Being lucky enough to be staying only a one to two hour drive away from the Central Drakenberg, Pete and I have been doing a lot of hiking. The Drakensberg is an incredible mountain range that stretches from the Eastern Cape to the Limpopo Province. As a child I remember going on many holidays in the lower Berg area and always loving it. The freedom that came with exploring. I have always felt small and somewhat insignificant amongst the vast mountain landscapes, although with the feeling of insignificance comes the reminder of just how alive I am. I think the pureness and grandeur of nature can do that to us. Make us feel more alive than ever.
So, although we have done a few day hikes, we decided we wanted slightly more adventure and so we set out to do an overnight cave hike. Injisuthi is a real beautiful part of the Berg and although the road to get there is the perfect stereotype of an “African” road, its location is awesome being slightly less commercial than other areas. We know that when hiking in the Berg one has to keep safety in mind, so we needed to ask some friends to join us. Luckily for us, our dear friend Aidan called us up from out of the blue and asked if we were keen to hike the Berg. I guess it was just meant to be. So in the end it was Pete, myself, Aidan, his sweet lady, Toni and Bobby, our adventure guide (otherwise known as dad). We set off on our little exhibition on an early Saturday morning only getting to a wet and misty injisuthi at around 10am. It had been a long time since we had seen Aidan so the two hour drive was perfect for catching up and joking around. He also serenaded us with some “painfully beautiful” music, the latest Sufjan Stevens album. Once we parked the car and found the trail we loaded our giant packs on our backs and set off uphill in the cool mist. Although it was disappointing not being able to see much of the monumental mountains around us, hiking in the mist was a pleasant experience. The natural colours around us were made more vibrant from the drizzle and all that could be heard was the sweet chirping of the birds and the soft rainfall.
It was a good five hour hike ahead of us, so we paced ourselves. We hiked past Battle Cave, a Bushman painting site and basically a massive wall of rock. The site was fenced off and was only available when taken up by a paid guide. We found out that apparently some people don’t give a shit about amazing historical indigenous art and can get quite destructive with leaving their own mark on the paintings. This kind of broke my heart. Anyway, that’s why they were fenced off and we couldn’t get a close look although we did manage to make out a few shapes that we decided must have been some of the paintings. We also saw three beautiful whitish grey vultures souring above us. After passing Battle Cave we stopped at a river crossing, ate our sandwiches and took off our cold wet shoes. The rest was good. When we eventually made it to Lower Injisuthi Cave, we set up camp and went for an ice cold swim in the most beautiful rock pools. We then got warm and Bobby started cooking our dinner. We had mielies (sweetcorn on the cob) and black beans for dinner. You really appreciate the simple pleasures when you are up there surrounded by raw, organic nature, open to the elements. That sweetcorn was probably one of the best meals I’ve had; sweet hot food on a cold rainy evening sitting in a cave. Ain’t nothing better. We had an early night and listened to the rushing of the river while we drifted off into a deep sleep, exhausted from a full day of adventure.
We woke up early with the sun, packed up camp and headed down to the river to collect some water for tea and breakfast. It was still slightly misty out but we could see the sun trying to peak out. The hike down was a lot easier, or rather, a lot shorter. The ground was still slightly wet and with my big pack on I kept slipping. The sun came out and we were able to see the glorious mountain shelf called the Trojan Wall behind us. The mist the day before had really hidden the fact that there was still a huge mountain in front of us. You really feel small and a little vulnerable once you see what’s actually surrounding you. Feeling the sun on my skin was a real treat and the light really illuminated the natural scenery around us. It was bliss. I felt I could really breathe, think and just be present on the trail. The last challenge before we made it safely back to the Injisuthi campsite was the river we had to cross. It wasn’t too high, luckily, but the current was strong and I hate to admit I lost my footing and fell in. I didn’t get completely soaked, however and so my pack and thankfully my camera was still dry. Once we got back to the car we were all pretty spent. We bought some chips and snacks from the store, took off our gnarly shoes and started the drive home. I was quite heartsore as I would have loved to have stayed longer. Even the campsite was beautiful.
Overall, it was an amazing time and I was really impressed with Aidan and Toni as they had mentioned they hadn’t really hiked in the Berg before. They were real champs and didn’t complain once. In fact I think they loved it. If you ever get the opportunity to be out there in the mountains, take it up. I feel like one always leaves feeling more complete, more at ease with themselves and definitely more connected to the greatness of the outdoors. So let’s do it again SOON please!
Words and 35mm film photos by Cara