This morning I met up with conservation manager Stephen Richert, who manages the team at Royal Natal in uKhahlamba-Drakenbserg World Heritage site. I wanted to ask him which his favourite hikes were, because he knows this area better than anyone, having walked every single kilometre of about 350kms of hiking trails. His three favourite are Thukela Gorge, “Crack and Mud Slides” (which is just behind Thendele camp), and the Sentinel Peak walk.
I’d always heard about the walk to the top of Sentinel Peak. This is the huge buttress on the western side of the Amphitheatre. Although it’s just a few kilometres from Thendele, to get to the start of the trail you have to drive for an hour-and-a-half round the back of the Amphitheatre, through the town of Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State province. The reason for this is that the sheer cliffs of the amphitheatre make it difficult to access the start of the trail from the north side where Thendele lies.
I was joined by avid adventurer Rachel Lang from www.bushboundgirl.com for the hike, because I didn’t want to do the hike to Sentinel alone. It’s in a very exposed part of the Drakensberg, and there are some steep chain ladders to climb up the cliffs to get right on top. As it happened, we started walking too late (around midday), and so we never made it to the chain ladders.
Mostly because the views are just so spectacular on the way up, and I kept stopping to take photos (the photographer’s curse!). There was also a very strong wind blowing, thanks to an incoming cold front from the south-west. Next time I am going to spend two full days doing the trail, and overnight on top of the Amphitheatre. We felt a bit rushed on the trail, and that does a great disservice to the scenery and atmoshphere, which rivals, if not exceeds, that of the Thukela Gorge walk.
Anyway, we got some decent photos – check them out below. Tomorrow, it’s off to Cathedral Peak area, and some more spectacular scenery…and hoping to take some photographs of the special rock paintings there.
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Conservation partners BirdLife South Africa, Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, CapeNature, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Gorongosa National Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.