Wonder Valley Cave
The Drakensberg are a spectacular mountain range on border between South Africa and Lesotho. The highest peaks are in excess of 3000m and the landscape is cliffy, dramatic and remote.
Irene (who also works for PiD), had made me aware of the Mountain Backpackers Club and sent me their fixtures list. They have at least one hike happening every weekend, including a hike to Wonder Valley Cave last weekend.
I woke up at 5.20am on the Saturday in time to be picked up. We drove for about 2 hours up the N3 freeway before heading through remote tribal areas and finally arriving at Injusuthi camp. A total of 11 of us met there, of whom I was by far the youngest (we had to write our ages down on the mountain rescue register: 35, 39, and up).
We began walking at 9 o'clock: the temperature was lovely. It's spring here and whilst nearer the coast it can get uncomfortably hot already, we were at 2000m and so, despite the sun blazing down on us, the air temperature was lovely.
The cave was only 7km away and we were there by lunchtime. It's not what I would normally think a cave to be; rather than an hole in the rock it's a large overhang with a flat bit of ground beneath it, set on a quite steep slope.
I lay down to rest as soon as we arrived, and was a little bit shocked when after about five minutes somebody spotted a young snake lying only about 3 metres from me! The snakes here are poisonous, and some of them can give fatal bites. This one was only a baby but apparently it still had a poisonous bite. Snakes are something to be wary of in South Africa: most will slither out of your way when they feel your footsteps but there is one common type of snake, the Puff Adder, which won’t. It will continue to lie on the path (apparently they like paths for some reason) and, if stood on, will give a potentially fatal bite. Incidentally it likes to live near humans because of the rats, so it’s never a good idea to go out at night without a torch.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sun and walking around the area. I also read the whole of Animal Farm. There was a small waterfall nearby which was picturesque for relaxing next to, but the water was too cold for swimming in.
I hadn't done well on the meal front: I had only realised on the Friday afternoon that I would have to buy food, and had only a very short amount of time to run around the supermarket to buy things: I had couscous, baked beans and tuna. I had brought some carrots but they had gone off slightly and tasted horrible.
That evening the sunset was spectacular, with the sun setting behind ‘Monk’s Cowel’, and sun beams cutting through passes on either side of the cliff. Then the stars came out, and with no light for miles around there were millions of them. I woke up in the middle of the night and the whole place looked amazing: the moon shed light everywhere and made the steep valley sides and cliffs look very dramatic.
The return journey was short, although we extended it slightly to take in some more of the dramatic scenery. There had been a huge area on fire (in a controlled way) on our walk in the day before, but that had now cleared and we could see clearly all the way along the spectacular escarpment. We had 3 first-time walkers with us and they were struggling. Nevertheless, we were back by 11am.
Back in Pietermaritzburg I realised I’d forgotten my house key, which is needed both to open the security gate and get through the front door. I was very surprised and slightly worried by how easy it was to jump the security fence, with the help of a well positioned tree, although I knew that I couldn't have beaten the alarm system. I sat by the pool for a couple of hours, during which time I read Animal Farm again! It's a very short but interesting book. I wish I'd chosen to write about it for my English coursework at school, as it really doesn't take long to read.
Here's the fence I had to jump: (yes, they have street view here too!)