Activities / KwaZulu Natal

Walking on clouds: Hiking in the Drakensberg

Updated Saturday, 9 February 2019

Not far from Johannesburg and Bloemfontein lies South Africa’s most majestic mountain range. The Drakensberg has for centuries captured the imagination of South Africans and has become a haven away from the city noise. With many camping sites, lodges and hotels in the Drakensberg, you can choose your retreat and become part of this world for a few days.

There are many activities such as horseback riding, hiking, climbing and cycling on offer. This time we choose a day hike that we end up doing in two days because of the beauty we find on the mountain. Sentinel Peak is a hike we do at least once as a group of friends that seldom finds time to meet during busy year.

Hiking in the Drakensberg

Excitement mounts as we drive through the QwaQwa region and see the mountain and the day’s challenge before us. Witsieshoek is our first stop where everyone meets up and introduces the new crowd of first time hikers. Then we’re off.

The hike is only a six kilometer one and takes about three hours. Many people do it in one day but because of the many stars, Tugela river stream and beautiful mornings we decide to camp on the mountain. The first section of the road is a zigzag of pathways that lead you up to the first of many lookout points. Here we take a breather and the chatter of a crowd dies out as the mountains greatness and beauty takes all words from your mouth. We sit, we stare. We struggle to remove our eyes from what we see before us.

The next section of the hike is easy, the road is mostly flat and takes you on a curve around the mountain. With the mountain on your left and the whole world as far as you can see on your right, excitement mounts again. The many hikers on the road are friendly and always have time to share their findings of the day.

Drakensberg Day Hikes

We reach the most daunting part of the hike. A fifteen metre chain ladder that looks more difficult than it actually is. When we convince those afraid of heights to climb they become comfortable and you can sense an air of accomplishment by defeating another fear. After the climb you are on the mountain and you follow the Tugela River stream to the Drakensberg Amphitheatre where we will set up camp.

There is a waterfall that falls more than fifty metres and as the crowd breaks up to either walk more or play in the cold pools of water we make a fire. It is already becoming chilly and here on top of the world there is almost always a breeze that makes one sit closer to each other.

Night begins to fall, the moon has not yet revealed itself and around the camp fire stare skywards looking at the millions of stars one cannot see in the city. The conversation changes as everyone forgets reality and start chatting about dreams and beauty. This site is truly inspiring. The night cold catches up with us and one by one the crowd disappears into their tents.

Hiking in the Drakensberg

When morning breaks I find myself in a world that I have only read about in fantasy books. I have been lucky enough to see what I see now only once and yet every time we come here I hope to see this again. On this morning I do. Where the mountain stops it is as if you can carry on walking as the clouds form a bridge between the mountain and eternity. Slowly the sun shows itself and the endless cloud bank becomes a burning walking into the unknown.

In a row next to each other we gape at what the mountain has given us as gift. If you’ve never experienced absolute perfect beauty and silence you need to see this. The world instantly becomes a better place.

Overwhelmed we break the silence and start the fire for a last cup of coffee before we leave on our journey back to our own worlds…

Drakensberg Pages

What to take on this hike

If you want to do it as a day hike just take enough water. It’s really an easy hike, even for beginners.
If you decide to camp I suggest you take at least one bag of wood (one always needs fire), your tent, hiking mattresses, sleeping bag and utensils to braai and make coffee. Pre pack your lunch and breakfast to simplify and lighten your load. Remember a really warm jacket or someone to snuggle with as the nights are exceptionally cold.
There is safe overnight parking at the base of the hike so no need to worry.