I know I spoke a lot about my friend that I go hiking with to catch up, however, I also hike a lot with three other friends of mine. We call ourselves The Amigos, don’t ask how we got to that name. LOL.
Earlier this year one of them told us about this company that organizes hiking trips for few days. It was exciting to learn that we can have guided hiking for the whole weekend. We were excited and we said to this friend of ours, “hell yes” sign us up. It so happened that their next hiking tour will be taking place outside of Johannesburg. I got more excited for the experience, not only am going to hike two days in a row, but also in another province. Yay!! The best part about this trip, it was taking place during my birthday month (June). So, I took it as my birthday present from me to me. We were going to a popular nature attraction place called Drakensburg, it’s situated in KwaZulu Natal province yet also on the verge of the Eastern Freestate. We were getting the best of both worlds.
We started preparing for the trip, got an itinerary for the weekend, we were all set. When I checked the itinerary, I realized that we had to meet up somewhere for our transport as we were all using a bus. We were also meeting new people who signed up for the trip as well. The first thing that caught my eye was the departure time; 4:00am. Listen I am not a morning person, I know it sounds strange for someone who hikes, but getting out of bed in the morning is quite a struggle for me, let alone when it’s winter. This trip was happening right in the middle of winter. I remember my other friends (who don’t hike) said that I am crazy to go climb mountains in Winter. I am always fine though after I am out of bed, the problem is getting out of bed. Listen, when the day of the trip finally came, I was ecstatic.
We arrived at the place on time and off we went, the trip was a 3–4-hour drive. Another great part about this trip was the fact that I was not driving. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I will do anything to get out of driving anywhere. I want to go places but can someone drive, please. Luckily, my friends know this and they are always happy to pick me up and they drive me to our adventures. Anyway, back to the trip, the road trip was amazing, we stopped halfway to get breakfast and coffee of course. No day starts without a cup of coffee for me. It was Friday morning when we left for Drakensburg, we arrived there within 4 hours, and immediately even before checking in, our tour guide told us we will be hiking about 15km at a place known as uThukela. Words cannot explain the beauty, tranquility that I experienced there on that hike. We even came across a Gorge/waterfall. You must know that when I see water, I am like a child impatiently waiting to open gifts on Christmas day. So, we spent a bit of time on this Gorge, the sound of water, I am telling you, you forget that there is another world outside such place. Remember I said it was so cold on the day, but that did not stop me to take out my shoes and dipping my feet in that Gorge. I thought to myself, I am here for it all, everyone looked at me like I’m crazy. My friend asked me “Moira are you insane” I said yes am going in. OMG, I yelled out every curse word I could think of. LOL. The water was so cold I cannot even begin to explain, but it was so satisfying. I knew right then that I am going to have a fabtastic weekend. We hiked through gorgeous forests, surrounded by mountains, far away from civilization. All I could hear were birds chirping, wind blowing, and it was so peaceful, I could hear myself think. The conversations in between were also amazing, we got along well with other people we had just met for the first time
Day two came, we woke up bright and early for our next hike, this one was 23km long. When I heard this the night before that we will be hiking 23km, I thought to myself,” Moira what were you thinking.” We were going to hike in the Eastern Freestate, so it was a 1hr30 minutes’ drive, again I didn’t mind because I was not driving. We were going to the place called Sentinel Peak -Mont-aux-sources. We were going to end up on Tugela Falls (the second-highest waterfall in the world). The hike started very well, and I was blown away by the tremendous beauty I saw that day. When we were 8km into our hike, the tour guide told us for us to get to Tugela which is 3166m high, we will have to go up the chain ladders (I was thinking to myself, Moira you are afraid of heights, are you sure you going to do this. Well, we continued with our hike and we got to the ladders, at that time I was so nervous my hands were shaking. Before I tell you about what happened there, let me digress a bit and tell you a story about those ladders. I grew up not far from Sentinel Peak, I grew up being told by my grandmother, my mother that no one should ever go climb those chains because there is a huge snake with seven heads (LOL, I know right) that swallow’s people if they go up there. Apparently, it swallows people if they made it angry and the weather changes drastically, it becomes misty you cannot see a thing. So that’s the story I had in my head when I took this trip, even though now am an adult I know that was an old wive’s tale.
Back to the story, we get to these chains my nerves got worse, in my head I’m thinking, well since we have to come back the same way through these chains, maybe I can suggest to all my fellow hikers leave their bags with me , I will look after them until they come back. After all, they will be gone for an hour or two. I ended up saying my thoughts out loud and everyone was so supportive of me, motivating me to climb, ensuring me that I will be fine. I also asked if anyone has ever fallen down the cliff. By the way, those chains are not steady so as you climb, they move a bit so that was terrifying for me. Over and above that, when you look on the sides, it is a very long way down, nothing to hold on to if you let go. Everyone motivated me until I said okay, I will do it. I let few people go first to make sure I will be fine. My time came to climb, again I was praying, swearing, you name it I did it. Words cannot describe how terrified I was. Got over the first set of ladders, and there was still another set to climb. By this time, I am talking to myself I don’t even know what I was saying. I was so happy when I got to the top 3166m high, the adrenaline kicked in, and I felt like a conqueror. Off we went to get to Tugella waterfalls, It was worth every moment of terror, my goodness, the weather changed from warm to misty and then to drizzle. We finally took a break, took out snacks and relaxed a bit, as we must hike back and go down the ladders again.
We started hiking back and we got to the ladders, while I am sitting there waiting my turn, I asked the tour guide can he not get the helicopter to come get me. He was so nice, he acted as if he didn’t hear me, and he was just talking me through my nerves assuring me that I am going to be okay. At some point I forgot his name I called him by some random name. My turn came and I started again praying, swearing and all, and I eventually made it. I was so excited; I could not believe that through that tremendous fear I did the unthinkable. I gained mental strength that day, I did not let fear steal my joy and my experience. Thinking back, I know I am going to be much stronger and not fearful next time. Yes, I will go back, there is so much to explore in those mountains, they are sure calling me back. To get to the Sentinel Peak we had to leave our bus a few kilometers away because the roads were not great, we needed 4x4s. The tour guide organized them to take us to our destination and back to our bus. So, when we were back from hiking, we waited for our transport and it didn’t show up at the time we agreed up on. One of the hikers suggested we get a lift with the guy driving an open van where we can all fit. We got excited to experience seating at the back of the van. We hopped in and we were packed in there like sardines, but it was so much fun. The sun was almost setting, so we had an awesome clear view of the sun set and mountains. The road was bad, gravel and huge stones. So, we were being tossed up and down like we were fat cakes in the pan. It was so funny when we kept on tossing up and down, we laughed until we cried. What an experience, that ride brought back memories when I was a teenager, my grandfather had the van and we used to always ride at the back.
I had so much fun on this trip, my very first weekend away hiking. There will sure be more of these for me in the future.
Until next time, stay Fabtastic!