“A Field of Flowers!”
6-10 November 2008
60 km… 5 days… 11 people… youngest 20 yrs, oldest 72 yrs…
Eddie von Bargen (Leader)
Ron & Christine Exall
Donovan & Anita van Luyt
Roy & Rose Glen
The Giant’s Cup Trail, as the name implies, has a regular view of an enormous cup-shape against the horizon (on a clear day) b
ounded by Hodgson’s Peaks within the Lesotho border. The trail elevation is around 1 800 metres, peaking sometimes in excess of 2 000 metres. The terrain varies from alpine-type meadow to rocky outcrop. Each day started off with steep ascents and there were many descents throughout the five-day trail.
The time of the year that we chose to do this hike, was just the perfect season to see all the indigenous flowers in bloom. There were little white, pink, yellow and blue flowers all over the fields as far as the eye could see. The watsonias were also all in bloom - sometimes an entire hill would be covered in orange blooming flowers - a feast for the eye indeed! Everyone who loves the Drakensberg should do this trail, even just once in their lifetime - it is not difficult at all. Most parts are really flat to walk and the scenery is simply breathtaking and the accommodation a steal at R60 per night. It’s a lovely hike to bring the whole family along on.
DAY 1 (13,3 km)
We chose to leave our vehicles at the end point - Bushman’s Nek - and hired the services of a local transporter named Steven Botha, who previously owned Sani Tours. We were picked up in two vehicles and driven to the start at Sani Pass for a nominal fee of R70 per person. We had a late start, only getting away at 11.45. The weather was brilliant: bright skies an
d very hot (the only hot day of the entire trail, as we were later to find out). We stopped for lunch at a beautiful pool where we could not resist jumping in to cool down. Afterwards, we pushed on since we had started so late. We reached the first overnight stop - Pholela Hut - at 5pm, everyone suitably exhausted! It was a pretty steep hike in some parts but generally very easy. The hot showers were such a perfect welcome to the end of the first day. We all had a “communal” supper out on the veranda and the party got to know each other really well.
DAY 2 (9 km)
After a communal breakfast, we were packed up and ready to go at 8am. A steep ascent started the day and just a few minutes later we were at the top. It was another clear, sunny day. A very easy walk and we arrived at the next overnight stop - Mzimkhulwana Hut - at 11am. Minutes later, the skies clouded over and it poured with rain – which signalled the end of our plans to explore the area. The afternoon was spent lazing about, and then we spent a good couple of hours playing Uno, building bugs and frogs puzzles, keeping everyone severely mentally challenged! We then played a good few rounds of “broken down telephone” which resulted in much hilarity. Eventually it was time for the night time ritual of booze and food making – everyone curious to see what everyone had for supper. We had expected cold showers, but were totally delighted to see that gas heaters had been installed for hot showers. Some went off to bed early, while a few others had lots of chatting to catch up on and some others played pranks with recorded jackal sounds from a cell phone!
DAY 3 (12,2 km)
It rained throughout the night and we woke up to more rain - no clear skies to be seen! We set off again at 7.30am and braved the wet weather. At 8am, we were halfway up the first steep hill, to hear the thunder roaring loudly overhead. We all stopped to put on our rain gear. Our boots were soon covered in mud and we were almost soaked through to the skin… hmmmm… not a pretty sight! It was very misty, and we were unable to enjoy any of the spectacular views that we had expected to see from the ridge. It was a long, but very easy walk past the Blue Crane Tarn, which was totally dry. We looked for the petrified tree but it eluded us.
Despite the rain and mist, the fields were alive with colour… all the dainty little flower faces lit up the dullest of days! We pressed on and part of the trail included a section of road on the way to Drakensberg Gardens resort and by this time, some of the party were a bit tired. The very last bit of the trail was very, very steep and the next overnight stop lay at the bottom of a hill through the cattle paddock and we had to climb the stile. The little rondavels looked a lot more romantic from far, than what they were from near! No hot water, no lights, no nothing! We huddled together in the kitchen rondavel for the afternoon - trapped while it rained continuously all afternoon (and all night).
The two youngest in our group - Lauren & Tyrone - put on their slops and set off in the rain to find some new snacks from the nearest store. They returned after a couple of hours, having hitched a ride to the store which was closed due to renovations, and then got a lift all the way to Drakensberg Gardens to buy a few luxuries. They convinced their Mom to go back with them to Castleburn to watch the rugby - SA against Wales. Cheryl could not resist - she was desperate to also get soaking wet - what a Mom! Nobody was going to volunteer for a cold shower, so we all went to bed dirty.
DAY 4 (12,8 km)
We woke up and it was still raining! No choice, but saddle up and head for the hills at 7.30am. This one was a really steep ascent - almost to the top of Garden Castle - so sad that the mist spoiled our views of Castleburn Lake. We could not see a thing from the top. We pressed on regardless, and caught a slight glimpse of Lake Naverone and eventually it cleared up as we neared Drakensberg Gardens resort. It was an opportunity to finally catch up with the photography. It was a long descent and finally we reached the next overnight stop - Swiman Hut. What a lovely facility: a 3-bedroomed house with lounge that has a fireplace, and a fabulous bathroom with hot showers! We were really at home here - despite the puff adder who watched our wet boots drying out from all the rain! It had stopped raining – hooray! - so we all took advantage and took long walks to the luxury resort and went shopping (for wine of course!) and enjoyed tea at the restaurant overlooking the lake and golf course. In the evening Ron made a fantastic fire in the lounge and we had a great time sitting around chatting.
DAY 5 (12 km)
Everyone had a fabulous night's rest and we all had breakfast together in the lounge in the morning. Sunny skies - at last! After we had cleared away all the empty wine bottles and before we could set off for the final leg of the race… Rons’ boots were falling apart and needed to be tied up with cable ties. It was a fairly easy start with a small hill where we stopped to enjoy the views. It was a long descent past falls and finally we reached the stunning bridge over the Mzimude River. We stopped here for a while for refreshments and Christine was in the water before she was able to fill her water bottle! A few unsuspecting victims’ backpacks were loaded with rocks while they weren’t looking! The next leg of the trip was exceptionally steep and poor Ron (the geologist) could not understand why he was unable to cope with his unusually heavy pack! When we reached halfway, we spilled the beans (and the rocks). Fortunately Ron has a great sense of humour!
We went up a very steep rise and were rewarded with an exceptional 360 degree view of the area. We visited Langalibalele Cave which has Bushman paintings - it was most unusual. A loooooong way down and eventually we reached the end - Bushman’s Nek. After some fond farewells, we all set off back to the city at around 1pm. The end of a very, very stunning hike - absolutely highly recommended!