Drakensberg: To the Amphitheatre
The best thing about the Drakensberg, aside from its picture-postcard scenery and pristine nature, is that it is so accessible for walking and climbing. Anyone fit enough to carry the oranges for the fourth rugby team at half-time can, for instance, go hiking in the Tugela Valley.
The Drakensberg and Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains are within easy reach of Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein – the perfect destination for a long weekend or just any old weekend.
Up the chain ladder
To balance on the lip of the Tugela Falls and peer into the void is like standing on the edge of the world. This has got to be one of Africa’s best-known mountain scenes, and you have to be there to understand why people get so lyrical about the Drakensberg escarpment.
Below you, the Amphitheatre stretches in an arc to left and right, its sheer precipices falling away as much as 1 000 m into the serene Tugela valley.
It is not nearly as difficult as it sounds to hike to the top of the Amphitheatre and then to the top of the Tugela Falls, which tumble 917 m over the crest.
It is a walk I have enjoyed with many people. Once, I even managed to coax my mother up the chain ladders!
From Phuthaditjhaba, a bumpy road descends to the base of Sentinel Peak. Starting at the car park and permit office, you pay a R20 day entry fee, and continue on good paths that lead to the gigantic northern face of the Sentinel.
From here you hike around the peak to the main escarpment, where a series of sturdy but exposed chain ladders lead to the top of the escarpment. It’s less than an hour’s walk over easy terrain to the falls.
Can anyone make it?
Anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to get to the top. Even though the ladders are exposed, there are enough places to hold on to. Fit children older than 13 should be able to do it easily. Those with a fear of heights had better stay home.
How long will it take?
From the car park it is about a two-and-a-half hour trek up. Give yourself the best part of an hour at the top for photos and lunch, and another two hours to get down.
And if I want a guide?
Amphitheatre Backpackers offers one-day trips up to the falls for R300 per person. This includes transport, entrance fees, the guide’s fee, a community levy and lunch.
Contact: Linda and Elsie 036 438 6675; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Note: Prices accurate in February 2010)