uMkhomazi Mountain Nature Reserve
Maloti Drakensberg Park
World Heritage Site
25 - 26 January 2014
Report and photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULL SIZE]
We met the uMkhomazi office, to sign the Mountain Rescue form , but were not short of noticing that there had been a great storm in the area that night. Rivers and streams were running full of clear fresh sparkling mountain water, and the whole area was looking shiny and ready for a new day. After sorting our lives out, we set off up to the cave. A long uphill pull, with very few flat areas to catch ones breath – the positive counter to this would be a long downhill trek the next morning. Streams were full and heaps of hail lay scattered across the slopes – evidence of the last nights storm. However the climb was easy as we stopped regularly to admire the view, and to delight in the swirly, misty vistas that we hiked past. Numerous waterfalls tumbled out of the cliffs and steep rocky valleys, making a tremendously beautiful days walking. Above us swirls of mist in the high hills hinted that we could encounter heavy mist at the top of our climb.
Pics 2 – 7 Climb , climb , climb
A misty lunch break was taken before we started the last steep pull to the summit. As the mist rose and set around us, a strange rock formation , looking like some prehistoric flat billed bird slipped out of the mist, and further down we could see the valley out of which we had just ascended
Pic 8 – Lunch
Pic 9 - What’s that bird??
Pic 10 - Valleys far and deep
After summiting, the mist seemed to lift and far down the opposite valley we could make out where we would find our cave. Walking happily through the lush green grass , with not a care in the world – the cave was in sight – we were safe from weather for now, I stepped across something that reared up between my legs. A leap of faith into the unknown took me clear of a rearing mountain cobra ( or Rinkhals), that was as surprised as I was on this unexpected intrusion into his life. Everybody was calm , and after the usual niceties and photos were exchanged, we went our separate ways.
Pics 11 – 12 Watch where your putting your big feet !!!!@@****##
At the cave, we settled in , fetched water, unpacked and made tea, and without warning the mist slipped down unnoticed and covered the whole area, in a thick wet grey blanket of nothingness. If one did not know the area, to find this cave in these conditions could have caused some major problems. To have made things worse, the mist did not lift for the rest of daylight hours. Later a heavy drizzle started which continued well into the night.
Pics 13 – 15 Home for the night
In the entrance to the cave , some other maybe weather marooned hikers had built a “balancing stone monument” – maybe to while away the hours!.
Pic 16 - Balancing stones
In the wall of the cave was a small recess in the wall, with the remains of a candle. As darkness settled in , the small burning candle sent a warm glow of light through the cave.
Pics 17 - 18 Candle in the night
Morning broke misty, damp and cold. No magic sunrise, however a2 hardy souls arose early to witness the new day starting. Later the mist started to lift, and great mystical views of the plains far below could be seen through the mist patches.
Pic 19 - 24 Misty morning has broken
After breakfast , we packed and headed for an old vulture roosting site that was high on a vertical cliff face , which offered wonderful views of the country side. As we passed the entrance to another valley, a large rock stood out as if it was guarding the entrance to this secret area. Just as suddenly the wind shifted and opened up the secret valley for inspection, - hiking in misty conditions can be dangerous – DON”T DO IT-
Pic 25 – 26 Secret Valley in the mist
Reaching the area where we hoped to have great views, we were met with an even more intriguing sight- the mist rising in great white columns straight up the sides of the cliff face, giving numerous wonderfull m isty scenes.
Pic 27 - 29 Mist against the cliffs
The trek home was pleasant and relaxed, downhill all the way, with great views, far and near, and if you looked hard, something in the path at your feet – not a snake – was worth a good look at.
Pics 30 – 33
Horseback patrolling Field Rangers were a pleasant site to see, no doubt for them a great day to be in the saddle.
Pic 34 Field Rangers on patrol
We diverted from our path , and dropped further down into the valley to visit a totally different ecosystem to that in which we had spent the last 2 days. A low area of great old tall aloes, and other drier type plants that had found a niche here. After some rewarding exploring , we headed back along the cliff side to find a lunch spot, and a new way back to the cars.
Pics 35 -36 Down , down ,down into the valley
Pics 37 – 39 Old painters gallery
Pics 40 heading for the waterfall
Pic 41 – lunch spot
Pic 42 - Did we really come from up there ??
As mentioned earlier, water was everywhere, where there is water and cliffs and valleys , there must be waterfalls. We enjoyed a great many beautiful waterfalls sights .Great tall waterfalls, small valley falls, and little tumbling pool falls. All crystal clear , sparkling and fresh
Pics 43 - 53 What a waterfall !!!!!!!!!!!
Back at the cars , it was time to clean up , get into fresh clothes and head home. What a privilege to have made the effort to get out and enjoy such a bounty of nature.
Remember, on any trip to the berg, watch the weather, and know where you are going. Waltzing in the mist is not a good idea.