Barrier Of Spears
- ( South Africa )
The Amphitheatre Range Of Drakensberg
Bush Men's Paintings
A Zulu Tribal (Below )A Hamlet In Champagne Valley (Right)
The Tugela River, Thendele
THE uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountain Park is a designated Unesco World Heritage Site for its unique scenery, rich bio-diversity and treasure trove of Bushmen rock paintings
DRIVING through the Drakensberg mountains, I couldn’t agree less with the wise man who said, “The religion of the mountain is in reality the religion of joy.” As I looked at the awesome mountains in their varying colours and varied slopes, I couldn’t help but feel elated.
The natural hues and shapes of these mountains were breathtaking; if only I could transfer them in all their natural splendour to a canvas, how beautiful it would look.
For the present, I contented myself by taking photographs of the velvet coated green slopes in different shades, the
rocky brown hillocks shaped artistically, the sandstone hills with green shrubs highlighting them and the distant blue hills
contrasting with their brown and green counterparts.
All along, on either side of the road, were long stalks of mielies, the staple food of local South Africans, blooms of Cosmos in white and pink, and wide stretches of grasslands with healthy cattle grazing on them. The pines lining the slopes and the
waterfalls in between only added to their beauty.
Drakensberg, referred to as the mountains of the dragon in Afrikaans and uKhahlamba or ‘Barrier of the Spears’ by the Zulu people, is the magnificent semi-circular hill range between KwaZulu-Natal of South Africa and the inland mountain kingdom of Lesotho. These mountains are capped by a layer of basalt up to 1500 meters thick with sandstone lower down, resultfootloose ing in a combination of steep-sided blocks and pinnacles.
In November 2000, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park covering an area of 240,000 hectares was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site for its unique scenery, rich bio-diversity and treasure trove of Bushmen rock paintings.
The Bushmen or the San huntergatherers were, in fact, the earliest inhabitants of Drakensberg. These natives were accomplished rock artists who used natural colours to paint minute figures of humans and animals on rocks. The oldest of these paintings date back to 2000 years.
Around 17 shelters and over 4000 such Bushmen paintings are to be found in Drakensberg caves and cliff over-hangings even today. To view these ancient cave and rock-paintings in the magnificent mountain ranges of Drakensberg tourists flock to these sites from home and abroad.
For the South Africans, Drakensberg is an ideal weekend get-away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is approximately 500 km from Johannesburg and can be reached in less than six hours.
For hikers, mountaineers and artists it is a dream destination. Numerous walking trails leading often to the top of the cliffs pose a challenge to the spirited tourists. However, the scenery around and the abundance of fauna and flora in the area can make one forget the arduous climb.
Central and Northern Drakensberg abound in breathtaking scenery and rock art. Kamberg is a delightfully attractive KwaZulu-Natal Midlands camp surrounded by trout rich dams and rivulets, rolling open grasslands and rocky slopes.
Named after a nearby mountain with a distinct shape resembling a rooster’s comb, it is laid out on 2232 hectare of natural reserve.The main attraction of this place is the San Rock Art Interpretation Centre that provides a unique insight into the lifestyle of San Bushmen of a bygone era.
Trained guides accompany visitors and guide them up the hill over 3000 metres high to the cave shelters exhibiting these rock paintings. Looking at the magnificent friezes of natives with their hunting implements and eland antelopes, one can only imagine how energetic the Bushmen would have been to trek so far and express their art on rocks so high.
Giants Castle, in Central Drakensberg, is another site where San rock art can be viewed at the Museum and also up the hill. This mountain range spread over 34638 hectares is situated on a rocky plateau. Among the deep valleys below, the sheer rock face of the High Drakensberg provides glorious views to hikers and mountain climbers.
Cathkin and Champagne Castle are some of the highest peaks of Drakensberg reaching up to 3248 metres. Cathkin was named after an area around Scotland by early Scottish settlers of Drakensberg. The Champagne peak derived its name from the first climber reaching the peak and opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate his success. This valley is known for its different sporting activities, especially golf. There are numerous golf courses here.
Cathedral Peak is a stunning mountain paradise with rivers, streams and waterfalls, grasslands, caves, San rock art and craggy cliffs abounding it. The Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre area laid out over 8000 hectares is the most popular tourist site. Proclaimed a protected area in 1916, the Royal Natal boasts of the most splendid mountain scenery in Africa.
As you drive along the park, you will find cute baboons welcoming you with their curious looks. The main attraction here is the Amphitheatre, a rock wall approximately 5 km in length and 500 m high. Above the Amphitheatre is Montaux-Sources peak where the Orange River starts its long journey to the Atlantic Ocean.
From the top of the Amphitheatre, the Tugela river cascades down 947 m to form the second highest waterfall
in the world on its way to the Indian Ocean. The whole scene is breathtaking.
The Lost Valley in Geluksberg is another site worth visiting. It is a chasm 2 km wide and 15km long and is home to indigenous flora and fauna of the Drakensberg.
Every part of Drakensberg offers a startlingly different view to the visitor. It unfolds its beauty in a special way in
every season. If it is spring, the whole valley is in bloom with yellow, red and blue. If it is summer or autumn, sudden showers can transform the mood and colours of the hill scene from a bright hill scene to one of mists and mystery. Clouds may tease the photographers but provide a unique charm as they caress the mountains. In winter, it is sheer magic with snowflakes crowning the hills and dotting the trees.
The Drakensberg is South Africa’s highest mountain range providing Nature’s abundance and immortal art of an ancient civilisation. Also in this World Heritage Site, mortals and Nature seem to be in harmony, what with wildlife species as well as Zulu tribesmen coexisting peacefully and allowing tourists to view the pristine beauty of the surroundings.
To feel the pulse of Africa and enjoy its natural beauty, visit the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountain Park. You would long to visit it again.
Located in the KwaZulu-Natal area of South Africa, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountain Park is approximately
500 kms from Johannesburg
Reaching there: Mumbai to Johannesburg by South African airways; Johannesburg to
Drakensberg by road
Best Time to Visit: All through the year but September to March is pleasant and warm
Must Carry: An umbrella, good walking shoes, binoculars and a camera