4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre

28 Oct 2009 15:45 - 28 Oct 2009 15:46 #720 by Stijn
Stijn created the topic: 4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
That's right, the next time you hike up to the escarpment, you may have to contend with some 4x4 'enthusiasts' driving through the escarpment wetlands! :angry:

Surely there should be conservation rules against this? I suppose it is in Lesotho and not part of any nature reserve per se but the damage is still being done...

The debate rages on: www.climb.co.za/forum/viewtopic.php?f=25007&t=5166&sid=
Last Edit: 28 Oct 2009 15:46 by Stijn.

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28 Oct 2009 19:25 - 28 Oct 2009 19:30 #721 by drsnoobab
drsnoobab replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
Sigh ... 18 years ago I did my first "real 'berg trip" trip up to Mont-Aux-Sources and to this day I have a stunning sunrise photo of that same trip on my dining room wall - the sheer sense of isolation, the serenity, the grandeur of nature aroused by that expedition has not left me. A year later I thought nothing of jumping in the car and doing the same trip, totally alone, and experiencing the same thing ... yet a few years after that I got engaged up there - surrounded by about three feet of snow, my first "snow falling in the berg" experience, and not another living soul for miles. All of these, truly spiritual experiences.

And then came the stories of theft, of tents being slashed in the night ...
And then came the stories of dagga smuggling, a friend's party being shot at by the smugglers ...

As if the criminal elements have not ruined it already, now the 4X4 community has decided to come and wrench the last bit of peace and quiet, of serenity, of perfectly dark mountain night skies away from us. Once a route like that is opened and more publicly known, it will become the next big thing on their calendar attracting how many vehicles in a weekend ?

Reading through Pearse's Barrier of Spears and the joys experienced by the climber and hiker of the day, who had none of the above to contend with, I now assert that the Golden Age of 'berg mountaineering is dead.

<Rant> :( </RANT>
Last Edit: 28 Oct 2009 19:30 by drsnoobab. Reason: formatting

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28 Oct 2009 19:35 #722 by drsnoobab
drsnoobab replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
To truly bring home the hideousness of the prospect, follow the following google link, and select the first search that comes up ... check out the thumbnails midpage ... here

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28 Oct 2009 21:18 #723 by intrepid
intrepid replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
Thanks for bringing this to the attention of this forum, Stijn. A lot of thoughts have whizzed through my head since reading this. So, while I'm going to offload some of these thoughts now, this won't be my last response on this.

My gut was wrenched when I read this :angry: . I do my own 4x4 trips to Lesotho, but I stick to established, proper tracks that are on the Lesotho government maps. There are enough of these already, and any additional ones are certainly not needed or wanted. My own 4x4 trips are also a means of getting to areas for hiking - areas exactly of the kind in question here. I think this strip of mountains is sacred and I wouldn't be happy at all to encounter vehicles there. But this issue goes well beyond the sentiment of us Berg fans.

Stijn said:

Surely there should be conservation rules against this? I suppose it is in Lesotho and not part of any nature reserve per se but the damage is still being done...

While this area is not officially protected in the sense that a national park would be, there are 3 considerations, that I can see, which make this a serious issue:

1. This area falls under the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Project. In the words from their own website, maloti.opencms.co.za :

The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfontier Conservation and Development Project (MDTP) is a collaborative initiative between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho to protect the exceptional biodiversity of the Drakensberg and Maloti mountains through conservation, sustainable resource use, and land-use and development planning. This area encompasses distinct landscape and biological diversity. It is quite rich in species and high in endemism. Excessive livestock grazing, crop cultivation on steep slopes, uncontrolled burning, alien invading species and human encroachment threatens this asset.


2. Though it is said the last 5km to the Chain Ladders are walked, this nonetheless comes very close to the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park boundary (and if this is not checked, before long someone will drive right to the edge). In addition to the fact that its a World Heritage Site, the park needs a buffer zone on either side for ecological reasons, and I`m sure this activity would be of interest to KZN Wildlife.

3. This area has immense value (and thus sensitivity) as it concerns water resources. See this blog post for more thoughts concerning this. Additional 4x4 tracks ultimately have an impact on the quality and quantity of drinking water in critical areas such as Gauteng! The areas around the Pass of Guns and Tlaeeng Pass across towards the escarpment crosses the Khubedu drainage area, which joins the Senqu, where there are plans to be build more dams in addition to Katse and Mohale. I wonder if this activity would also be of concern to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (a pivotal project for both South Africa and Lesotho)?

I certainly will make a point of passing this information on. I do know that this has reached high levels of the some organisations concerned already.

