forest camping
forest camping
  • Mountain of the Dragons
    • 26/10/2017
Rented a car, (a Renault Sandero?) And bought the cheapest tent in the supermarket and headed for the mountains. I've been pining for some good hills and hiking for months, its been frustrating seeing hills in the distance from the truck and not being free to visit, or being restricted to gentle guided group walks.
So I am a little frustrated to find that the national parks here either forbid or heavily discourage solo overnight hiking, for reasons or safety both due to the usual twisted ankle scenario, less usual snake bites, or the chance of being mugged by Lesotho drug smuggling shepherds!
Fortunately there are enough taxing and spectacular day hikes to soften the the blow.
First stop Golden Gate park, named for its colourful sandstone buttresses and overhangs, which are especially lit up in the golden hour before sunset. The campsite here was completely full up due to an upcoming marathon. Only met one family up on the hill though.

Next stop Amphitheatre Backpackers - I arrived in the dark and the next morning was cloudy so couldn't see the distant magnificence of the escarpment, where the berg rises a mile above the velt in shear cliffs, embodying the border with Lesotho.
An interesting two hour drive which tested my hire car to the max brought me to base car park, the start of a brisk and steep walk to the top of Sentinel, via 30 metres of chain ladders up the rock face, which I did not enjoy.
I quickly compassed through the mist to reach the summit of Mont Aux Sources, possibly trespassing into Lesotho by a few metres, and enjoying lunch in solitude before descending to the brink of Tugela Falls, highest waterfall in Africa (800 metres) (if there was actually any water going over it!) on the edge of the Amphitheatre, a huge cliff face which seems to defy all efforts to capture its grandeur on camera.
Annnnd descend. Next day did the Tugela gorge walk to see the same thing from below. Also spectacular but not so death defying exhilarating as peering over the edge!

Drive day, getting petrol, supplies, stopping at one of the battle fields in the Boer War (Spier Kop), popping into Ladysmith (don't bother) and then arriving at my next base camp at the bottom of the next section of the Drakensberg range, Monks Cowl...

South Africa confuses me. Its developed, big cities, malls, motorways, drinkable water etc, but along side that loads of villages where people live in shacks and herd goats, seemingly as poor as anywhere else in Africa. Just drives home that the circumstances you are born into can be hard to escape. But also, people don't all have the greedy attitude of our developed consumerist countries, they just get up, live, go to bed. Maybe we should be jealous, because we are the ones born into wage slavery, in a race for jobs to pay for a roof and food and all the unnecessary luxuries rather than just being able to self sufficiently grow our own.

Today was a good day. Monks Cowl.
Climbed a mountain (stats: 25km hike, 1600m ascent), only saw 4 other people on the hills all day, saw a snake (berg adder, venomous but not deadly to humans), giant grasshopper, and oh yeah the views were a.m.a.z.i.n.g
Top of the peak involved scrambling up through almost a cave. Rewarded by 360 degree breathtaking, with eagles circling on thermals around the pinnacles....
Return route via a ridge walk, views all around, perfect temperature, epic.
Had to run the last 3km to get back before park gates locked.
Beer tasted sweet. Legs are done - that satisfied feeling of exertion.


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