My 1992 Trip
Routes: 1. Johannesburg - Ermelo - Lake Chrissie - Mbabane -
2. Manzini - Mkaya Wildlife Sanctuary - Mlilwane Wildlife
3. Manzini - Nhlangano
4. Manzini - Big Bend
5. Manzini - Big Bend - Gollela (border) - Durban - Amamzimtoti
6. Amamzimtoti - Pietermaritzburg - Mooi River - Drakensberg -
Giant's Castle Game Reserve - Champagane Castle - Bergville -
Mont aux Source - Harrismith -
Newcastle - Volksrust - Piet Retief -
The Drakensberg mountain range reaches right up to the Transvaal,
but the area that borders Natal and the Kingdom of Lesotho is known
as the true Drakensberg because it is in this area that the
mountain range is the highest.
call the edge of the basalt mass uKhahlamba which means 'barrier'
and they say it resembles a row of spears. The summit they know as
uluNdi or oNdini which means 'the heights', and theSotho people who
live on these heights call the eastern edge Dilomo tsa Natala which
means 'the cliffs of Natal'.
The Europeans called the mountain range the Drakensberg which means
'dragon mountain' because it seemed to be the natural home for
In former years several reports were made of sightings of dragons
in the heights, and of mysterious tracks discovered in isolated
And around the deep pools and dark caves, it can easily be imagined
that they could be the abode of spirits, or haunts of monsters long
forgotten by time and evolution.
The first of the highest peaks in the range is Giant's Castle
standing at 3,314 metres high. The Zulu call this peak
iNtabayikonjwa which means 'the mountain at which one must not
point'. The name originates from a legend that if one points at it
or even mentions it in conversation the mountain will respond by
bringing bad weather. In winter the peak is covered in snow, and in
summer there are heavy thunderstorms around it.
The Bushmans River rises in this part of the Drakensberg, and
the area is teaming with wildlife, including leopards, black-backed
jackals, and baboons. In 1903 a game reserve was set up in the
foothills which covers 30,000 hectares.
The closest I got to the Drakensberg mountains in the Natal area
with my parents were the towns of Mooi River and Estcourt. Although
you see the mountains in the distance, their size and magnitude is
not appreciated. Its only when you drive through the range that you
realise their outstanding beauty. In 1992 I took as many photos as
I could but the camera did not do the scenery
point I seemed to be completely surrounded by the mountain range,
so I stopped the car and took a 270 degree series of photos. When
stuck all together, the resulting picture is so large that I had
difficulty finding a frame to hold it. It hung on my wall until the
kids broke the glass and sadly I could not get it replaced.
Leaving the town of Mooi River, the drive to the Drakensberg is on
gravel roads, it is only when you get to the Game Reserve itself
that you are treated once more to the tarred roads.
On the way we passed several traditional Zulu villages and the
little children ran out to wave to us.
You really have problems keeping your eyes on the road as the
mountain range is so astounding. Fortunately we didn't meet any
traffic on the road. The only wildlife that we saw was one solitary
That night we stayed at the game reserve in a chalet. There was no
electricity and our light was a paraffin lantern. It was so
peaceful there I wish I could have stayed longer.
day we drove back down into the valley and skirted the mountain,
again driving on gravel roads until the road joins the main
Estcourt to Loskop road, and on to Champagne Castle where we
stopped for refreshments and petrol before going on to the next
peak, Mont aux Source.
Castle is 3,348 metres high. The peak was named by David Gray in
the 1860s when he escorted a British army surveyor, Captain
Grantham, on a climb. In their haversack there was a bottle of
champagne to drink when they reached the summit. When they took the
bottle out however, it was only half full, and as neither would
admit to sneaking a drink, they blamed it on the
highest peak in the range is Monks Cowl which is 3,234 metres which
is the most difficult and most dangerous to climb.
Cathkin Peak is 3,148 metres high and is a dominant looking
mountain. The Zulu name for it is Mdedelele which means 'make room
for him', the name they give to a bully.
Other peaks in the Cathedral Peak area are: Dragon's Back, a ridge
of pinnacles which ends in a strange looking peak called Ntunja by
the Zulu which means 'the eye' an this part of the mountain looks
like a petrified one-eyed giant. Indumeni which means 'place of
thunder'. Ndedema which means 'place of reverberations'. Qolo la
maSoja which means 'bridge of the soldiers'. And
In 1954 a Durban journalist, Ronnie Tungay, bought a farm in the
area called Dragons Peaks. And in 1967 his son John opened a school
for boys with musical talent. They formed the famous Drakensberg
Mont aux Sourcesis 3,048 metres high and was named by two French
Protestant missionaries in 1830 who were exploring the mountains in
Lesotho. After a difficult journey they found themselves on the
mountainous plateau known to the Sotho as Phofung which means
'place of the eland'.
They renamed it Mont aux Sources as they found the sources of many
different rivers and streams.
It is here that the Tugela River rises dropping down a fall of
2,000 metres, the highest waterfall in South Africa; and the Elands
River which cascades in a series of falls for 1,200 metres. Also
rising from the Mont aux Sources is the Khubelu which is a
tributary of the Orange River.
We had lunch at the hotel at Mont aux Sources. In the grounds was a
stone chess set. The kids thought this was fascinating. The pieces
were taller than them!
drove on to Newcastle to see my friend Jane, arriving at her house
about 6pm. We stayed for two nights with Jane. She took us on a
tour of Newcastle and we had a barbeque with her friends in the
evening. What I found both amusing and strange about Jane and her
friend was that she spoke in English to them and they spoke in
Afrikaans to her. It was weird listening to a conversation in two