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May 4, 2013 / samwilson60

Washout in the Drakensberg

We were very excited about heading north through the Drakensburg. The only problem was deciding when and where to stop. We took the closest road to the mountains (slippery when wet!) but still all the camping and hiking sites were down 30km offshoots and there were far too many to choose from. For our first night, we settled on Injisuthi, a stunning campsite set in a horseshoe beneath the surrounding peaks and littered with big, autumnal trees – well worth the 60km detour there and back, even in the rain.

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Driving out there we spotted our first snow in Africa – not quite plentiful or accessible enough for the bum sledge but exciting nonetheless – and by the time we started setting up camp it was dry and the sun was fighting through the clouds, filling us with hope. We’d planned to trek up to the snowline the following morning but by then the rain had returned with even more vigour than the day before and while we were willing to get wet, the view would have left a lot to be desired. Instead we continued north, in the hope of a less obscured view at Cathedral Peak. It wasn’t far but by the time we’d got to the turn off the rain seemed even heavier and the clouds even lower, so we chickened out and opted for the washing machine and fire of a five-star backpackers boasting one of the best views of the Amphitheatre cliff face, not that we ever got to test the claim.

The manager was an arrogant fool and we were a little glum about cowering indoors but we made the most of the facilities (all except the Jacuzzi!). By the time we were done another pair of British overlanders miraculously appeared and we actually had a great evening hiding up in the ‘loft lounge’ swapping stories.

By morning we were adamant, we were going up a mountain come hell or high water. For this we drove all the way round to Sentinel Peak, where for a few seconds we got an awesome view of the mountain we’d planned to hike round to the source of the Tugela River. We had a cuppa in the car park and a chat with the guys manning the gates as we waited for it to clear a little more but it was just a trick – the clouds lifted a tantalising few metres then dropped as far if not further again. We weren’t bothered by the rain and had accepted the views may still leave something to be desired, but standing on the edge of the mountain looking into the abyss, we had to concede that this could be as dangerous as it was soggy.

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Nobody was as optimistic as Cat about the situation improving and eventually even she agreed it would be a pretty miserable wait, so we headed back down and settled for a very nice camp at Sterkfontein Dam. The skies did eventually clear, we finally managed to dry out the tent and bedding and we had the best fire to date thanks to some Namibian hard wood from the friendly campsite shop.

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One Comment

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  1. The Rider / May 4 2013 6:19 am

    Days like these you book into a nice hotel like the Cathedral Peak hotel, and have a nice day in front of a nice warm fireplace…

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