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The Northern Drakensberg Traverse

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iStock-175506754_Cathedral Peak.jpg



The Drakensberg mountain range stretches over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in South Africa, reaching from Lesotho to the KwaZulu-Natal.  It’s a gorgeous area, full of deep green meadows and undulating valleys, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.  This area is also one of the most remote areas in the world, with only a few Besotho shepherds who live in the high peaks, making it a wonderful place to commune with nature and see the majesty of the sky at night, without any electrical lights clouding the view.


The Northern Drakensberg Traverse is a six day trek that starts at 2400 meters, includes a climb up metal ladders to a height of 3,000 meters (9,842 ft), and then descends into the Cathedral Peak.  Unlike many popular treks, there are no footpaths or designated campsites along the way, so guides are necessary to ensure that hikers don’t get lost.


The hike begins on the first day with a climb from the Sentinel car park, up chain ladders, to the Amphitheatre at approximately 3000 meters (9,842 ft).  The chain ladders are not for the faint of heart.  Built in the 1930s, each ladder has about 50 rungs that cling to the rock wall, meaning that the ascent can be nerve-wracking for those with a fear of heights.  The ascent is about fifty meters, spread across two different chain ladders.  Though high, the climb is not dangerous since the ladder rungs are securely fastened to the rock face, and even children have completed the climb up the chain ladders.


Another popular spot on the Northern Drakensberg Traverse is the Tugela Falls.  The Tugela Falls are the second tallest waterfall in the world after Venezuela’s Angel Falls.  The Tugela Falls drop 948 meters (3,110 ft)  in five separate leaps down the face of the Amphitheatre.  The Amphitheatre is one of the most recognizable and dramatic portions of the mountain range because of its massive cliff face, which is three times the size of the cliff faces at Yosemite’s El Capitan.


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The hike follows this general outline:


  • Day 1: Hike 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the car park to the valley behind the Ifidi Buttress, after climbing the chain ladders and ending at the Tugela Falls, including swimming at the top of the Tugela Falls
  • Day 2: Hike 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the Tugela Falls to the Mbundini Abbey, which is a series of sharp rock pinnacles, called Madonna and Her Worshippers, and ending near Fangs Pass
  • Day 3: Hike around 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the Mbundini Abbey to the Mponjwane Cave, passing the Mnweni Pinnacles, eventually winding up at the Orange River
  • Day 4: Spend the day relaxing and exploring the area around the Orange River, visit the Mponjwane Cave or Ledges Cave, or look for a vulture colony in the peaks
  • Day 5: Descend from the Orange River to the Amangwane Tribal Area, down a steep incline, or a slower way to nTonjelana Pass, with fantastic views of Cathedral Peak, The Bell, and the Bell Traverse
  • Day 6: Descend to the Mnweni Tourism Center, on a 12 kilometer (7.5 miles) walk or a short 4 kilometer (2.5 miles) walk, and then return to the base camp


After walking six days on the Northern Drakensberg Traverse, the nature-lover will be amazed by the beauty that the world offers and how quiet, peaceful, yet powerful nature can be in its most uncharted areas.






*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Akila McConnell and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.


Photo credit: iStock

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