Drakensberg Hiker offers an invaluable and unforgettable experience to anyone interested in hiking the Drakensberg (amongst the mountain regions across the world, the picturesque landscape of the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is of incomparable beauty and outstanding topographies). Ian, who is both the guide and owner of this company, personally treks alongside clients providing them with an intimate understanding of the outside world without sugar-coating it with unnatural luxuries. Not making it harder or easier than it is he offers hikers a true taste of camping in an awestricken and isolated setting, which is a rarity in modern day society. There are no quick drives to a comfy hotel, hot showers to hide the scents of humanity or fancy toilets to spoil the views of nature, which is more of a relief than a discomfort. Yet, on occasion there is the opportunity to take a swim or soap free shower in the cleanest mountain water streams which give an icy and refreshing blast of wholesomeness (note, soap free implies that not even biodegradable shampoos are to be used in the streams). Hikers have the chance to be who they are without excessively worrying about their daily appearances, unlike the everyday requirements of society that leaves little room for a natural look. In effect, bare humanity rather than superficiality and cosmetics is valued without making people feel uncomfortable about themselves. It is even possible to break free from the shackles that compel people to communicate with the outside world during hikes, yes, this refers to mobile phones, since Ian has communication covered in case of emergency. At the hand of this, hikers have access to a daily abundance of breathtakingly pleasing views, including the milky way during cloudless nights, which forms cherished memories of a lifetime.
It goes without saying that these hikes are not for the fainthearted, since there are no easy ways of going about the steep hills or harsh descents with a heavy backpack other than walking it one step at a time. For those who yearn to carry the weight of their own backpack and get a taste of camping as one would experience it at your own accord, without people pampering you unnecessarily when the going gets tough, this is definitely a must or worthy bucket list item. However, this does not imply suffering. Ian with his team of Zulu porters are mastered hikers with a lifetime of experience on the Drakensberg mountains. Despite his porters’ lack of understanding English, they are gentlemen and whiling to assist anyone who struggles with excessive fear or unaccounted dilemmas that arise during the hike. Even though the hike may become tiresome and hard, they always put even the weakest hiker in a group at ease with their confidence, laughter and friendly attitudes, making the trip even more worthy of appraise. The hike may be tough, but one never feels in danger or isolated alongside Ian with his skilled group of assistants who never leaves anyone behind.
After each day’s sweat from stumbling between boulders, pathless territory and level to unlevel terrain, occasionally crossing small and slippery streams, Ian provides hikers with a hearty meal of real hikers’ food. Although this is not hotel food, considering the conditions in which the food must be carried to the top of the mountains and prepared with the minimum of utensils, Ian deserves applause for his cooking initiative and efforts to make one feel at home in the uninhabited areas of South Africa. A true Drakensberg chef with unbeatable skills! And just wait until he sends the chocolate decks around after each dinner, what a surprise! With this, the warm coffee, tea or hot chocolate on cold mornings, and Ian’s witty wake-up songs, takes the edge off and makes every hiker feel comfy, ready and excited for another day’s hiking.
Personally, we hiked the Bell’s Traverse with Drakensberg Hiker. This is definitely the most spectacular route and can be accounted for as a unique experience to be found nowhere other than the Drakensberg. However, a word of warning, do not book this hike if you are afraid of heights and an amateur hiker. It is labelled as an advanced hike for a reason; despite being the experience of a lifetime, consider this statement carefully. The hike was worth every penny and absolutely delivers value for your money, but also sent my heart racing at times. Truly exiting one’s comfort zone to experience an appreciation for life when your feet are on sound solid ground again.
If luxury and comfort is your preference, do not consider these hikes, but if you are an adventurous person who loves the outside world and want a true experience of self, one that is not set in an ordinary and standardised hotel, this is a must do.