Destinations Magazine

Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 Day Hike in the Monk's Cowl Area - January 2011

By Spanafrican

Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Walking on sandstone towards Vaalribbokkop Cave


Adele and Bruce Arnott come from Johannesburg and, as many other South Africans, love outdoors. Life is fast in the biggest city in South Africa so they try to go for escapes around the country as often as they can. They had done a few day hikes in the berg in the past but lately they had been thinking it was about time to take a step further and experience the mountains a little more intimately.
One day Adele ran into my website and felt very inspired by the Northern Drakensberg Traverse, what is commonly known by hikers as the Mini Traverse. However, the Mini Traverse is not a suitable hike for beginners, regardless of their fitness. The fact that one has to carry a heavy backpack with all their gear (including tents) and food for 5 days, makes a hike of this nature a challenge that only gradual introduction into backpacking can prepare you for. So I suggested a 3 day hike in the Little Berg (not little at all!) staying in 2 different caves instead: Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave. Sleeping in a cave is one of the highlights of hiking in the Drakensberg and it has the major advantage that you don’t have to carry a tent with you.
Adele and Bruce are very lucky to have a great group of friends with whom to share their adventures. Four of them decided to join this hiking party: Nicky and Sean from Scottburgh, and Belinda and stormin’ Norman from Durban. The 6 of then turned out to be a star of a group and made me feel not as a guide but just another friend.
We had to delay for an hour our start because of the rain but for the rest of the time the weather was perfect. Quite unusual for the berg in the summertime.
In spite of blisters, aching backs and sore shoulders, the hike was a memorable experience for all of them and they were inspired to do more. Perhaps they are up for a Mini Traverse?
If you would like to do this hike contact us at [email protected] or have a look at our website www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za for other exciting options.

Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Adele & Bruce Arnott


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

The first kms on the manicured path out of the Drakensberg Sun Hotel


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Van Damm's Cascades, our fist water stop


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Belinda negociating a slippery river crossing


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Streptocarpus gardenii


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Begonia sutherlandia


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Top of Jacob's Ladder - 700m higher than the start of the hike


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Walking by Clarens sandstone


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Cathedral Peak range viewed from top of Jacob's Ladder


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Sean and Bruce helping out blistered Norman


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Cape Valture nesting on sandstone cliffs


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Cape vulture colony


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Stormin' Norman enjoying the heights!


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Evening at Vaalribbokkop Cave


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Another amazing sunset in the Drakensberg, from Vaalribookkop Cave


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

A stay in a cave, one of the highlights of hiking in the Drakensberg


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Belinda and Norman loving it!


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Coming down the contour path towards the Mhlawazini river and Zulu Cave


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

A beautiful waterfall on our river crossing


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Nicky and Sean in the Mhlawazini Valley


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Zulu Cave - Our home for the second night


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Enjoying shady Zulu Cave


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Hungry hikers waiting for their dinner (and wine)


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Zulu Cave is a fantastic and spacious shelter


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

From left to right: Cathkin Peak, tip of Monk's Cowl, Champagne Castle and Dragon's Back


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Among the Themeda triandra, the most common grass in the Drakensberg


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Norman eventually had to put on crocs to be able to walk with a blistered ankle


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

A makeshit buckle - A pot handle and a rubber band


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Coming down from Breakfast Stream for our last downhill - Overlooking the Sterkspruit (Mpofane) Valley


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

The Sphinx, a well-known feature in the Monk's Cowl area


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

A bushbuck welcomed us at the of our hike


Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

A typical end of a hike: cold drinks and smiles


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