24 – 25 August 2013
Report & Photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders (www.bergfree.co.za)
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULL SIZE]
The Drakensberg is especially demanding, summer and winter can be very different in the same valley at different times. Summer can be wet and tricky , many streams to cross, plenty of water to drink, and in winter the total opposite. Some paths disappear in the summer, and can easily be found in winter – so familiarity breeds – safety – but don’t be in contempt.
We hiked this area last November, and then again this August – see my Newsletter 166 for last years hike. Both summer and winter are enjoyable times to hike, just be aware that you may need totally different hiking and sleeping equipment for the different seasons. Always take precautions on the safe side and expect harder conditions than expected.
10 of us met under the guidance of Keith at Bushman’s Nek , EKZN Wildlife office to sort our lives out, and head up the valley to the cave. It is a relatively easy hike, but physical fitness and good kit is always essential if one is to enjoy the Drakensberg. The hike takes one up the Bushman’s Valley, winding up along the Bushman’s River towards the top of the Bushman’s or Ngwangwane Pass. As one is hiking up the alongside the river, there are great cliffs rearing up to the skyline on both sides of you. In places incredible natural forests are still clinging to steep rocky cliff sides. Too far away to be exploited by the greed of man. The path is relatively easy to follow, in a few places patches of tall bush and thick grass can hide the path , and make going a bit difficult. The cave overhang is not far from water, and offers some protection from the weather , although in November , a thick mist and soft rain did make the sleeping areas a bit damp. On arriving , sleeping areas were sorted out, tea enjoyed, then some of the younger members headed off to see how high up the pass they could get before they ran out of time and to avoid hiking back to camp in the dark. Temperatures dropped to just above freezing in the night, and breakfast was taken in really cold conditions. The walk back to the cars was done in quick time as all the hikers were fit, and the water to cold to swim in at the various river pools.
There was a first time hiker with us, and he enjoyed the experience very much , but I feel he was not quite prepared for the cold conditions outside of his sleeping bag.
This part of the berg had not been burnt, so we hiked through patches of green and brown grasses. The rivers were not to full , so the crossing of the many streams on the way up to the final destination was easy.
Pic 5 Easy stream crossing
Pic 6 A cold “Non Inviting Pool of water to dip in”
Pic 7/8 Slab Cave up on the hillside
Pic 9 Long hike up the valley
Pic 10 Lunch along the way
High up on the right, a strange rock pinnacle protrudes above the horizon, the angle of the sun makes it hard to make out !! – see later pics
Pic 11 High Rock Pinnacle
Up and up , it gets steeper towards the top of the valley
Pics 12 , 13, 14 Up and Up – legs getting weary for some.
Then at last the caves appear from round a corner, and the afternoon is spent “sorting lives out for the night”
Pics 15 – 18
Sunday morning , the sunrise is awesome, with the moon justb dropping down below the mountain crest.
Pic 19 Awesome sunrise
Then it was time to have breakfast, pack up and start the hike back to the cars.
Pic 20 COOL Breakfast
Pic 21 SUNSHINE Breakfast
Pic 22 Ready to roll !!
Pic 23/24 Now it is “downhill” all the way
The sunshine brightens up the face of the huge Sandstone Rock formation high above the valley floor. In some years time that huge face may come crashing down into the valley basin !!!
Pic 25/26 High Sandstone cliffs
From here, it was a quick skip and a trot back to the car.
Pic 27 The cars are “just around the corner !!!!!” This is a relatively easy hike for 1st timers, just check with your leader about what kit you may need.