Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Walking on sandstone towards Vaalribbokkop Cave

Adele and Bruce Arnott come from Johannesburg and, as many other South Africans, love outdoors. Life is fast in the biggest city in South Africa so they try to go for escapes around the country as often as they can. They had done a few day hikes in the berg in the past but lately they had been thinking it was about time to take a step further and experience the mountains a little more intimately.

One day Adele ran into my website and felt very inspired by the Northern Drakensberg Traverse, what is commonly known by hikers as the Mini Traverse. However, the Mini Traverse is not a suitable hike for beginners, regardless of their fitness. The fact that one has to carry a heavy backpack with all their gear (including tents) and food for 5 days, makes a hike of this nature a challenge that only gradual introduction into backpacking can prepare you for. So I suggested a 3 day hike in the Little Berg (not little at all!) staying in 2 different caves instead: Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave. Sleeping in a cave is one of the highlights of hiking in the Drakensberg and it has the major advantage that you don’t have to carry a tent with you.

Adele and Bruce are very lucky to have a great group of friends with whom to share their adventures. Four of them decided to join this hiking party: Nicky and Sean from Scottburgh, and Belinda and stormin’ Norman from Durban. The 6 of then turned out to be a star of a group and made me feel not as a guide but just another friend.

We had to delay for an hour our start because of the rain but for the rest of the time the weather was perfect. Quite unusual for the berg in the summertime.

In spite of blisters, aching backs and sore shoulders, the hike was a memorable experience for all of them and they were inspired to do more. Perhaps they are up for a Mini Traverse?

If you would like to do this hike contact us at or have a look at our website for other exciting options.

Adele & Bruce Arnott

The first kms on the manicured path out of the Drakensberg Sun Hotel

Van Damm's Cascades, our fist water stop

Belinda negociating a slippery river crossing

Streptocarpus gardenii

Begonia sutherlandia

Top of Jacob's Ladder - 700m higher than the start of the hike

Walking by Clarens sandstone

Cathedral Peak range viewed from top of Jacob's Ladder

Sean and Bruce helping out blistered Norman

Cape Valture nesting on sandstone cliffs

Cape vulture colony

Stormin' Norman enjoying the heights!

Evening at Vaalribbokkop Cave

Another amazing sunset in the Drakensberg, from Vaalribookkop Cave

A stay in a cave, one of the highlights of hiking in the Drakensberg

Belinda and Norman loving it!

Coming down the contour path towards the Mhlawazini river and Zulu Cave

A beautiful waterfall on our river crossing

Nicky and Sean in the Mhlawazini Valley

Zulu Cave - Our home for the second night

Enjoying shady Zulu Cave

Hungry hikers waiting for their dinner (and wine)

Zulu Cave is a fantastic and spacious shelter

From left to right: Cathkin Peak, tip of Monk's Cowl, Champagne Castle and Dragon's Back

Among the Themeda triandra, the most common grass in the Drakensberg

Norman eventually had to put on crocs to be able to walk with a blistered ankle

A makeshit buckle - A pot handle and a rubber band

Coming down from Breakfast Stream for our last downhill - Overlooking the Sterkspruit (Mpofane) Valley

The Sphinx, a well-known feature in the Monk's Cowl area

A bushbuck welcomed us at the of our hike

A typical end of a hike: cold drinks and smiles

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