Just occasionally I bite off more than I can chew and before I know it a hiking trip has become and adventure.
Since my first visit a couple of years ago I have fallen in love with the Drakensberg. The landscape is wild, remote and relatively unknown. The weather is dramatic, tranquil and pleasingly reliable. In many ways it’s hard to imagine an area better suited to landscape photography.
This time I was joined by three friends: Hougaard Malan, who has been on all 3 of my Drakensberg hikes. Steve Sellman, who came on the last two, and Milly (Hougaard’s sister) who was a new addition! Our ever present guide, Jeffrey, also came along to show us the way, talk the local language, and occasionally confuse us with his basic English!
The plan was to hike from Injisuthi to Cathedral Peak Hotel – a long 60 mile route which I knew would be significantly harder than our previous trips. ‘Hard’ became ‘Very Hard’ almost immediately as we struggled up the 2000m climb over the first couple of days with our back-breaking packs. The following days brought long days of hiking leaving little time or energy for photography, yet it was still a magical experience made all the better by great company.
Our first day took us from Injisuthi to Centenary Hut, an elevation gain of around 1000m. This day was perhaps the most amazing of the trip for me, not necessarily because of the conditions, but because the landscape was so unexpected. Much like visiting the Mweni area in March, the tropical nature of the surroundings took my breath away. So much of the route we walked felt untouched and the flora was like nothing we have in the UK. I would have loved to spend some time taking photos, but our schedule dictated that we keep walking. As it was we arrived at Centenery Hut in the dark.
We awoke on our second day with tired legs and not particularly excited about the prospect of another 1000m climb. Your legs soon start to feel like lead with the oxygen just 60% of sea level.
Corner Pass was about what I expected in terms of difficulty, the Northern High Approach proving to be a worthwhile shortcut to the pass itself.
I had big hopes for the view of the Injisuthi triplets at sunrise. Ultimately I was left a little disappointed with the light striking the triplets head on and failing to provide much depth and form. An inversion would have been nice too! Although now this seems a lot like whingeing, at the time I was genuinely crestfallen, after all, this was a location that I had planned the entire trip around.
That really set the tone for the day, whilst I enjoyed the hiking I ultimately didn’t find much motivation for photography!
I was actually pretty annoyed that I hadn’t stayed out with Hougaard the evening before and in the morning I woke up with a certain bloody mindedness to get out early and make something of the trip! The sunrise was unspectacular, but enjoyable all the same. A good nights sleep left me with plenty of energy for hiking and I raced along with Steve for much of the time. The afternoon and evening provided a fantastic location and stunning conditions.