Pictures from the Drakensberg Mountains
October 3 Sani Pass to Giant’s Castle
October 4 Giant’s Castle
October 5 Sungubala Bush Camp
October 6 Royal Natal National Park
October 7 Sungubala to Johannesburg
Our first stop in the Drakensberg range was at Giant’s Castle. We had a fair amount of rain while we were there, so we didn’t really get any good views, but despite the showers we did manage to do some hiking.
The cabins we stayed in were surprisingly luxurious compared to our earlier accommodations. They were grouped on the slope up above the Bushman River, below the cliffs. Ours was the highest up, at the end of the road, and it had the best view of Giant’s Castle. At least in theory; in practice the mountain was only visible for a few seconds early in the morning.
On the day we arrived we had some free time in the afternoon, so we went on a short walk up the valley to the place where the Bushman rock art is located. On the way there we passed a herd of elands on the slope above us.
It wasn’t until later that we actually went on the guided tour of the Bushman rock paintings. You can see from the guide’s clothing that it was not very warm on that day. Many of the paintings on the rocks are of eland, which were the most sacred animal for the Bushman people. There are paintings of many other things in the Bushmen’s environment, even including men with guns.
On the way to Giant’s Castle we passed a couple of Blue Cranes, South Africa’s national bird, in a field beside the road. This was quite a surprise, since Blue Cranes are rather rare.
And in another field we saw a Southern Bald Ibis, an endangered bird that only lives in the Drakensberg range.
We stayed for a few days at Sungubala Camp, in the northern Drakensberg. Here we slept in a little two-bed A-frame building and did some easy hiking.
On a short hike through the foothills above the camp, we saw a variety of birds and mammals and flowers including this eland.
And in a field beside the road on the way to Sungubala, we saw this couple of zebras.
Here are our leaders, Craig (left) and Charl (right), at Sungubala enjoying a rare moment of leisure.
The cloudy weather had dried up, and we visited Royal Natal National Park on a warm, sunny day. The trail up Tugela Gorge is well-graded and a pleasure to walk on, with spectacular views of the Amphitheatre, a rocky escarpment which is about five kilometres long and nearly 1000 metres high.
The gorge itself becomes very narrow, and the trail comes to an end with peekaboo views of the crest of the Amphitheatre.
Unlike the mountains of Lesotho, the slopes of the Drakensberg range had a large range of flowers. According to our flower book this one is Watsonia pillansii, a member of the lily family.
And this one is Natal Bottlebrush, a showy tree that we saw throughout our stay in the Drakensberg.
And this one is known in South Africa as Red Paintbrush. It is a member of the amaryllis family and clearly nothing at all like the Red Paintbrush of the mountains of North America.
And this one we don’t know what it is.