Scott Ram­say

Getaway (South Africa) - - Travel -

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist, out­door spe­cial­ist, and has been to every wild place in South Africa.

Twenty years ago I picked up an old copy of A Cam­era in Quath­lamba, a black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy book by Mal­colm Pearse, the first to do jus­tice to these moun­tains. Ever since then, I’ve been in­spired to wan­der here with my cam­era.

What keeps me com­ing back? To me, the Berg is like a preda­tory an­i­mal: in­trigu­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing, at­trac­tive and dan­ger­ous at the same time.

My best mem­ory of the Berg? The night I spent alone on a ledge over­look­ing the Tugela Gorge. I lay down in my sleep­ing bag at sun­set and watched shoot­ing stars rain­ing down on the im­mense basalt cliffs of the Am­phithe­atre. When I woke up at first light, I was en­gulfed in a thick mist. My favourite hike of all time? A five-night, six-day trek that starts at the Sentinel, up to the top of the Am­phithe­atre (see page 90), then along to Mn­weni cut­back, past Cock­ade and Cathe­dral Peak, down Or­gan Pipes Pass into Didima Gorge, to end back at the Cathe­dral Peak Ho­tel for a cold beer and the best food in the moun­tains.

Du­ra­tion 3 days, 2 nights Dif­fi­culty Moder­ate to stren­u­ous Cost R60 pp per night hik­ing per­mit

This route ex­plores the most re­mote, and for many the most beautiful, part of the Drak­ens­berg. The first day is spent walk­ing into the high hills be­low the es­carp­ment, with a stay overnight at the base of Fang’s Pass, along­side the junc­tion of the Mubu­dini and Mn­weni Rivers. Be­cause Mn­weni is out­side the for­mal pro­tected area of the greater World Her­itage Site (for now), there are few other hik­ers in this part of the Berg – although dagga smug­glers and cat­tle rustlers some­times use these passes at night (camp away from the main path). Start early the next morn­ing, and con­tinue up the banks of the Mn­weni River un­til you reach the pass. From there you’ll as­cend 800 me­tres in a mere kilo­me­tre-and-a-half; a tough, steep climb but the views at the top are mes­mer­iz­ing. As the sun falls in the sky, the Mn­weni Pin­na­cles are sil­hou­et­ted with gold. Set up camp on top of the es­carp­ment, then pull out that flask of sin­gle malt. The next day, carry on across the es­carp­ment to­wards the top of Rock­eries Pass. Along the way, you’ll cross a small stream. Stop and fill your wa­ter bot­tles, and know that this is the source of the mighty Orange River, which flows into the At­lantic Ocean some 2 000 kilo­me­tres away. Carry on down Rock­eries Pass and look out for Cape vul­tures nest­ing on the cliffs. At the bot­tom, fol­low the Tho­nye­lana River (take a well-earned dip in the rock pools), then back onto the road which ends up at the hik­ing cen­tre where you started. – Scott Ram­say DO IT The Mn­weni re­gion is owned and man­aged by the com­mu­nity. This hike starts and ends at Mn­weni Cul­tural & Hik­ing Cen­tre, on the D1736 past Wood­stock Dam com­ing from Bergville. Ron­dawel R250 pp, camp­ing R90 pp. 072-712-2401 If you haven’t hiked here be­fore, a guide is rec­om­mended – Cai­phus Mtha­bela lives nearby and is one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced and knowl­edge­able. R1 000 a day for up to three hik­ers, R400 pp ex­tra. 073-603-9107, emachib­ini­trav­el­

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