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Drakensberg - Wonders of the Mnweni

26 Oct 2019 - 02 Nov 2019  |  £1450

What to Expect

Explore the magical Mnweni region of the Drakensberg! During this 6-day partially portered trip we will spend time both at the top of the escarpment and in the beautiful valleys below. We are almost guaranteed to be alone for the duration of the hike and treated to unspoilt views of world-class scenery. 

The Drakensberg is a spectacular mountain escarpment in the heart of South Africa. Also known by the Zulus as uKhahlamba, The Barrier of Spears, it includes vast cliffs, jagged ridgelines and endless pinnacles. With incredible weather conditions and awe-inspiring scenery, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site and prime photographic location that remains completely off the beaten track. The Mnweni itself is a particular treasure, although it is not part of the National Park it is the wildest and most beautiful section of the Berg. We're timing our trip around late spring to capture the Natal Bottlebrush in flower.

AT A GLANCE

MountainPhotography
ActivityBackpacking
AccomodationTents
PhysicalityModerate
Group SizeFive
Duration6 days

Booking

Please pay the deposit to reserve your spot.

Itinerary

Overview: On the first 2 days of hiking we will be ascending through Rockeries Valley with views up to massive rock faces above. We'll stay on top of the Rockeries area for 2 nights to allow for a rest day and exploration. Our route down takes us into the Mnweni Cutback with more views up to the cliffs. As the first day, there are numerous foreground opportunities here with Protea, flowering Bottlebrush, Tree Ferns and Cabbage Trees lending a tropical feel to the landscape. Throughout we will be camping in locations with amazing shooting potential on the doorstep. Our team of porters will assist us with the load carrying, set up the tents and fetch water should we find ourselves camped away from a water source.

Day 0, Saturday: Meet and greet in Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport. Food shop. Transfer to Bergville. Kit Check and then a relaxed dinner and early night!

Day 1, Sunday: Hike into the Rockeries valley in the morning. Set up camp in the early afternoon and enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding rock walls and pinnacles. Energetic hikers may wish to join me on an exploration of the area, but the views from the campsite are already incredible!

Day 2, Monday: A couple of extra porters will join us to assist in a 900m ascent to the top of Rockeries Pass. This route is mostly gradual but steepens in the upper section, as a result we'll be going slowly and minimising the weight you have to carry. The views from the top of the pass are outstanding. If the group is still feeling energetic we can go to the very top of Rockeries for sunset.

Day 3, Tuesday: We're up for sunrise over Rockeries Pass, the viewpoint is right where we camp! This day is a rest and exploration day. We may camp in the same spot for a second night or move the camp by a couple of kilometers. In the afternoon and evening we will spend our time near Mponjwana, Rockeries Tower and watch vultures soar.

Day 4, Wednesday: Descent down Mnweni Pass to 5-star Cave or camp opposite Fangs Valley. This is a fairly long day but all downhill with excellent views throughout. We'll camp in the Eden like surroundings of the lower Mnweni and seek out Bottlebrush trees! 

Day 5, Thursday: Depending on how we feel as a group we can take a relatively short day and camp on a small hill overlooking rock walls, or we can walk up the Icidi valley to camp.

Day 6, Friday: Our final day is a short walk back to the road via some beautiful pools which are perfect for swimming. We stay in the same accomodation as the first night and can enjoy a great meal and celebrate our achievement!

Tuition

I will be on hand at all times to help you with your images should you wish. With a modest group size (maximum 5) there will be plenty of opportunity for 1-to-1 time. On the other hand advanced photographers have often joined me on these trips to expand their horizons in a new way.  The level of independence and tuition is entirely flexible, depending on individual interests and needs.

Fitness And Experience

At the top the oxygen levels are only 70% of what you might be used to at sea level, so the second day ascending will be the hardest, but we'll have 2 extra porters and we'll move steadily. Otherwise the group will have the use of 5 porters, each of whom can carry 8kg. Based on this you can anticipate your backpack weighing around 16kg at the start of the trip (much less on day 2) and 10kg once you have eaten all your food! You do not need prior backpacking experience to come on this trip however you should be walking fit and free from injury. 

Equipment

It is very likely that we will be hiking in unbroken sunshine so sun protection is essential. You should dress for warm days (up to 20 Celsius at the top, warmer lower down), heavy rain showers and much colder mornings/ evenings where it may even freeze on top. I can provide high-end lightweight camping equipment perfectly suited for the trip. This includes Terra Nova Quasar tents, Rab Neutrino 400 sleeping bags and NeoAir Xtherm sleeping mats. If however you would prefer to use your own sleeping kit, or bring your own mountain tent then you are welcome to. A full equipment list will be sent out at a later date which tells you everything you need to know!

Accommodation

At the start of the trip we will stay in comfortable accommodation in Bergville where you will have your own room. During the trek we will be camping. On the final night we will stay in the same accommodation at Bergville. 

Safety

The cliffs in the Drakensberg have deadly drops. If you are afraid of heights or suffer from vertigo this trip is not suitable. You will be expected to follow my instruction as to what is regarded as an acceptable distance to the edge.

Additional Expenses

The trip does not include flights, insurance, tips for the porters or food and drink. It does include transport from Johannesburg to the Drakensberg, accommodation, gear rental and guiding (Zee and I are both insured mountain leaders in our respective countries).

Transport

There are regular overnight flights from Europe to Johannesburg from Virgin, British Airways, Air France, Turkish Airlines and others. Prices fluctuate through the year, you should be able to find a flight for between £500-£600. You should aim to catch a flight overnight on Friday the 25th October landing sometime before 11am on Saturday the 26th October. A 4 hour drive takes us to the Drakensberg. Return flights should be booked for the evening of Saturday the 2nd of November landing on Sunday the 3rd November.

 

Price And Booking

This workshop is priced at £1450 with a £450 deposit required to book your place. The remaining £1000 is due 2 months before departure.

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