About 9000km west of Exmouth – and a bit south – lie the majestic Drakensberg mountains (or Ukhahlamba in Zulu – which means barrier of spears). While this might be a bit of a detour off our current path, a 30 year high school reunion provided a good excuse for me to hop on a plane over the Indian Ocean for a couple of weeks to South Africa to visit my parents and also take in a few sights while there. S
While visiting South Africa, my friend Mike and I took a quick trip down to the northern part of the Drakensberg for an overnight hike. This mountain range is the highest in southern Africa reaching over 3400m and offers some really dramatic scenery of craggy spires and plunging cliffs. It is one of my favourite parts of the country. S
At over 3100m, Sentinel Peak is a tempting summit. However without a rope descending the tricky chimney at the start would have been a bit hectic, so common sense prevailed and we skirted around the peak up to the escarpment summit behind.
Gazing across the Amphitheatre from the slopes of the sentinel towards the Devils tooth and Eastern Buttress
Hikers making the final ascent up the escarpment aided by a system of chain ladders over a rock band.
Mike ascending the chain ladders
Looking over the lip of the dry Tugela Falls. This is normally regarded as the world’s second highest waterfall, however being dry I guess it has now lost that title. Like most of Australia, most of South Africa is also in the grip of a drought. I have certainly never seen the Tugela Falls dry up before.
The old hut near the top of the falls – one of the few permanent structures along the escarpment edge. Still standing but looking a bit neglected.
A crazy baboon about to make a leap across a chasm in the escarpment edge
Who says baboons can’t fly?
Baboons relaxing and admiring the view after their acrobatic antics
Aaah. Time to relax and make a cup of tea.
A prominence in the escarpment wall provided a great sunset view back towards the main wall. Our blue tent can just be seen on the left. Mont aux Sources (or should I say Mont sans Sources) looms in the background. Mont aux Sources at 3282m. was once regarded as the highest point in South Africa, but now days it is surpassed by several others further south. Whether this is due to recent tectonic movements or better surveying can be debated. The current highest point in the Drakensberg, just over 200m higher, actually lies in neighbouring Lesotho.
Sunrise viewing is an obligatory activity on any overnight Drakensberg walk.
Dramatic cliffs and peaks at sunrise. Sentinel on the right with the dry Tugela falls just right of centre.
Ok. I could not go without spotting some birds – a stonechat
Given our proximity to the peak, it was rather apt that this bird is called a sentinel rock thrush.
Cape bunting on the left with an unknown grey and white job on the right
We could not resist a jaunt up Mont aux Sources – near the top we got some glimpses of Cathedral Peak about 50km to the south. Unfortunately smoke (probably from grass fires and power stations a few hundred km to the north) hindered our views.
Mont aux Sources summit
Looking back at the Sentinel on our descent from just below the chain ladders
The final 2km of zig zags leading down to the car park. By now a rather fierce wind had blown up, but this had the benefit of clearing away some of the smoke.