Lost Cave Exploration
Central Drakensberg
uKhahlamba World heritage Site
24 – 26 May 2013

My report for the hike "Injisuthi Exploration" 6 – 8 April 2012, described a 3 day hike we did last year to find the “lost cave” noted in a Drakensberg book written in 2003. The cave was described as large, well protected, and situated close to water. Our 3 day search last year did not yield any fruit, but on the last day, we saw what seemed to be a promising cave area far across the valley from where we were, and as I said in the Newsletter, we would head into this area next year.

Again it was with great excitement that my 3 hiking partners and myself set a date for our trip, unfortunately, due to an accident, John could not come with us so 3 of us started our quest – all of us young minded (average age of 70), fit and strong hikers – ready to explore another unknown area.

It took us some hours to get into the area where we would pitch our tents, then, head out with day packs to look for this “cave” in the middle of the vast Drakensberg wilderness. On the way up into the berg we passed a pair of rare and endangered Oribi antelope, and a group of firefighters starting to burn the winter firebreaks.

Pics 2, Pair of Oribi
Pics 3, 4 Firefighters burning winter tracer lines

Just as we were pitching our tents, a heavy cloud darkened the sky, and we thought we would be in for an unexpected storm , but it blew away, and left us with a clear afternoon. With the tents up, some lunch and tea, and a backpack with water and a warm jacket, we set off. We eventually saw our cave area some distance away, and with some difficulty in walking along a very steep slope we which caused some ankle soreness, and through some bright autumn coloured brambles, we crossed a good stream and headed up towards the cave area. After a lot of hard work we found that the overhang of the rock face was not deep enough to shelter anyone except porcupine and some antelope. So our cave had eluded us again.

Pic 5 Dark clouds at midday
Pic 6 & 7 “Our Cave” in the distance ???!!!
Pic 8 Autumn Thorny Brambles
Pic 9 Crossing the stream above a waterfall
Pic 10 Heading up to the waterfall
Pic 10a No room for a sleeping area – not the cave we were looking for.

However further down the valley and some way away was another very likely overhang, that would have to wait for tomorrow.

It was now time to head back to our tents. Walking along the slope was now tiring, and we were feeling the long day that we had had. The firebreak burners had been this way, but had seemed to have left gaps of unburnt grass along the way. The colours of the autumn grasses are always exciting, changing constantly with the moving of the sun and time. In the middle of nowhere we came upon the “green steel trunk”, securely locked and fixed into the ground. One must wonder – what secrets lie and locked forgotten green box ??????????

Not far from the tents we crossed a stream and filled our water containers for the night. In the darkening, black hollow of the stream, a bright red floret of some plant stood out in stark contrast to the dark surroundings

Pic 11 & 12 Firebreak burnt in places !!!
Pic 13 The “Green Box”
Pic 14 Red against the black

Later that evening as we prepared to go to bed, a group of patrolling Field Rangers passed our tents. They were as surprise at seeing us, as we were of seeing them. After greetings and introductions I asked them about “the cave”. One of them said he thought he had seen a cave on the other side of the crest from that which we had been looking at, half way down the valley with a stream not far off.

We were up early, and climbed a nearby hill to watch a beautiful sunrise on the mountain tops.

Pics 14 a , 15, 16, 17

Then it was breakfast, and we headed off first to the area indicated by our Field Rangers. In this part of the world, the valleys are deep and steep – not for the feint hearted. We dropped down into the valley crossed a stream and battled across the side of the slope, and eventually came to the area – but again , not what we were looking for. Climbing back up, we took time to catch our breath and enjoy the incredible views around us.

Pic 18 Down into the valley to look for the Field Rangers Cave
Pic 19 Not the cave
Pic 20 Time to rest and contemplate

We now headed down the other side of the crest to the area we had seen late yesterday afternoon. Again, after some hard cross country walking, we eventually came within sight of our rock face. As it was some distance down the slope, Keith offered to go down and investigate, there was a cave, it could sleep up to 5 people, it had water, but it was not the cave we were looking for. So after another long day, it was time to head home.

Pic 21 Down the valley again
Pic 22 A cave was there – but not “The Cave”
Pic 23 A vast network of valleys below us

Back at the tents we enjoyed a magical sunset

Pics 24, 25, 26

After a good nights sleep we again woke to a beautifully RED sunrise – something told us that we should expect a change in weather in the afternoon.

Pics 27 , 28

We decided now to head up towards Centenary Hut which was not too far away, as we had now decided to call the cave search off. Someone had done some work here since my last visit some time ago. The broken ceiling had been removed, which stopped the birds nesting in the ceiling and messing below them. The hut had been swept and tidied up, but unfortunately the broken windows, and beds were not inviting. Still, one could now use the hut for weather protection, if you could keep warm.

Pics 29 – 32

On our way home, a Mountain Reedbuck stopped in its dash to get away from us to have a look back to see what we were doing. Otherwise it was an uneventful trip home

As we left the car park we could see heavy squalls of rain beating down on the area we had been in earlier. Always watch the weather.

To my hiking companions, thank you for sharing our beautiful natural heritage with me. We regard ourselves amongst a blessed few, who still take the time to go out and enjoy the wonders of nature. So many today only assimilate that experience through a magic box in the lounge. How much you are missing ??? While again, we did not achieve our objective – it was another wonderful experience.