I do appreciate the response from Kobus Pienaar, secretary of the Nissan 4x4 Club, as posted on the climb.co.za forum. But, while a one-time use of this route would not harm the environment, continued use certainly will. Also, I was horrified to see the number of vehicles doing this in one go! See pictures on this forum: www.nissan4x4.co.za/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=6582&PN=1&TPN=1

drsnoobab said:

To truly bring home the hideousness of the prospect, follow the following google link, and select the first search that comes up ... check out the thumbnails midpage ... here

If you are referring to the search result detailed below, I share your concern.

Information - SA 4x4 Community Forum - The only forum for the ...
7 posts - 4 authors - Last post: 21 hours ago
Anyone have a GPS track for the trail/route from top of Mont Aux Sources to A1 in Lesotho? As shown on the Lesotho InfoMap. ...
www.4x4community.co.za/forum/showthread.php?p=372801 ... - 21 hours ago - Similar


I have a lot of GPS data for Lesotho that I intend sharing with members of this site, but I wouldn't want it ever to be a part of establishing a new 4x4 route in the mountains. A fresh reminder why we punt a concern for the environment and conservation alongside the useful GPS data available on this site.

More thoughts to follow...

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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28 Oct 2009 21:56 #724 by domsmooth
domsmooth replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
When I was first alerted by Intrepid to this post, I thought no worries, because I know that EKZNW know about these "proposals" and for a whole heap of reasons are squashing them. Dealing with difficult development applications is what I do for EKZNW, and I know that this has been brought to our attention. What I wasn't aware of was that some of the guys had already attempted the route, and were now starting to put GPS tracks on the 'net and publicize it. This, in my mind, has the potential to be just as big as when 4x4 driving was banned from the beaches as well, as now those who are concerned for the environment and want to ensure sustainable use and conservation of sensitive areas become the enemy. I am told that 90% of 4x4 enthusiasts are very concerned for the environment and it is only a minority who drive their vehicles into the dunes and to the edges of mountains, as the pictures on the post by Dr Snoobab indicate. Knowing how sensitive those edges are, I sincerely doubt that any of those guys thought twice about their potential impact that even one trip in a 4x4 could do to endemic plants that only occur in a narrow band along the escarpment edge.

Moreover, it must be pointed out that the Berg is a World Heritage site, and having 4x4 tracks leading to the escarpment's edge is completely unacceptable. There are potential international mechanisms which can be used in circumstances like this (even if it is in Lesotho!), but as I say, it will again come down to conservationists becoming the "killjoys"!

I will dig around a little tomorrow and see what I can unearth in terms of what has been done to prevent this. In case anyone is interested, this is not the only ludicrous idea I have heard about. One other notable idea was a cable car from the RSA side! Wonder how long the cable would last before the Basothos thieved it...

I think what would also be useful is getting official word from Afriski, and finding out who the landowner is...

Lets all help maintain the values for which the Berg was proclaimed a World Heritage Site

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30 Oct 2009 10:42 - 31 Oct 2009 07:17 #725 by gollum
gollum replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
Haha, I had a good laugh at domsmooth's comment on the cable car! Perhaps we should alert the Basotho to the 4x4's and point out that a single 4x4 carries more beer than all the hikers in the berg in one year...

Jokes aside, this is extremely disturbing news. My immediate response is to categorise these fellows with the property developers and quad bikers that ruin my local mountain bike routes - *******. Of course this is a bit of a emotional response and very generalising.

Many 4x4 enthusiasts (and quad biking for that matter) are respectable folk who genuinely take trouble to keep their impact on the environment within bounds. However, the fact that it is so easy to get in your monster truck and go kaboozling all over the place, is much like the chain ladder - It gives access to these sensitive areas to irresponsible entities who should not be there (How does hiker pollution compare between the amphitheatre and, say, the Injasuthi?).

But, unlike the smuggling problem, this is a problem we actually have a chance of solving.

It seems that intrepid and domsmooth are quite informed in this matter. How can a layman like myself stay up to date on how this matter is progressing with the authorities?
Last Edit: 31 Oct 2009 07:17 by intrepid.

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30 Oct 2009 12:48 #726 by Odie
Odie replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
Sad day for us... Well, next time our packs might be a bit heavier with some anti-4x4 goodies or some incentive for the locals to forget about the poor hikers & climbers and rather target the more juicier guys with obviously more money and less respect for the wilderness...

Jokes aside, it seems to be only a day trip, but as these things go, soon there would be GPS points for nice overnight spot with or favourite offroaf caravan sites...

What to do...

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30 Oct 2009 12:51 #727 by Odie
Odie replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
Gollum Gollum...

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30 Oct 2009 12:54 #728 by Otterjasie
Otterjasie replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
Does anyone know if the MCSA has taken a stand about this matter?

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30 Oct 2009 12:56 #729 by Otterjasie
Otterjasie replied to: Re:4x4 trail from Afriski to Amphitheatre
@ Odie - Waar is no2?

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