This is the second instalment of this Drakensberg Grand Traverse hike report. If you missed the first one, check it out here. Words by Robert Lorriman, pictures by Pall Catt.
18 October – Saturday – Day two
I woke up finally and it was light. I shouted, ‘Pall’ until he woke, then I started getting up. I changed into my shorts and walking top and put on my softie jacket. I emerged from the tent to find it frosted all over. There was even ice caked onto the underside of our tents. A mule groaned in the near distance. We decided to pack up and make breakfast 5km away on the escarpment edge. By the time we had packed, tents last as we intended to dry and pack them later, it was 06h30. We left the camp to the sound of a Basotho, walking on the near hillside herding his mules whilst singing and whistling loudly. The push up the valley to the escarpment was straight forward but we should both have vaselined our feet before getting going. We breakfasted to the West of the Mweni Pinnacles with a fabulous view over the rolling country of the KwaZulu-Natal plains, framed by a slot in the escarpment rock. I took the opportunity to find an isolated spot to dig a private hole. As I stood up from digging, I saw a lone jackal bounding towards me. It had been attracted by the sound of what it thought was a tasty little mammal scratching for roots. It was confused when, where breakfast should have been, it saw a man stand up. Only 40m away, the jackal paused briefly before making a rapid escape.
We continued south towards peak 3194 attempting to stay in sight of the escarpment edge. We pushed up to Ukikicane. I cached my rucksack and went to the west of the spur leading to the peak to herd off a troop of baboons away from my cache. We then moved south after some indecision about the best way to go. I wanted to stick to my plan of the night before due principally to the slope of the descent. Pall wanted to descend due east along the line of the 12 Apostles and then follow the river down to the junction. We pushed south then east along a ridge. The sun was high and hot but the wind made us cold. The descent took us past two informal farmsteads. The second of which we approached very close, exciting first one large lean looking white dog then in turn 3 big brown dogs. They were chained and seemed loath to exercise themselves against their constraints. Pall and I were happy for their confinement.
We stopped for lunch just beyond the junction of two permanent rivers, the Senqu and the Koakoatsoan. We had our standard: salti-crax and laughing cow cheese plus biltong. As we crunched and chewed, a jovial Basotho approached. He was clad in bright (radioactively fluorescent is more accurate) orange underpants, green wellington boots and a grey blanket, this he had doubled over and wore around his shoulders. He had frayed the top fold along it bottom edge so that the whole garment hung behind him like a long stylishly tasselled cloak.
We had a long slog up the valley to around 20km of progress and about 200m from the escarpment edge and 2900m of altitude. Our camp was adequate and situated equidistant between North Peak and South Peak. It was 17h00. A jackal called nearby as we made a supper of heavily salted spaghetti and tuna. A mist came in before we started to eat. Despite, the cold and altitude, insects are coming to the light in my tent as I write.