Berg Alert 2016
I like the idea of improving comms throughout the Berg but unfortunately our radio network is kept private for security reasons. There are a number of new satellite-based products now such as Spot3 etc that have sos buttons. They do weigh a bit though although they are getting lighter all the time. The issue is battery life although solar charging options are getting much lighter now too. To all those techies out there - why not let us know about options for hikers that allows for instant transmission of co-ords for emergencies?
BobbyStanton wrote: The unreported attack was on a hike during the 13th to 17th February, led by John Pickup, from Royal Natal to Cathedral. They were camping in the Madonna area and in the early hours of the morning Natasha Williams was attacked in her tent by a Basothu wearing blanket and gumboots. The flysheet was pulled off and the inner tent cut and an attempt was made to roll the tent over. Food was stolen. Her screams awoke the others who chased the attacker off. It is not known if there was more than one attacker. Christine Pickup's report was supposed to appear in the last MBC magazine but may appear in a future edition.
These are experienced hikers, I am hoping they did the right thing and reported it.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
Great idea and something I am trying to figure out. I have offered "opportunities" to 4 individuals already. This will include training, a qualification, and potentially freelance employment. In every case I got a great big "yes thank you" smile only to be let down the next day.
Gkotzee wrote: Thanks, is a solution to the issue not to get Basutho guides for escarpment hikes? Similar to those offered by the Mnweni Hiking Centre?
I agree this is a solution if the right people can be identified. Sadly it appears I have no clue how to do that. Lol
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In the area where I live, I am used now to hike with my dog, not because of security issues but because that is a true good pleasure, for him and for me, and really you are feeling yourself very safe you alone with him in the tent, and he is not a Ridgeback. Furthermore he is carrying his own part of weight for his food and water.
I'm one of the guys attacked on the night of the 23rd reported by Jody.
I have been advised by concerned loved ones to avoid posting as I'm still in hospital and the ordeal is very much still part of every waking hour.
I think the discussions that we are having on this forum are relevant and that they could contribute to informed decision making especially during the planning phase of a trip. I don't think that there is much to be gained by disecting the actual event into "could have" or "should have" discussions. It has happened and at the time the only option was for survival. My wounds are testament to this.
When I am better I will be happy to engage on the topic and supply specifics that could be of value. I believe that this incident should be used as a springboard for more meaningful discussions with concerned parties and elevated to a strategic level where decisions can be made. We cannot leave the safety of individuals to chance and we cannot assume that this problem will go away.
Thank you for the support and concern shown by many and thank you for your enthusiasm to engage on the matter.
I look forward to working on this challenge collectively.
From the description of the Khubedu river, it seems that I camped at roughly the same spot over the Easter weekend and again just days before the attack, the night of 18 April, our first night of the GT. Its scary to think that we missed the attack by just days!
Over Easter we were very aware of so much more shepherds around than normal. As we walked they would come down from the peaks where they had been watching us, to ask for sweets and smokes. There is no way one can camp unnoticed, they watched us all the time. As they blend in with the surroundings in their brown blankets, one cannot even see where they are.
During the GT, there were less shepherds, but still quite a few daily. Luckily we had no incidents at night. We were always friendly to the shepherds and gave them sweets and tried to chat with them, however, most of them cannot speak english.
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
We have unfortunately have had to make the decision to close the Amphitheatre region to all persons, until the security situation stabilises. From the 20th of May 2016, the Amphitheatre region will be closed to all persons. This means that no persons will be allowed into that area, and will be considered trespassing (with possible fines) if found there. Patrols will be done to enforce this decision. The area is described as follows: From the cairn above the chain ladders, along the escarpment to Mount Amery, and back up towards Mont Aux Sources, and down again to the cairn. This is the area managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
We would like to remind everyone that all fees charged to those who pay at the Witsieshoek entrance gate and sentinel car park, are paid to Witsieshoek resort, who manage the land on behalf of the local community. Their land includes the Chain Ladders. The KZN Wildlife area (ie Royal Natal) only begins above the chain ladders at the large cairn, and ends near Mount Amery and Mont Aux Sources. Many people are under the impression that they are paying fees to KZN Wildlife when they enter Witsieshoek for services such as mountain rescue, path maintenance etc. - this is not correct.
A few points:
1. We are forced into this decision by the current security situation there. This is an unfortunate decision which we did not want to do, but your safety is foremost in our minds.
2. We fully understand the implications of this decision on those wishing to do the GT, guiding businesses etc. There will be a stakeholder meeting scheduled in June where stakeholders will be invited to discuss the way forward.
3. There is little to no buy-in from the South African and Lesotho Police services to take action about crime that occurs there. There is seldom a response to the area, no arrests, and no patrols. This is despite the fact that it forms the international border, and that life-threatening cross-border crime is occurring.
4. Due to limited resources, KZN Wildlife patrol the area (mainly over peak periods) from time to time but we cannot afford a permanent presence there. In addition to this, due to a serious budget cut to our state subsidy, patrols in that area will likely be further reduced, especially over peak periods.
5. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife pay for rescues carried out in the Maloti-Drakensberg Park, and at over R80 000 per hour for aircraft, a typical rescue can cost over R180000. Because hikers are not paying their entrance fees to KZN Wildlife in that area (as all funds go to Witsieshoek), in theory, no one hiking in the Amphitheatre area (or doing the GT for that matter!!) is covered for mountain rescue (unless hikers pay KZN Wildlife entrance fees first). This is because payment of entrance fees covers you for rescue costs as well. Although we still do carry out this function, the risk of these costs being passed on to rescued hikers is increasing.
6. We are in discussion with various services to draw attention and hopefully long term, sustainable action to the problem. Again, we reiterate that your safety and enjoyment is our primary concern. Hiking in the Berg should be the wonderful, safe adventure that it usually is. We all know the personal growth and spiritual renewal that this amazing place offers. No one can replace the experience that wilderness offers, and no one should have the right to take it away from you. Remember too that the right to a safe and healthy environment is your basic right, enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa.
A number of suggestions for the way forward are being considered, and we welcome your suggestions as well. These suggestions relate to the Amphitheatre area only for the time being but may well be good ideas for hiking in the rest of the Berg too:
- A guiding system is set up that requires all those camping in that area to make use of a local guide, paid by the hikers, to provide security to them overnight. Perhaps these need to be Basutho people! The user-pays principal needs to apply here. Nothing can be done without resources.
- Daily patrols to the chain ladders need to be undertaken to curb the crime there.
- The SAPS and SANDF need to conduct regular patrols along the international boundary and use deal with illegal immigrants.
We look forward to engaging with stakeholders on this matter.
Jimmy Carter once said: "Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries."