THE DAY I WENT HIKING IN DRAKENSBERG, SOUTH AFRICA
The Drakensberg is a stunning area full of hiking trails that take in the natural beauty of the mountains and the wildlife that live there. From curvy rivers to large boulder rocks to chain ladders, there are a range of hikes that will satisfy both the novice and the expert.
First off I must confess, hiking in the Drakensberg wasn’t my idea. I’m an indoor sport type woman so when my sister suggested to hike, I hesitated. It took me about 15 mins to finally agree, figuring it couldn’t be that bad. I’m an athlete and the mentality most athletes have, is, “I can do anything athletically” With that mentality I went along with the idea and started to prepare for the trip.
We got to Drakensberg and stayed at The Tower of Pizza, a lodge tucked away in the breathtaking Amphitheatre Valley. Located about 10 km from the park, its one of the closest accommodation options for visitors to the park.
At the Tower of Pizza we stayed in a rondavel ( a westernized version of the African-style hut ), usually rondavels are oval in shape and made of local material. It was my first time seeing one in person and of course sleeping in one. We checked in just in time for dinner, pizza, no surprise there, with a traditional wood burning pizza oven the pizza at this place was possibly the tastiest that we have ever eaten.
The next morning we got up early, ate breakfast and were off. There are so many trails in the park to choose from, and my sister being the experienced hiker opted on the Sterkspruit Falls and Gorge hike. We parked the car, threw on our backpack and made our way through the forest.
The hike started off pleasurably as we walked across a small river which was very peaceful, but quickly intensified when a small incline appeared out of nowhere. The incline, plus a steep drop off to my left got my adrenaline flowing as the trail wrapped around a mountain, if there was any slippage we were goners. My heart started racing and drops of sweat started running down the side of my face. After turning a corner I looked up and could see clouds in the distance. Cloud formation occurs when humid or water vapor-filled air rises to the point where cooler temperatures force condensation. I took in the beauty of the moment and was calm again. Drakensberg is absolutely stunning.
Over the next 2 hours the trail continued to wrap one mountain after another. I’m tired at the 2 hour mark, but I keep my thoughts to myself and try hard to live in the moment. Leading my sister and her husband at this point was not by choice, I knew if I stayed in the back I would probably eventually sit down on a rock and no one would notice.
Suddenly a boulder appears before me out of nowhere and I’m thinking we have reached the end, boy was I wrong. The boulders, yes there was many, were part of the trail, the only way to continue was to climb over them. The rocks were massive and I can’t event tell you what was going through my mind ( PG blog
Boulder hopping was the last thing I thought I would be doing on a hike, UNTIL I came face to face with the chain ladder. Climbing a chain ladder becomes the last thing I thought I would be doing on a hike . I’m not scared of heights at all, I absolutely love roller coasters, but the chain ladder had me questioning things. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or those scared of heights. The only reason I decided to go up was because it was the easiest way to the Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world! Tugela Falls is the reason most people venture to Drakensberg and tackle the hike. Well, it was worth hopping over boulders and climbing chain ladders because the view from the top was spectacular.
Whatever goes up must come down, and that chain ladder was calling my name, waiting for me to climb on it again. I took my time and made it back down safely, found a boulder and plumped my butt on it. It took everything I had to smile for the camera. Lol
In total it took about 3 hours to get to Tugela Falls. On the way back I found myself jogging part of the way, a) because I was familiar with the route and b) because I remembered how long it took going and I was ready to sit down :).
17km and almost 6 hours later the hike was over. I played professional basketball for years before this hike but I can honestly say I have never been so exhausted. I sat down on the ground and couldn’t move for about 10 mins. I was tired, thirsty and famished.
I would not trade this experience for anything. The mind is a powerful tool and we can do anything once we put our mind to it. The day I went hiking in Drakensbeg, South, Africa – MISSION COMPLETED!
Before you start a hike you will need a few things:
The right gear: I recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots, a hat, long-sleeved top, sunscreen and thick comfy socks.
Backpack: I recommend a durable but light backpack, and fill it with water bottle(s) bug spray, bandages or band-aids and some protein based snacks.
What exciting things have you done on you travels? Please leave a comment, I’m always seeking new ideas.