Cobham Drakensberg Nature Reserve
World Heritage Site
6 - 7 May 2017
Report and photos by Dave Sclanders.
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
With this in mind, I planned a week end stay at the camp area where hikers could either stay in the hut, or bring their own tents. 12 hikers arrived for the week end on Saturday morning, those who were tenting quickly erected their tents, whilst those who chose to stay in the hut, sorted their lives out. Due to unforeseen planning by some, our start time was delayed by over a half an hour. The group finally got going and the swing bridge was the first obstacle to clear, and as we climbed out of the river bed through some thickish bush, we were rewarded with the beautiful sight of a large number of Eland Antelope in the open area just ahead of us. This was a moment to savor as there were a large number of animals in the group, and they were in no rush to go anywhere. From here we had a long slow climb to the crest of the first ridge of the day, where a rest break was called for.
Another short climb saw us clambering up a quite rocky, steep path that brought us to the top of our second climb of the day. We then headed for the crest of the very high and steep nDlovini mountain that was our quest for the day, to get to the top of the mountain, have lunch and then go down the other side, and then head for the camp on a circular walk down Emerald Stream. The climb is long and steep, our hiking party spread out over a long winding path. Last man was a long way behind, but the views were great as we rested on our way up. It is only on a day like this that the unfit really learn how unfit they are. Once at the top, it was all fall down, then recover and have lunch .
The views from the top of nDlovini are spectacular, high up to the Giant' s Cup to the west, and deep down to the valleys below us. From the lunch spot, one of our party looked down over the rocky edge and sort of asked "are we going down there?" An icy wind speeds up lunch, but for some, lunch could have been far longer, the climb had taken strength and vigor out of legs and body.
It was a very steep drop off the mountain top. Very ill-defined paths leading down the slope pointed to the fact that very few animals use this side of the mountain to get to the summer grazing on the crest of the mountain.
Our aim was to get to Pinnacle Rocks far across the plateau with a steep valley between us, so a long round route had to be used. Fortunately, there is a trace of a better track-path here. However, if one does not know that it is there, you won' t find it. Far across the valley, and hidden in the shadows of the high hills behind, we could make out the shape of the Pinnacle Rock reaching high into the sky.
By now some of the hikers were feeling that the fun of the hike was over, and the hard grind to keep going was now a reality, and worst of all, we were not half way home, and time was running away from us. When we reached the point where we had to start to drop into the valley that would take us home, we dropped our packs and some headed for Pinnacle Rock and the rock art in another rock band not far from the famed rock. Some opted to stay with the packs and regain some energy. There were some priveledged hiker who had hiked to Pinnacle Rock and were tenting there for the night. After a quick look at the paintings it was back to our packs, and now start the long last leg home to the camp, downhill all the way !!!!!!
Pic 19 - Pinnacle Rock with the lucky campers and tents around it s base. (click on this picture to enlarge it and see the small hikers admiring the rock).
The path through the top of the long flat stream is difficult due to the extremely long sharp porcupine grass that covers the stream bed and path. The start of the very steep decent to the camp is well marked by pyramid hill at the end or start of the stream bed walk depending on which way you are heading.
By now some legs and bodies were past caring, and some members had to be pushed hard to keep them moving. The sun was going down and to walk in the dark was not an option. After a very long day, camp was reached with half an hour of sunlight left.
Sunday morning was bright and clear, and the early morning sunrise through a moment of magical colours amongst the trees and on the highest points of the Giant s Cup, and the drying winter grasslands of the foothills.
Due to the hard day experienced by some of our party yesterday, it was decided to do an easy walk to Tortoise Rocks, then get back before lunch so that those who wanted to get home early could do so with no rush.
Tortoise Rocks is passed on the 2nd day of the Giant s Cup trail. An area of large Sandstone boulders that have by time, rain and wind and general erosion being cut to resemble giant tortoises.
Around the corner, high up on the cliff slope, one could see the effect of heavy rainfall on the shallow soils covering the underlying sandstone base, vast swaths of eroding soil have cut their way down the mountain side. The loose soil slipping down to the valley floor to their eventual resting place in time to come on the ocean floor. We climbed a small hill for a rest and a drink, and looked into the far nothingness of this farming area. Then on the way back to camp we looked up into the huge valley that we had exhaustedly navigated down last evening. Then along a ridge that exemplified how small man is with respect to the size of nature. Down one or two more drops and we were back at camp, all in a happy and good frame of mind.
Hiking in winter has its own special rules. The main one is that the days are shorter. Plan your hike so that you get back to camp before the sun sets. Sorting out your lives at camp after a long hard day when you are cold and weary and it is dark is not a fun thing to do. To do this right, without putting a strain on everyone late in the afternoon depends crucially on your planned start time in relation to your planned finish time. It will get dark when it gets dark, no change in that. Starting later than planned, and the day is spoilt before you start. There is no time to relax, no time for stragglers, no time for a long lunch, or just resting and looking. Day hikes are about enjoying the day, plan and stick to your timings.
ALWAYS GO PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED