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 email@example.com or have a look at our website www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za for other exciting options.
My very excited African group - They kept their spirits up until the end
uring our first day we had to cross the river an unending number of times. Here barefooted Ntokozo.
The very rocky and busy Tseketseke Valley tested our patience
The Tseketseke Valley. A very faint footpath runs along the steep hillside
The Tseketseke river. Here we had to take our boots off once again.
Our first night, a cosy shelter near Xeni Cave.
On the second day we made our way up the Mlabonja Pass
The side valley of the Mlabonja where Xeni Cave is. Unfortunately the spectacular Pyramid was in the mist.
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.
Mlabonja Pass, a very steep and long climb
At the end of the summer the grass is at its highest making progress more difficult.
Some sections of the pass are really steep and hiking becomes scrambling
High about the clouds. Here the final steps to Twins Cave
Morning of the 3rd and final day. Leaving Twins Caves towards the Bell Traverse
Some sections of the Bell Traverse require a head for heights, which my friends had.
The Bell Traverse contours for 6km from Twins Cave to Bugger's Gully.
Bugger's Gully, no need to wonder about the origin of the name.
From this point, the adreanaline kicks in as one wonders how on earth you can make it safely to the gully.
It's just an optical illusion, the path is actually 100% safe
The ominous looking Bugger's Gully is littered with loose rocks. But with a little patience one can make his way up safely
It's not a route that I would like to attempt in icy conditions.
Brian and Ntokozo close to the top on safer ground
Tank showing the tension of the moment. On this kind of situation you need to be 100% focused.
The other side of the gully is not any better.
The final ridge down the mountain. The Cathedral Peak Hotel is only a few km away.
A cold drink and a pub meal at the Cathedral Peak Hotel is one of the highlights of the hike
And you can finally relax while looking back in awe at where you have been a few hours before.