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, email@example.com