Current state of things

08 Apr 2010 14:54 #1098 by gollum
Apart from the amphitheatre (which I think will always be a problem) and the warning regarding the Rhino area, it seems to me that in recent times (2007 and onward) the security situation in the Drakensberg is quite ok.

I am saying this based on the absence of reports on these forums, as well as my 5 escarpment trips since June 2008 (2 x Cathedral, 2 x Injasuthi, and Giant's Castle).

In August 2009 some Sotho's passing us on the other side of a river stopped and watched us when we started to pitch camp, so we decided to rather move on. Somewhere along the way we lost them.

In December 2009 we encountered a hunter with his dogs at the top of Hilton's pass. He wanted a cigarette ("give me smoking"), and we obliged (and even got a "thank you"). He later returned with a buddy who wanted sweets, but we declined. They left and we never saw them again.

I'd like to hear what the other members think, especially the more active ones who have been frequenting the Berg the past three years. Am I missing something, or are we entering happy hiking times?

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08 Apr 2010 18:52 #1102 by ClimbyKel
Replied by ClimbyKel on topic Current state of things
Being a Canadian, it's hard for me to relate to the dangers of hiking in this regard. I take spray along on hikes in Canada to avoid the misfortune of being chomped by a grizzly bear. But despite my naivity on the subject and my very new SA residency, one should always bare in mind (no pun intended) that taking precautions (such as you did by "moving on" during your August trip when you passed the Sothos) is likely a worthwhile and good call. When you have the opportunity, rather error on the side of caution and be extra safe, instead of sorry. As for the sweets, my hiking buddies taught me a little trick....they ask for sweets before anyone can ask them. It really confuses things, you should try it!

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08 Apr 2010 19:53 - 08 Apr 2010 20:08 #1104 by JonWells
Replied by JonWells on topic Current state of things
Haha! Asking THEM for sweets, classic! I gotta try that!

Back to the topic, I can report from my experience:

2008, March, Giant's Castle, Langalibalele Pass- No Basothos
2009, May, Bushman's Nek, Thomathu Pass- 2 Shepherds, no trouble
2009, July, Garden Castle, Mashai Pass- No Basothos
2009, December, Garden Castle, Mashai Pass- Troublesome gang
2010, March, Bushman's Nek, Ngwangwane Pass- 1 Shepherd, no trouble
Last edit: 08 Apr 2010 20:08 by JonWells.

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09 Apr 2010 01:14 #1105 by domsmooth
Replied by domsmooth on topic Current state of things
Interesting stats. I will look and see whether any incidents have been reported, if I can get to see the incidents reporting.... somewhere between 2 and 3am....

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

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09 Apr 2010 11:41 - 09 Apr 2010 11:41 #1111 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Current state of things
In nearly 80 Berg Hikes, I am lucky enough never to have experienced any problem at all with Berg security - although in the most recent trips I have been v.careful with visibility, route and the spot chosen overnight. Many a time we've met with shepherds or guys leading donkey trains but they've never been aggressive. Speaking Zulu in Mnweni makes a huge difference I find. We also always ask permission to walk into the kraals when the path passes through. Some time ago I looked out old photos of Mnweni and made up copies into photo albums and handed these over to the head of the kraals. In many cases it is clear that the photos of the children were the only ones the parents ever had. Some of the photos were taken years ago.

Apart from 3 or 4 hikes, its only been 2 or 3 of us and mostly just 2. Small groups might make you feel more exposed but I like the flexibility and low visibility involved. We've also stay mostly in caves and haven't been to the Amphitheatre for a long time.
Last edit: 09 Apr 2010 11:41 by tiska.

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11 Apr 2010 21:21 #1125 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Current state of things
Following the somewhat grim period in 2005-2006, things do appear a little brighter. Most of the really disturbing incidents occurred in the Giants Castle area, which seems a little more peaceful currently. This may have something to do with the fact that some of the youths were prosecuted following the Easter 2005 incident. However, problems there have been long-standing and I'm a little skeptic in the long-term and still tread with caution on the Giants Castle escarpment.

Ambushes on the Giants Castle and Injasuthi roads thankfully have not occurred recently. Theft at the Cathedral Peak campsite (something prevalent since the 80's) is probably a thing of the past, with the introduction of the new campsite.

As for the Amphitheatre... its almost a joke, since its really obvious where the perpetrators live.

Looking at the troubling trends of muggings of hikers and climbers in other mountain ranges around the country, its a little discouraging. Lets hope the locals in the Berg don't cotton the idea more, since there are still plenty of shepherds, smugglers and rustlers running around there (and the smuggling and related clashes are pretty bad). I encounter these people frequently (more often than not). Most of the encounters are friendly, some even a pleasure (bear in mind however that most problems occur at night). I only had one incident several years ago when I was hiking alone. I was in the Thuthumi Lookout hut - in the days when it still had a door (which I had luckily tied closed) - and a band of smugglers pitched up and wanted in. They peered at me through the windows and banged and rattled at the door. Hard to say exactly what their intentions where, but it really rattled me. Eventually they left, but soon another group arrived and the same thing happened....I packed up my gear and walked out back to my car (in the dark).

One the major objectives we wanted to achieve with this site is to get the message out that there are some security risks in these mountains, but that a lot problems can be avoided if one follows certain guidelines. All who have responded on this thread are mindful of the risks, and this goes a long way in avoiding them.

I still advise caution and alertness, and don't imagine we've seen the end of these problems (the Mashai Pass situation is an example of how things can flare up). I still take every precaution and defense that I can. But I feel positive and enthusiastic about the Berg, and I believe a positive difference can be made. I would always still encourage people to go there. Just be informed, prepared and alert when you do.

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

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12 Apr 2010 09:26 #1127 by plouw
Replied by plouw on topic Current state of things
A group of us camped on the Amphitheatre near the hut in December for 2 nights on the same spot and had absolutely no problem. We did however meet other hikers up there that told us they camped there over easter, last year, and woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of gun shots. Apparently some locals tried to steal a hiker's gear and he shot at them! I think irresponsible agressive behaviour like this will create big problems for us, hikers. These locals will soon realise they'll have to be better prepared and armed if they intend to rob us.

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12 Apr 2010 16:46 #1132 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Current state of things
@plouw: do you know if it was definitely a hiker shooting, or if it was one the KZN Wildlife guards that get stationed up there sometimes? I know that the old QwaQwa guards in years gone by used to shoot at them. While I don't think hikers with guns is anything new to the Basuths one certainly wouldn't want them becoming more aggressive with the hikers, like they have been at Giants. I seem to vaguely recall something years back about them actually managing to steal a gun off a hiker, not sure where. I'm all for people being able to defend themselves, but in the case of the Amphitheatre, simply yelling at them would probably be enough to chase them away, as the stealing is generally of a timid nature.

If there is a problem, I would rouse the group/camp, start yelling and carefully get out the tents with hiking poles and headlamp. They may run away totally, or lie flat to hide. Be wary of them returning. If they've stolen something from you, they may drop it when you startle them so look around for that. Never underestimate their intelligence and speed, and don't assume bad weather is a deterrent.

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

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13 Apr 2010 08:36 #1139 by plouw
Replied by plouw on topic Current state of things
@intrepid: i really dont know, this is just what some other hiker told me.
is it even allowed to carry guns into the park?

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13 Apr 2010 09:13 - 13 Apr 2010 09:13 #1140 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Current state of things
plouw wrote:

is it even allowed to carry guns into the park?

Good question. Chances are, not. @domsmooth: could you find out for us?

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2010 09:13 by intrepid.

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