Amphitheatre Overnight Hike Report.

In late May a group of different people from different backgrounds all met at Witsieshoek for an overnight adventure to camp next to the Tugela falls on top of the Amphitheatre in the Northern Drakensberg. The mountains made us all equal and it was an excellent weekend spent in nature.

I woke up really early on Saturday and drove 4 hours to meet everyone at Witsieshoek mountain resort. We paid for the hiking permits and headed up the 8km of dirt road to the Sentinel car park. This road is not for regular cars unless you want to leave some parts behind on the road. Yup it is in need of some maintenance. Anyway no worries because we had the appropriate cars.

The weather was absolutely perfect as we looked up at the huge Sentinel peak.

There has been a bit of work done with the building at the car park but no water or electricity available so fill up at Witsieshoek. You only get water again from the Tugela river on top 2-3 hours of walking away. As we strolled along the cement path to our lunch spot we were so lucky to see a pair of Bearded vultures above us. I tell people how rare they are but we see them fairly often so I don’t think people believe me. Lunch was just above the zigzags overlooking the Amphitheatre with the Devils tooth checking us out.

I often see Black eagles here too.

I am sure they nest nearby but haven’t seen their nest yet. This day was just getting better. While enjoying the ridiculous mountain scenery we heard some voices coming from heaven?? Whaaattt. Yes there were some chaps climbing the Sentinel straight up the front cliff. Now that is impressive. Anyway that is not for us. We sauntered around the base of the Sentinel and past the Gully. I wanted everyone to check out the Gully because it is an optional route back down. A little further on we arrived at the Chain ladders.

Some people do find the ladders a bit of a challenge.

However we all made it and had a huge sense of accomplishment on top. From here it is just a 40 minute walk to our camp on top of the Amphitheatre. I love this camp site as the views are just incredible. If you put your tent up nicely you can wake up and watch the sun rise from inside your sleeping bag. Doesn’t get much better than this. I love to start the day like this.

While everyone was enjoying the views the kettle was boiling because there is not much better than a nice cup of tea in the mountains. The evening  was spent chatting in the big Drakensberghiker mess tent. All was good until an Aussie and a Frenchy poped over to borrow  my stove?? Good lord. Who shows up with no stove in the mountains? I tried to get some Aussie jokes as payment but no luck there, but no worries I told them a few good ones. I have lots of Aussie jokes.

That night we got robed!

Yes we did. After people had gone to bed we heard jackals howling to each other. Obviously they were plotting against us. I was having a lovely sleep when I heard a rustle at the tent door. I just thought it was the wind rattling the tent but no… a naughty jackal nabbed a bag of food.

The next morning I woke up all ready to cook breakfast but couldn’t find the oats. Spalie went for a walkabout and found the bag 20m away. Thank goodness but there was no muesli. Oh well at least the jackal was happy and he had left us with the oats.

So after breakfast we had to pack up and head back down the mountain.

It was another stunning day although a bit cool. Nothing a good sleeping bag and warm jacket can’t fix. This time the whole group decided to try out the Gully. Very impressive. It was a good day to do this and the views from on top of Beacon buttress were worth the climb. The Gully is not easy but some people find climbing down the ladders quite scary.

The rest of the hike is along the path back to the car park where we arrived at 11am. On the way we past day walkers and after seeing the rock climbers we finally felt proud of ourselves camping on the Amphitheatre overnight hike.

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ian@drakensberghiker.co.za