MHC - Cleopatra's Heights
Highmoor Nature Reserve
uKhahlamba Central Drakensberg
17 June 2018

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]



Sunday morning broke true to the weather forecast, cold and overcast, and we wondered how many of our hikers would eventually pitch up for the start at the Highmoor camp site, the meeting point for our days hike. As can be seen from the first picture, it was a well dressed group of Midlands hikers who eventually were rough and ready to start the hike. The main draw for this hike was that for most of the hike we WOULD have great views of the berg from Reedy Peak in the Lotheni area to Sterkhorn in the Monk's Cowl area. As we walked on the high elevations of Highmoor heading East we had the great magnificent Drakensberg directly all around behind us . The clouds broke as we walked, and the magnificent berg stood out proud over our whole western horizon.


Pics 3 - 7 The lifting clouds expose the Drakensberg.

We kept walking in an easterly direction towards the end of the Highmoor escarpment to the high cliff formation known as Cleopatra. The are very few paths or roads in this area, so most of our walking was done over the rough ground. However the going was fairly easy, and the pace was one for  looking at the amazing views above and below us. The great valleys of Highmoor were all around us. Sooner than later we reached our destination, the top of the great cliffs that had supported Cleopatra for so long. The breathtaking views below us, dramatic and clear. To the east, the beautiful Kamberg Valley, with the majestic Kamberg Mountain to our right, to the north, the unmistakable Champagne Castle, Monk's Cowl, Cathkin Peak and Sterkhorn. The sky was clear and everything looked so near. As we stood looking into the valley, a lone vulture glided silently below us, later to be followed by a number of these incredible masters of the sky.


Pic 10 - Monk's Cowl massifs.

It was time for a scenic tea break, and a chance to chat about the great views afforded from here. Also to look down on the high cliff face that had once supported the face of Cleopatra, but some years ago had broken off and crashed down into the valley below.


Pic 15 - The fallen cliff face.

Then it was time to pack up and head in a circular first south then west towards our lunch time venue, Highmoor has some incredibly deep and steep cliffs that surround the main escarpment of Highmoor. It is not a place to wander around in bad visibility conditions, or if one is not really clued up on the area. Watch the weather, and if it looks like it could become unfriendly, get to higher safe ground as soon as possible. Rather walk up hill than downhill in poor conditions, the crests are your friendly places here.


Pics 16 - 18 Heading for the lunch spot

As we crested the last scramble to get onto the crest, we were greeted by a magnificent "Giant". Standing crystal clear and bright and powerful up ahead was this so well known Drakensberg landmark, so close and yet so far. Then on down and down from our high crest to the very edge of the rim of the great valley of the Impofanyana River. We would lunch here surrounded by great valleys running East to West, and South to North, valleys that truly break up the area known as Highmoor.

It would be here that we would try a new experience for our hiking group. The group would split up and sit on their own away from anyone else, no talking, and just soak up the experience and solitude of this great Drakensberg of ours. After all, did we come to talk incessantly, or to experience some calm and soul re-building?



Then it was time to head home, and apologies to my fellow hikers, for below us 3 little antelope broke cover and headed down hill. As I had seen antelope like these up here not so long ago, I put them down as Oribi, these were in fact Grey Rhebuck. - sorry guys. Oops

On the last stretch a patch of tall thatching grass masked the Drakensberg far behind, a fitting end to a great day in an incredible place called "Ukhahlamba" - the "Barrier of Spears".



We stayed on at the camping site for a second night, cool, cold buy fresh, and were rewarded with a most amazing sunset



For those who may not be so sure of who and where Cleopatra was and where, perhaps you can tell me who these wind and water eroded figures may represent. They are in the Highmoor Cliffs, visible from the road up to Highmoor.


Pics 33 and 34. To give you a clue they could be one and the same people from different angles ??



Monday morning, the great "Fire break" burning season was well on its way. The sky was filled with smoke, the great mountain covered from view. We were indeed fortunate with our clear berg views.

Winter is now well and truly on. For the next month or so be sure when you go hiking that you check with the authorities if and where and when they will be burning, and if it is in your intended hike area, it may be prudent to relook at your hiking options. It is also known that some mountain inhabitants cause grass fires if they are under pressure from the EKZN Field Rangers. Always be fire and smoke aware. Changing plans or aborting hikes is the correct way to go. At night before going into your tent, check escape routes should a fire break out in your area at night. It is indeed of life threatening consequences to light any form of fire in the berg, whether for that quick cigarette, quick cuppa, or to even think of burning your toilet paper  which I know people do.
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ALWAYS GO PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED, AND HAVE THE EMERGENCY NUMBER OF THE OFFICE WHERE YOUR CAR IS PARKED ON YOUR CELL PHONE.
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For any questions on berg hiking, feel free to contact me. See my website at www.bergfree.co.za

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