuck welcomed us at the of our hike|
|A typical end of a hike: cold drinks and smiles|
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