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The First Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

By Spanafrican

The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

A great outlook point of the Mlabonja Valley no far from Twins Cave.


Last week I had the opportunity to lead my first black group in the Drakensberg Mountains. African people haven’t traditionally practised mountain sports for pleasure, but times are changing and, with better education and economical resources, cultural barriers are gradually disappearing. So this was a really special trip and I had been looking forward to experiencing the new South Africa since the moment my clients had confirmed.
I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment I met the tenacious trio Tank, Brian and Ntokozo at the car park, I knew it was going to be a really fun weekend. It was their first overnight hike and they were full with excitement. Their enthusiasm and humour was highly contagious and kept our spirits high for the duration of the hike. A Sotho, a Zulu, a Xhosa and a Spanish, we were the most extraordinary group, probably the first Span-African hiking party in these mountains ever!
The Bell Traverse is not a trip suitable for beginners. But they were young, eager, sporty and, most importantly, had the right attitude, so I knew they could cope well. Although it was a real challenge for them at times, especially that long slog up the Mlabonja Pass, these three took it all in their stride showing their determination. Once we arrived at the Cathedral Peak Hotel, and we could look back at the mountains over a 5-star burger and a beer, the “hardship” was quickly forgotten and they asked me: So, what’s next?
If you would like to do this hike contact us at info@spanafrican-adventures.co.za or have a look at our website www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za for other exciting options.

The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

My very excited African group - They kept their spirits up until the end


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

uring our first day we had to cross the river an unending number of times. Here barefooted Ntokozo.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The very rocky and busy Tseketseke Valley tested our patience


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The Tseketseke Valley. A very faint footpath runs along the steep hillside


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The Tseketseke river. Here we had to take our boots off once again.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Our first night, a cosy shelter near Xeni Cave.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

On the second day we made our way up the Mlabonja Pass


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The side valley of the Mlabonja where Xeni Cave is. Unfortunately the spectacular Pyramid was in the mist.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Taking a well-deserved break after reaching the contour path which we would follow for 2km before regaining the Mlabonja Valley for the start of the pass.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Mlabonja Pass, a very steep and long climb


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

At the end of the summer the grass is at its highest making progress more difficult.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Some sections of the pass are really steep and hiking becomes scrambling

The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

High about the clouds. Here the final steps to Twins Cave


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Morning of the 3rd and final day. Leaving Twins Caves towards the Bell Traverse


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Some sections of the Bell Traverse require a head for heights, which my friends had.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The Bell Traverse contours for 6km from Twins Cave to Bugger's Gully.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Bugger's Gully, no need to wonder about the origin of the name.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

From this point, the adreanaline kicks in as one wonders how on earth you can make it safely to the gully.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

It's just an optical illusion, the path is actually 100% safe


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The ominous looking Bugger's Gully is littered with loose rocks. But with a little patience one can make his way up safely


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

It's not a route that I would like to attempt in icy conditions.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Brian and Ntokozo close to the top on safer ground


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

Tank showing the tension of the moment. On this kind of situation you need to be 100% focused.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The other side of the gully is not any better.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

The final ridge down the mountain. The Cathedral Peak Hotel is only a few km away.


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

A cold drink and a pub meal at the Cathedral Peak Hotel is one of the highlights of the hike


The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

And you can finally relax while looking back in awe at where you have been a few hours before.



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