Security in the Mweni

06 Apr 2009 13:31 #401 by Kerri
Security in the Mweni was created by Kerri
Hi all

What is the security situation or precautions needed when hiking in the Mweni area?

Besides the standard "sleep-with-boots-chained-to-self" method.

Thanks

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
06 Apr 2009 18:50 #402 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Security in the Mweni
:laugh: Though your reference is humorous, that standard method will see you through most of the potential issues in the Mweni. In spite of all the activity that goes on there, very little has been a direct threat to hikers in recent times (that I am aware of).

Hiking in as large a group as possible is recommended. Most problems (if any) would be of a petty nature and likely to happen at night.

Mweni, Rockeries and Ntonjelana Passes are major smuggling routes, and you can even encounter donkey trains carrying the dagga down, especially on the latter two passes. Since it is peak smuggling season currently, you would do well to avoid camping directly on these routes. In particular I would try avoid using the following (at this time of year):

- the junction of Rockeries and Nguza Passes (this is where the Basotho donkeys are offloaded and their local counterparts continue)
- Scaly Cave
- Shepherds Cave
- "Dagga Planters Cave" (below Five Star Cave)
- the campsite at the junction of the Mweni and Rwanqa Rivers
Even though the smugglers are seldom a direct threat, they would disturb you during the night. And, as always, stay away from the summits of these passes.

All of the Little Berg caves indicated on the map are used by local Zulus at some time or the other, whether they be shepherds, hunters or dagga planters. This means that you may find them occupied on arrival, and it also means that one should never leave equipment unattended in them.

Camp as far away from any kraals as possible.

As for the Basotho shepherds on the escarpment, standard precautions apply. Be particularly careful when camping in the valleys feeding the Khubedu from Ifidi and Icidi Passes - as these places are frequented by the same bunch that steal from hikers in the Tugela Falls area. This incident seems to have happened in those valleys.

Be aware that tension exists between local Zulus and Basotho cattle rustlers. You may encounter angry and armed Zulus pursuing rustlers up the passes. Bands of smugglers may also ambush each other, or be ambushed by locals waiting at the bottom. It is not unheard of to encounter bodies on some of the passes.

Always good to ask around at the Mweni Cultural Centre for updates before setting out.

As bad as it all sounds, personally I feel pretty relaxed in the Mweni. I feel more on my guard in other places of the Berg actually.

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

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
08 Apr 2009 07:23 #405 by Kerri
Replied by Kerri on topic Security in the Mweni
Thanks for that info. We'll take the standard precautions.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
14 Apr 2009 20:34 #410 by Gert
Replied by Gert on topic Security in the Mweni
Ons is 'n groep van 12 wat vanaf 4-8 April Mnweni op en Rockeries af is sonder enige probleme. Die grotte (Shepherd, Scaley en Sunshine) is egter nie meer vir stappers bruikbaar nie aangesien dit deur die plaaslike mense gebruik word.

Gert

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
14 Apr 2009 21:22 #411 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Security in the Mweni
Thanks for the feedback Gert. All of the Mweni's lower Berg caves have been affected, some worse than others. The worst case I've seen so far is that of Waterfall Cave which was smothered in a several centimetres of goat manure last time I was there.

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

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
16 Apr 2009 21:18 #415 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Security in the Mweni
I did want to add that the Mweni remains among my personal favourites. I have come to cherish it's jagged peaks, monstrous passes, rural vibe, and the locals that live there. In spite of all of the above, I would not discourage anyone from visiting the area, but simply to be aware of what goes on there. If you enjoy the Berg, then the Mweni is a must!

Much can be said of the positive change that has come about as a result of the Mweni Cultural Centre and the efforts of Bergwatch working with the locals towards sustainable ecotourism.

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

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
09 Feb 2020 19:39 #75683 by susanalkema
Replied by susanalkema on topic Security in the Mweni
Hi Intrepid, is the below still advised to avoid? What is it like in Mnweni at the moment?

- the junction of Rockeries and Nguza Passes (this is where the Basotho donkeys are offloaded and their local counterparts continue)
- Scaly Cave
- Shepherds Cave
- "Dagga Planters Cave" (below Five Star Cave)
- the campsite at the junction of the Mweni and Rwanqa Rivers

I am planning a hike and would like to camp in Sunshine or Scaly cave, or on the flattish (hopefully) part a little bit past Sunshine cave as you are hiking up.

