The Drakensberg grand traverse hike is certainly one of the best but also most challenging hikes in South Africa. We start at the Amphitheatre in the Northern Drakensberg and finish at Bushmans nek in the Southern Drakensberg. I do the Drakensberg grand traverse every May because the weather is generally the best. This year was no different. We had excellent weather with only one afternoon with rain that turned to a dusting of snow during the night.
We loved the dramatic scenery the next day with a bit of white everywhere. However it all melted soon after that.
Anyway lets start at the beginning. I always camp at Sterkfontein dam the night before as it is stunning here and gives us all a chance to meet before heading out into the wild mountains. Also it is just a 2 hour drive to the start at the Sentinel car park. Day 1 did start off a bit misty but as we got to the top of the Amphitheatre all was clear. Lunch was by the Tugela river while looking up at Mount Aux Sources.
Our first peak to summit on this years grand traverse. The views from up there are amazing and then back down to camp on the other side of the Amphitheatre near Bilanji falls. Some of the sunrises while hiking in the Drakensberg are just unbelievable. I won’t go into detail for every day because there are 15 days…. but on day 4 we had a bit of weather blow in which dumped some snow during the evening.
We weren’t scared though as it was just a dusting of snow and made for spectacular mountain scenery.
The next peak on our list was Cleft peak and then on to sleep in Roland’s cave. The path is a bit exposed and 2 ladies decided to rather camp below. Their views were beautiful but the views from Roland’s cave are out of this world. Anyway we had places to go and headed down way into Lesotho to stroll up the Yodelers cascades. One of my favorite days. To cut a long story short we then summited Champagne castle, the 3rd highest peak in South Africa at 3377m.
It seemed that we were getting to the higher parts of the Drakensberg now.
Next was Mafadi the highest peak in South Africa a day’s walk away with Injasuthi dome the 2nd highest peak nearby. Onwards and we past Giants castle. A few more energetic souls summited Giants castle which was apparently the best peak to summit on the Drakensberg Grand traverse. Now we were into the Southern Drakensberg.
After a lovely lunch at a clear mountain stream we could look up at Thabana Ntlenyana way above us. Oh well, we have to do it. The pretty little mountain as the Basotho people of Lesotho call it certainly didn’t give itself up easily. At 3482m above sea level it is the highest peak in Lesotho as well as Southern Africa. Unfortunately some people thought it was their rite to draw graffiti all over.
Anyway next up was Sani top. We were all looking forward to relaxing at the highest pub in Africa and some nice food for a change. Ha ha. Ja well so a few cold ones later we joined up with my landy and lovely lamb and chicken potjies.
Leaving Sani is always difficult.
You always feel like it is the end but…. there is still another 2 and a half days to Bushmans nek. If you want to do the Drakensberg grand traverse that’s what you have to do. Some people say that the way Southern Drakensberg is a bit boring but I find it simply stunning. Our first night after Sani was spent overlooking the whole Drakensberg gardens with the Rhino peak keeping an eye on stuff.
Finally after 15 days and 247km of incredibly dramatic mountain scenery we arrived at Bushmans nek. Wandering down the valley we heard Scottish bag pipes welcoming us home. My good friend Ian Turnbull was firing up some tunes which you can hear from at least 75km away??
The Drakensberg grand traverse is not for everyone. I always say to people that all you really need is a love and respect for the mountains and wild places, a willingness to not shower for 2 weeks and know that everyone gets tired walking up a hill with 15kg’s on their back. However if you want the adventure of a life time then you need to do the Drakensberg Grand traverse life changing hike.
Drakensberg Hiker was started and is owned by Ian Shooter. He knows and loves the Drakensberg mountains as well as meeting interesting people. So what better than to put into practice the philosophy of "do what you love and love what you do". And so, Drakensberghiker was born. We take people on hikes, treks or backpacking all over the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa; we do what we love and we love what we do!