Lakes Cave
Cobham Nature Reserve
Southern Drakensberg
uKhahlamba World Heritage Site
16 - 17 May 2015

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

Lakes Cave is a cave that has somehow eluded me on my many trips to the part of the berg. So when a planned trip to Tarn Cave was cancelled, I decided to take the opportunity to do a trip to Lakes Cave. Due to flu, a broken toe, and a sprained shoulder all at the last minute , 3 of us headed out from Cobham to Lakes. The walk is a fairly easy walk, walking up the Polela River on a very strong path, the gradient is easy , but at the end gets a little steep.

The day was a beautifull mid autumn day, the winter grass showing incredible shades of brown, the stream pools sparkling fresh and clear blue, but cold enough to swim in , and take your breath away. High up on the horizon we had the majestic  Giants Cup watching our every move as we walked closer and closer up towards it high basalt bastions. Rounding a bend in the river, we were incredibly privileged to come across a large herd of the majestic Eland. A large number of last years calves were accompanied by a rather lesser number of adults, something I had not seen before.

A rest break was taken alongside the stream edge to have a energy bar, and refill our water containers. While we sat there another group of 3 hikers who were on their way to Polela cave passed us. We passed many beautiful pools before our path took us up and over a high ridge, where we stopped for lunch.

Pics 2  11 on our way to our high lunch spot.

Our first stop after lunch was at Nutcracker Cave, a small low cave  hence the name. At this time of year, a strong small waterfall slid over the front of the cave. High up to our right a group of 3 Grey Rhey Buck dashed up the mountain side, stopped for a brief  look down at us then, sped over the ridge.

Pics 12  15 Last leg up to Lakes Cave.

Lakes cave is not a very big cave, probably 6  2 smallish hikers could be comfortable in bad weather in the cave. Water is close by, and a good wash was enjoyed by the  wannebee clean hikers . The sleeping areas are small, and very open to wind and rain. However with the 3 of us, we were quite happy. The evening was very warm, despite the cave being so open. After a long day, we were happy to have an early supper, and turn in.

Pics 16  18 Lakes cave

Our route back was to be along the crest of the valley we had walked up the day before, and eventually to get to Mpongweni Rock Art Shelter. Sunday morning broke with a heavy mist on the high ground above us. This was where we were to walk, and not having done the route before, we hoped that the path would be visible to us.

A short path led us out of the cave, and up to the crest. High above us, the mountain was clearly visible, but looking down to where we had to walk, shrouds of whirling grey mist hid our route from us. Dave had done a quick recce the evening before, and in the good weather had seen some of the lakes at a higher altitude than we were at that moment. So dropping our packs, we climbed higher, and came to a point, where as the mist swirled an twisted and turned, we could get some views of the valleys and lakes below us. Most awesome of all, across the valleys from us, the dancing grey veil of mist threw us glimpses of the most incredible subtle views of the valleys and high berg beyond.

Pics 19  26 The sights we nearly  mist

After some most soul lifting mind impressions of  mountain fairyland we picked up our back packs and started our hike downwards. Our path was trong for a while, the mist had settled in , and we had very limited sight. Later the path seemed to fade, but we found another strong path leading in a slightly different direction to what I was expecting. However the path was strong, so we followed. Our path dropped us into the most incredible rocky valley , strewn with rock pools of all shapes and sizes, different vegetation, and amazing rock colours and formations. Taking time for pictures, we eventually looked for our path that had now almost ceased to exist amongst the rocky valley floor. We eventually found a broken down cairn, re-built it, and picked up our path. However, now the path dropped very steeply, and then turned sharp right and followed the bottom of a high ridge of rock. I was now more than worried as we should not have dropped so much, or being heading so south. Our map showed no signs of a path or indeed any path further down the valley, the mist  showed us nothing. The most sensible thing to do was to go back to where we lost the original ridge path, and look for the correct way. ( Later talking to the OIC of Cobham , he confirmed that we were on a new path made by  dagga runners , and would have taken us right out of our way.)

Pics 27  32 Lost Valley path area .

We found the path on the crest of the ridge, rather faded and jaded, but heading in the right direction. Later it strengthened up, and we could follow it easily. Later the mist lifted, the sun came out, the views were once again incredible, and we were  3 Happy Chappies

Pics 33  34 The Clearing of the mist

We were now on the flat plateau heading for our lunch spot and the Mpongweni National Heritage Rock Art site. Along the way we passed a large group of local inhabitants, who were quite happy to watch us pass them as they basked in the sun

Pic 35 Locals in the sun.

Lunch was taken in the shade of a large rock, then we hiked up to the Rock Art Site in the cliffs above. The paintings are really dramatic, and still have vibrant colours after all these years. This site is a good day hike from the Cobham camp site, with a rather an  energetic climb needed to get from the river path, up to the painted site.

Pics 36  40 Ancient rock Art paintings.

A last look at the majestic highlands behind us, and from where we had started our morning hike in the mist. Then the sharp drop down the steep ridge back down to the river, and then finally to our car.

Pics 41  42.

A very beautiful experience for heart, mind and soul. Thanks guys.

AS the winter nights get colder and longer, it is essential to hike with good quality winter gear, Watch the weather, and be prepared for any weather that Mother Nature can throw at you.. As the saying goes  Any F L can be cold in the berg <