Wonder Valley Cave
uKhahlamba Drakensberg
Northern Drakensberg
8 - 9 November 2014

Report & photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders

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

The weather forecast showed a grim wet week end for berg hikers, with temperatures dropping very low on Saturday evening. The perennial question then arises, do I want to hike in  miserable weather, or do I stay home? The next question is  what to pack , warm clothes are needed to change into on arriving at the cave after walking in wet conditions all morning, extra clothes, extra weight, and I was not feeling that strong. Well our strong , happy group of 8, met at a wet and misty Injisuthi camp at 08h00 on Saturday morning, and without much ado, and were soon hiking off through a very misty campsite on our way to Wonder Valley Cave. The cave is not that far away, but between the valley and the hill top is the daunting, steep, rocky, wet, winding path up the Van Heyningen s Pass. The way up is through a cleft in the Sandstone wall of the cliffs, through a beautiful patch of natural berg forest vegetation. It really is a special place to pass through. Also it is your last chance to fill up with water from the crystal stream that runs down the valley, once on top, there is no water for the test of the day.

Pic - 2  Leaving the hutted camp site , no views of  The Monk today
Pic  3-9 - Winding up Van Heyningen s Pass
Pic  10  From the buttress at the top of the pass, looking down onto the campsite far below.

After a short rest at the top, we decided to push on to the cave, the weather had cleared a bit, but we were still expecting rain to catch bus while we were still walking. As we climbed higher, the weather cleared, and coming down the path towards us was another party that had spent Friday evening in the cave. As they say, the world is a small place, their leader, recognized our leader s Yorkshire accent, and pinned the accent down to the village of Preston, both came from the same town. Quite remarkable.

Pic  11  From the buttress at the top of the pass, looking down onto the campsite far below

On reaching the Wonder Valley Cave, we dropped our packs, grabbed our larger 5lt water containers and went down to the river to fetch water. From the cave it is a long steep, slippery path down to the water. Coming up, with the 5kg of water in the hand is quite a proposition. The views from the top of the path, down to the lower waterfall where water is collected, and one can enjoy a real cool skinny dip, to the top of the cliff where another waterfall drops into the valley are great.

Pic  12  Wonder Valley Cave Sandstone cliffs
Pics  13-16  the valley and the water point , and dipping pool.
Pics  17-19 - The higher waterfall on the top of the valley

There is another cave , high up in the cliff face to the left of the higher waterfall, however, it would sleep only a few people, it would be quite a challenge to get up there with a heavy backpack, but the views from the cave down the valley are lovely.

Pic - 20  The upper cave
Pic  21  View from the cave down the valley

On the way back to the our cave, we passed a lily type plant, whose leaves were in the shape of a wide funnel/cup, and water from the recent rains had filled the cups with liquid.

Pic  22- Water in the plant leave cups.

Back at the cave it was time to sort out cave priorities, a good cup of tea, and a great time for mountain stories. The high berg to our west was still covered with mist, but later the high peaks of Champagne, Monk s and Cathkin started to break through, sharp , mysterious , and mystical.

Pics  23-25  Cave life.
Pic  26  The high escarpment in the west.

During the night, the sky cleared, and a full moon shone brightly into the cave. The brightness of the moon flooded all start visibility out. At 02h00, I had to check the weather, and some clouds were floating around the moon, at one stage all sorts of images were made by the clouds around the clouds. Then a bit later, the sky was clear of all but the moon.

Pic - 27  Could that be Rudolf with a shiny nose ???
Pic  28 - Just the moon.!!!!!!

At sunrise 05h00, the early rays of the sun touched the now very clear mountain peaks, and the massive was bathed in an orange glow, which soon turned lighter and lighter to the normal blue/green of the berg. A most spectacular sight, and worth all the effort to get there to witness it.

Pic - 29-33  Berg colours from early till later.

After such an early rise, it was natural that breakfast would be early, and naturally we would pack early, and start our homeward trek earlier than normal. This did offer us the opportunity to do a bit of a deviation from the normal way home, and climb a nearby hill, where one can see the length of the berg, from the  Devil s Tooth at the Amphitheatre in the north, all the way to  Giant s Castle in the Central berg. Quite a sight, and one that only a handful of people see as other hikers do not always go the extra climb to see this sight.

Pics  34-38  An unforgettable early morning at Injisuthi
Pic  39 - Walking on a bed of white and pink flowers.
Pic  40 - Devil s Tooth  far away at the Amphitheatre
Pic  41  Giant s Castle massive, where the Drakensberg turns to the south.

From the ridge we dropped down onto the Shada Ridge Path, and headed back towards the pass. From this side of the ridge, one looks down into the great valley of the Delmhlwazini river, then on the other side, up the mighty Injisuthi Valley . A rest stop for an early snack at the top of Shada Ridge, before we started down the pass, was welcomed. Down below us the hutted camp site was clearly visible.

Pic  42  looking up the Injisuthi Valley to Centenary hut area.
Pic  43  Early tea break
Pic  44  Injisuthi Camp site

Then it was the long trundle back home. A slippery path on wet rocks enforced a  go carefully  attitude. Refreshing cold water was again enjoyed from the clear stream. As we dropped lower the high sandstone cliff towers that support the high areas stood there stark and precipitous. Near the bottom of the valley, we looked up for the last time on to the high berg above, and realized how lucky we had been with the weather. Then just before the camp, one walks through an old pine forest that was cut down years ago, and the wet , decaying bark of the olds pine trees made very pretty patterns on the tree trunks.

Pics - 45-46  refreshment time .
Pic  47  High Sandstone Cliffs
Pic  48  high above stands a great mountain range
Pic  49  pine colours

The flowers were starting to come out, and over the burnt areas masses of growing plants were pushing through the wet soil.

Pics 50  59 - Flower time !!!

For those who do not really know the berg, but can read a map, and decide to do a cave trip that looks easy. Remember to take extra water containers with you, like for example, a well washed out empty 5lt wine vat pouch. Some caves do not always have water nearby. Fill the bags as soon as you get to The cave, then one has water on tap  so to speak