Walking and hiking in the Berg is safe and secure - provided that a few simple ground rules are observed:
In winter, the higher reaches become spectacular snow-scapes, with the valley and peaks transformed into a wonderland of white. But if you are adventuring at this time of year, you need to be aware that glorious sunny days can quickly turn into misty, snowy conditions. So it is essential that you sign the hiking register at the beginning of the trail, before heading out.
In summer the Berg is idyllic with bird-song, luxuriant grasses and wildflowers, and cool streams cascading through gorges and rock pools. But if you are setting out on a walk on even the most benign summer afternoon, be alert for sudden thunderstorms that seem to come from nowhere followed by short spells of unseasonal cold. So in addition to a camera, carry a jersey or rain jacket, preferably with a torch and some chocolate in the pockets!
The photo shows Kelsey and I in the Drakensberg, spring 2001. (aged 3) We had had superb weather the previous 2 days, played golf in t-shirts. We didn't think much of the rain when it started, but then it continued..... and then at about 21.00 at night, we looked out the window and everything was white and silent......we love it!
There are 24 species of snakes found in the 'Berg of which only three venomous.
Puff Adder :
The most dangerous snake in the 'Berg, because it is highly venomous and relies on camouflage for protection. It basks on paths and rocks during the day and hisses loudly to warn enemies. It will only strike if it think that you are about to step on it. Most bites are on or below the ankle, so by wearing boots you will be reducing the danger considerably.
They are fat snakes with broad heads and have vivid chevron markings of brown and yellow for the entire length of their bodies.
Is much smaller than the puff adder, with black and grey diamond patterns on the back, but it also has the typical sluggish look of an adder. It is also a common snake which relies on its coloration for concealment. It will however move off when approached by humans.
This is the only snake in the Drakensberg which rears up and spreads a hood to discourage potential attackers. It occurs in grassland and can spray venom accurately into the face form a distance of 2.5 m away. It often pretends to be dead when threatened and may bite a person if it is handled.
Its colour may vary from brown to black with white or yellow banded markings along the throat.
Information from web site below:
In the Drakensberg mountain roads the weather can change very quick as mountains usually are and often it can have very thick fog, lucky for us that were only on our first day in the morning, the rest of the time we enjoyed beautiful blue sky.
Yes, this was our car in July morning :)
Coming from Finland it is not something rare for us to have a frozen car, but in sunny Africa it was just a reminder that we are up the mountains and here the winter is in July. Unfortunately there was no snow at the time we were here :(
In this image here few big males gather together when we got closer, they looked at us and didn’t show they are intend to move away, we figure it out, that is the nature language and we turn to another direction.
Driving: Some roads are quite narrow, this is not an area to speed!
You might find Cattle on the sides or even on the road
Some of the roads are gravel/dirt roads
Hiking: Best not to go alone
Stay on the existing hiking trails
Most of South Africa, with the exception of Cape Town, is best visited out of the summer season. This really holds true for the Drakensberg, especially the higher up you venture. Thunderstorms are the norm for afternoons here. Even in shoulder seasons, mists constantly swirl amongst the rock walls and towers of the Escarpment. One moment it will be perfectly clear and the next …. It is very important for you to know where you are and where you are going at all times. Experience or a guide are invaluable allies to have up here. The only topographical map for the range is available on a 1:50000 scale which is known to display some inaccuracies - especially in regards to cave shelter locations. The mists and rock towers truly invoke the theme of dragons about . Be ever vigilant and don’t get burned.
The weather in the Drakensberg can change very quickly. Frequently there are articles in the press about people lost in the Berg in foggy or rainy conditions. Sometimes it can have fatal consequences. So be prepared - take warm clothing in your daypack/backpack just in case, and remember to always sign a mountain register before you go walking, so that someone knows you are in the mountains if you do not come out.
From the South Africa side of the Drakensberg Escarpment there are only two ways that are ‘easy’ to reach the rim and one of them still requires climbing two sets of chain ladders up a vertical cliff a couple hundred feet! There are many other ‘passes’ along the range, but none can be classified as ‘easy’. The ‘normal’ berg pass is a desperately steep affair - going up is pure misery while going down is not necessarily a picnic. At the top, the berg pass will be straight down through grasses - maybe a band of rock cliffs or two to make things interesting along with ever-present mists to both complicate your navigation and increase your sense of unease regarding the building of a potential thunderstorm. That Sotho cattle rustlers and dagga (marijuana) smugglers use these trails is amazing, but the proof - in cattle bones and trail erosion - is very evident as you make you way up or down. To complicate things, lower down on the east side of the ‘pass’, vegetation conspires to block your path and obscure the way.
Three poisonous snake species occur in the Drakensberg: spitting cobras or rinkhals; berg adders and puff adders. Most commonly, you will come across a puff adder sunning himself on the path. They don't like to move or be stepped on. Walk around them as the bite can be very serious. Berg adders are usually found higher than most trails go. Be careful where you put your hands when climbing!
Onus is on hikers, say Berg officials
November 08 2005 at 07:41AM
People visiting the Drakensberg have been advised to take precautions and to be aware of security issues.
Some Berg areas, like Giant's Castle, appear to be more susceptible to crime than others.
A British tourist was raped after losing her way while walking at Giant's Castle last week. Last year a group of schoolgirls hiking there had their camp ransacked.
Jeff Gaisford, spokesperson for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said there were security problems in certain areas at times. "The onus is on the individual to do a check first, just as they would do with the weather," Gaisford said.
He recommended that hikers walk in groups of at least four. - Mercury Reporter
Be wary when driving in the Drakensberg, as most of the roads become narrow, and do not have road markings. Most roads are also quite curvy, resulting in lots of blind corners.
So drive slow, enjoy the scenery, and get to your destination in one piece.
Be aware of local youngsters selling souvenirs on the side of the road. Although pretty, the souvenirs are likely to break before you get back to your hotel. For many of these guys, this is their only source of income.
Be careful walking anywhere in the mountains, Puff Adders, Berg Adders & Rinkals are very common. You do not want to get bitten by one of these while you are still a couple of hours from home!