The southern Drakensberg: your subsequent mountaineering vacation spot


The Decrease Lotheni space in southern Drakensberg has a few of South Africa’s most breathtaking views. Of the three mountaineering trails we walked, we noticed just one different mountaineering occasion. I’m all the time overcautious to declare a spot a ‘hidden gem,’ however I consider I’ve discovered true ‘hidden gems.’

You’ll be able to entry this a part of the berg both by driving previous Underberg, or through Nottingham Street. The roads aren’t one of the best, which is likely one of the explanation why it’s not as widespread because the northern Drakensberg. Nonetheless, we noticed Polos and Suzuki Swifts make it over the street with none issues so it’s positively accessible. In the identical breath, it wouldn’t be South Africa with no few potholes strewn throughout the street, so drive slowly and benefit from the view.

Jacob’s Ladder in Lotheni Nature Reserve

Jacob’s Ladder Path is a 5-kilometre out-and-back waterfall hike, with mountains round you and the Lotheni River alongside you. The path takes you over a suspension bridge that’s good on your nerves. It’s marked fairly effectively, however downloading a map in your cellphone isn’t a foul concept. Elevation stays steady for a lot of the hike, with just a few minor water crossings.

The reward is the Jacob’s Ladder waterfall that crashes down right into a pure pool, good for wild swimming. Take pleasure in some snacks alongside the water’s edge and a dip within the refreshing water earlier than strolling again to the reception constructing.

Cypress Collapse uMkhomazi Nature Reserve

Naturally, this hike resulted in us racing down the mountain to flee the berg storm aggressively constructing above us. Earlier than that although, I completely cherished this 8-kilometre out-and-back hike to Cypress Cave.

The path begins with an ascent that actually takes your breath away, but it surely flattens out after about 1.5 kilometres. The trail is overgrown in some areas, but it surely’s comparatively straightforward to observe. There aren’t any timber or shady spots alongside the best way, so beginning early within the morning is suggested.

One other wild swimming haven waits for you on the finish of the path, and a cave that’s an ideal reprieve from the solar. I really like with the ability to fill my water bottle with recent berg water, which you are able to do by the waterfall. Simply give your self sufficient time to return to your automotive earlier than these afternoon mountain storms come rolling in.

For those who’re within the temper for an in a single day hike, the cave sleeps about six individuals and has recent operating water. Though, I’ve been advised that the waterfall can get fairly loud within the silence of the evening.

Lotheni Nature Reserve to uMkhomazi Nature Reserve

This 3-day 2-night hike might be executed over 4 days and three nights for those who’re within the enterprise of stopping usually and snacking lots (that’s me). For those who full the hike in 4 days, you’ll common about 8 kilometres a day, whereas in 3 days you’ll common round 11 kilometres.

The primary day can have you questioning your life selections with a 1000-metre elevation over 10 kilometres. Nonetheless, the remainder of the hike takes you alongside a ridge and the elevation stays largely steady.

Replenish your water bottle if you discover recent water as there aren’t many streams alongside the ridge. Maintain your eyes peeled for eland, blesbok, jackal, and the elusive lammergeier (hooded vulture) as wildlife within the space is plentiful.

You’ll be able to hike to McKenzie Cave, however it is going to add just a few additional kilometres.

The hike is about 33 kilometres lengthy, with outdated overgrown trails. Buying a map on the Lotheni Nature Reserve workplace is useful, as is downloading the route in your cellphone. The sphere information in Lotheni must be notified if you arrive safely in uMkhomazi, so that you simply want to present him a name on the finish of your hike.

Photos: Jordyn Johnson

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