How safe is hiking in the berg?? There has been a lot of press recently reporting on hikers being harrased in the mountains. I have experienced a similar occurrance where all our kit was taken from our cave whilst we were out on a sight seeing walk. If planning to hike in far away places in the berg , the following points may be of interest in the mountain situation for the Drakensberg area.
1. Research the area you want to hike in , contact KZN Wildlife Head Office , and regional officers. As well as the Mountain Club , and Mountain Hiking Clubs. Remember , the information received is only as good as you use it, and also the situation can change at any time
2. Do not plan to over-night in any known or suspected hot spot , or near a mountain pass that is well used by other mountain people. Plan to walk well past the area before camping
3. Watch out for people following you
4. Be aware of your surroundings at all times , know where you are , and know where the nearest escape route is at all times.
5. Should you for any reason have to sleep in a suspect area, plan an early supper , re-arrange your kit so that when it becomes time to camp, you just put your tent up , and roll out your sleeping bag.
6. Walk well into the night before setting up camp. Pitch tents as close to each other as possible . It may be uncomfortable , but safer for the one night
7. Do not sleep at the base of a rocky outcrop – pick a space away from potential attacker cover.
8. Sleep fully clothed , boots at hand, all kit packed in your bag , torch fixed to your body.
9. Have a night watch , at the first sign of trouble , blow whistles to let the attackers know that they have been detected .Pull on your boots , grab your pack , and sleeping bag , and take up your pre-planned defensive strategy. If you have to run , you then have all your kit with you except your tent .
10. Have a preplanned meeting point in case you do get split up.
11. Make sure that you have emergency numbers on your cell phone, and if there is only one cell phone in the group make sure everyone knows the pin number of the phone. Someone may have to walk a long way to get cell phone comms and summon help.
12. Everyone in the party should know the exact locality of each night’s camp , so that the rescuers can find the area as soon as possible.
13. You may have time in the evening to get your own pile of stones next to your tent to repel or hold off the attackers. Silly as it may sound stones are not easy to find in the dark.
14. Should you come across any mountain people whilst hiking , be courteous , you are in their turf, do not arouse hostility , and do not at any stage get near the dogs . They are very protective to their owners.
15. Stick to your prepared hiking route so that if you should be late in getting home , a family member should know where Search and Rescue Parties can start looking.
16. In case of bad weather hindering progress, don’t wander around aimlessly you may end up far away from your route. Put up camp , and wait for better weather.
I have deliberately not mentioned fire arms , it is bad enough that a few hostile individuals in the mountains using stones , sticks and whips are robbing hikers for food and clothing. It would be a disaster if organized bands of well armed thugs started to attack hikers with high powered rifles to rob “all hikers of the firearms they are assumed to be carrying” . That is in no-ones interest.
Be aware , be prepared , keep a good look out for any signs of being watched, plan to camp in safer areas, know your route, plan for possible danger areas . Hiking in small groups , or alone is not a good idea
Source: www.bergfree.co.za "Tips For Safe Hiking in the Berg" by Dave Sclanders