Would you have any other suggestions on where to camp? Even if it is a little out of the way. I prefer walking a little off-route to avoid any possible incidents.

Many thanks! S

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
10 Feb 2020 06:48 #75684 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Security in the Mweni
Hi Susan,
I will give an update here to the best of my knowledge, but since I don't live in SA currently I am not as active in the Mnweni as I used to be. The last time I was in the Mnweni was in 2018. Other members are encouraged to give input here too.

In spite of everything that goes on in the area, there are surprisingly few incidents, if any,  that involve hikers. Certainly no recent news has reached the ears of this forum. The only known recent incidents occurred on the escarpment near the top of Ntonjelana Pass and in the Kwakwatsi Valley where 2 individuals, supposedly representing the Lesotho defence force, where demanding to see passports and harassing hikers. This was happening over a year ago and we haven't heard anything since. See Berg Alert 2018 and 2019 for more details.

The junction of Rockeries and Nguza Passes will still see smuggler traffic, but I know hikers have camped there and have had smugglers pretty much walking right past them at night, but didn't have any problems. If you go sooner rather than later, you may miss the smuggling season before it kicks off. Personally I find the sanitation and litter around there more troubling than the smuggler traffic, and I think hikers are part of the problem.

I wanted to check up on the condition of Scaly Cave in 2018, but the local ladies were cutting grass around there at the time and I was so harassed for sweets as I walked by the turn-off, that I changed my mind and didn't go up to the cave :-). The cave is a short detour from the main path, and not very visible, so it offers some privacy in that respect. It does get used by the locals however (pretty much all caves in the Mnweni do) and I don't know what state it is in right now.

Some time ago there were reports of an individual that was stationed somewhere between Scaly Cave and the Nguza/Rockeries junction who was living in some sort of erected shelter. He may have been there to try and curb cattle rustling, but I don't know for sure.

At the Mnweni/Rwanqa junction you will come across another structure which the locals started to build but which has since been abandoned. I did have reliable confirmation that this was intended to be an outpost to try and curb cattle rustling in that valley too. There camp spots around that structure, but I didn't see evidence that these were being used much in 2018. However, the area up on the flat grassy plateau between that junction and Shepherds Cave is being actively used by hikers, and especially by the larger groups. There were numerous parties camping there in 2018 and so did we.

Shepherd's Cave has always been used by locals but in recent years it was being used by what appeared to be Basotho. I never did get clarity on what exactly was going on there. At times their belongings were left there. It did not appear to be in active use in 2018 but I do not know of its most up to date status. In my experience, this cave is typically littered with ash and other junk left behind by locals and can even be slightly smelly. This can happen with any cave in the area though.

Note that "Dagga Planters Cave" is none other than the real 5 Star Cave (see  Which cave is Five Star Cave? thread for details). I find that 5 Star Cave is consistently the best cave to use for hikers. There are actually several more caves in that area not shown on the maps, but I believe hikers can generally default to using that one. It does get used by locals sometimes and if you do find it occupied then you will have to use alternatives. The locals are also well aware that hikers use that cave. Note that this is the dagga growing season and you may see dagga being grown and there may be locals around who are watching over the crops. I don't think these individuals readily pose a threat to hikers if all you are doing is walking by on the trail.

I think the best rule to follow in the area is not to leave your gear unattended and to pack everything away properly at night. And if I had to choose between camping in the Mnweni Valley or the valley leading up Rockeries Pass, then I would go for the Mnweni Valley. Seems much nice to me for camping somehow and there are several good options. Hope this helps.

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

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
10 Feb 2020 08:25 #75685 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Security in the Mweni
I was on top of the Amphitheatre this weekend. Chatted to the guys at Witsieshoek, the Lesotho military has been told they aren't allowed to enter SA and that the Tugela River is not in Lesotho (their status as actual military is still unconfirmed by the SA military) - so they are no longer on top of the Amphitheatre. So we bumped into around 15 shepherds over the weekend (all friendly, no conflict at all).

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
Powered by Kunena Forum