Drakensberg Part 1: The Amphitheatre

Campsite at Amphitheatre Backpackers

After a brief layover in Swaziland, we made our way to the Northern Drakensberg (a.k.a. the Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans and ‘Barrier of Spears’ in Zulu) in South Africa. With our base at the beautiful Amphitheatre Backpackers near Bergville, we set off to explore the nearby natural wonders.

Sentinel Peak at the Drakensberg Amphitheatre was the subject of our first day trip. Although the Amphitheatre is visible from our campsite, the trailhead is two hours, 22km of road construction, a town named Phuthaditjhaba (try pronouncing it), and a narrow mountain road away on the backside of the mountain.

I could try to describe the vastness and grandeur of the mountain with words, but pictures do a much better job telling the story.

Eugene navigating ‘The Gully’

View of the North from the top of the Amphitheatre Escarpment

View of the South from the escarpment and the beginning of the chain ladder descent

Climbing down the 40m chain ladder

Exhausted after a long day of hiking, we were looking forward to a cold beer and a hot shower back at the campsite. Unfortunately, the mountain just wouldn’t let us leave. On the narrow mountain road that led to the trailhead, a negligent truck driver took his semi off-roading and blocked all traffic from passing.

In my mind, there were only two real options for getting out: 1) move the truck or 2) drive around the truck. The truck was clearly not going anywhere on its own. Even if a big enough tow truck did miraculously show up to tow the semi out, it is questionable whether it could actually get into a position to dislodge the truck. With trees and steep slopes guarding both sides of the road, driving around was not an option. With the sun setting in the horizon and no progress in sight, It became a real possibility that we would need to spend the night wild camping.

Since Africans generally lack the equipment to properly fix broken things, they are creative experts at making broken things work. In a stroke of problem solving genius, a team of park staff got some saws to cut the trees and shovels to relocate dirt to widen the road so that the cars could pass.

Amazingly… it worked!

Free at last!

Follow my Odyssey on Twitter @AlpheusChan


5 thoughts on “Drakensberg Part 1: The Amphitheatre

  1. Pingback: Notes on walking in the Drakensberg | the marmot post

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