If you want peace and quiet, real peace and quiet then the The Drakensberg Traverse is the most awesome trek you could imagine. We took 14 days leave from life and walked from The Sentinel in the Northern Drakensberg to Sani Pass in the South. A little over 200km of the most pristine Mountain Wilderness in the world.
Much of the trek was through the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park a UNESCO World Hertitage site (it's status granted due to the greatest collection of San Rock Art, the magnificent mountains and their unspoilt high altitude wetland and river system that provides South Africa with most of it's quality drinking water. The rest of our route took us through the rugged landscape of Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom.
Climb Thabana Ntlenyana, Southern Africas highest Peak.We started out on the 14th of May 2009, hiking on a good path past the enormous Sentinel peak 3165m and up the infamous Chain Ladders to reach the Mont-Aux-Sources Plateau 3100m for our first nights camp. We were greeted by the rare bearded vultures swooping a mere 20m above us, a trend that continued throughout our trip. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset that highlighted the dramatic Amphitheatre, home of the Thukela Falls.
The days that followed melded into a mosaic of spectacular cliffs, superb mountain views and breath taking rivers with their chilly plunge pools. It's an amazing feeling to climb to the crest of one of those seemily endless uphills, peer at the horizon, recognise famous peaks such as Cathederal, Monks Cowl, Giants Castle and a few days later you turn your back on them as you set your sights on the next majestic peak.
We hiked past the stone mountain huts of the Basotho Herdsman. If we were starting to feel sorry for ourselves because of terrain altitude (mainly above 3000m), aching muscles and the cold, these guys would remind us of what it's really like to rough it. A friendly nation the herdsman wear gumboots, a traditional blanket and a balaklava, that's it, to put it in perspective, day time teperatures while we were trekking were below 10 deg. C and night time left us chilly when they dropped as low as -10 deg C. It wasn't even mid winter! These guys look after their tribe or family's herd of goats, sheep, cows or horses and they have the coolest dogs; huge beasts a delightful mixture of spaniel ears, labrador girth,st bernard hight & fur and brindled staffie colouring.
We were fortunate with wildlife too, yip, even at that altitude, we saw plenty of Cape Vultures, Bearded Vultures, Jackal buzzards, Rock Kestrel, a Berg Adder, Grey Rhebok, Klipspringer, baboons, Dassies (Rock Hyrax) and the adorable Sloggerts Ice Rats. Two surprises were the owls we heard at night and amazingly a pair of Secretary Birds that joined us at our lunch spot at a high altitude tarn one day.
If you're keen on picking up eye catching stones, then best you eat all your food quickly, because there are fantastic examples of amygdale, agate, quartz crystals and geodes. Actuallly eating all your food quickly isn't difficult to do, we got hungrier and hungrier by the day and were desperate to break into our emergency food rations in the last few days.
We climbed to the top of Mafadi, South Africa's highest peak 3450m and also Thabana Ntlenyana 3482m the highest African peak South of Mt Kilimanjaro. It's in the Drakensberg range but is actually situated in Lesotho. Unfortunately T. Ntlenyana signaled the end of our trip, it's a days walk from Sani Pass. It took us a long time to get there, we were dragging our heels, it had been so easy to immerse ourselves in the rythm of the wilderness, it took quite some effort to relinquish our freedom and succumb to civilisation.
This is a strenuous trip, you do need to be able to navigate confidently with map and compass - gps is a good back up & we mapped our route, but mountain skill is a definite requirement. The Drakensberg like any other mountain range has notoriously fickle weather we were blessed with stable sunny, if cold weather except for 2 days when we had a short blizzard,sleet and snow, gale force winds of +100km/hour, so you also need to be prepared for any conditions, it's known to have snowed every month of the year in the Drakensberg and even though it's Africa sub zero conditions are common. Also, not much telecom, no civilisation and you'll need to carry all your gear and food with you.
If you're ever keen to do all or part (5 days is fantastic) of this spectacular trek contact GoVertical Mountaineering Adventures, it'll get rid of any guess work! http://www.gotrekking.co.za
Equipment: You will need all of your own personal hiking equipment. You can hire tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment from Govertical Adventures.
Stocked dams and streams close to the resorts or in the wilderness areas of the Drakensberg are normally reserved for fly fishing.
It is a popular sport which has many followers in South Africa, my hubby being one of them!
Fishing is often limited to resident guests only but the KZN Nature Conservation Services have made several excellent trout dams and stretches of fishable river available to non residents too.
Fishing permits are required, you can make enquiries prior to arriving at the resort/farm/hotel... or when you arrive.
Injusuthi is my hubby's favourite place to fly fish. We were here in january 2009 and he had great fun fishing as is seen here :)
My husband and I are avid bird watchers (and photographers!).
With 180 lesser bird species, bird watchers visiting the Drakensberg will not be disappointed.
From the magnificent Lammergeyer, Cape Vulture and Black Eagle... to the brightly coloured, diminutive lesser double collared Sunbirds... and vociferous forest and grassland birds, it will be well worth bringing your binoculars and camera!
You can view the birds from specially built bird hides, set up in certain camps here and there, or, if you're fortunate, you might have a feathery visitor at your rondavel/hut.
Guided Hikes are normally available on a daily basis from most hotels, resorts and Natal Nature Conservation Services camps throughout the Drakensberg.
Hikes will always vary from easy strolls of about an hour to visit local attractions to more strenuous all day climbs.
For the energetic and fit, there is the challenge to make the demanding but exhilarating climb to the top of the main Drakensberg summit!
Most Drakensberg resorts offer horse riding as an attraction and short to half day rides through the foothills are usually available.
Wits End offers this for kids and adults, and it's a lovely way to get around! Wynford Farm offers this too.
To enjoy the wonderful mountain scenery whilst on horseback adds enormously to the outdoor African experience.
The Drakensberg is a wild and lonely land of mountains. There exists a fair network of trails near the base of the range along the South African side. There are even a few ‘trails’ that snake up to the rim of the Escarpment itself, but these tend to be frail affairs that have the nasty habit of disappearing at times. This magnificent outdoor venue offers one of Africa’s best outdoor adventures - the Drakensberg Traverse - a multi-day affair which will take you over and along some of the best terrain the range has to offer. It is a range best visited in the company of someone else whom has prior personal experience with these mountains. In the process of making my own personal Drakensberg traverse, I found that experience with Peak High Mountaineering. Peak High’s founder and main leader, Gavin Raubenheimer, is Mr. Mountain down here in South Africa. He has been running Peak High for over a decade now. He is a past president of the KZN section of the Mountain Club of South Africa and the rescue leader whom even the South African Air force turns to for education. Gavin is very personable, with a mother lode of experience and normally leads most Peak High trips, whether they be Drakensberg traverse, ice-climbing in the Giant’s Castle area or ultra tock routes on the many towers and peaks found along the Escarpment. His business continues to grow and he has taken on a new young associate, Colin McCoy, whom he has helped train. Together they will keep you out of trouble and let you gain a great mountain experience. I recommend this pair of climbers to help you very heartily.
If you want a great game of golf, try some of the Drakensberg courses. The Northern Berg has a couple of shorter courses, with the central berg having some fantastic 18 hole courses. There are also a few amazing courses in the southern berg. So wherever you go, there will be a golf course in close proximity!
Equipment: Most of the courses will be able to hire golf clubs and carts to players.