Solutions for the Amphitheatre

06 May 2016 08:47 #68252 by Biomech
I agree with Richard's notion that this is a sticky situation, particularly for EKZNW and the Batlokoa. I believe that part of the solution will be found by a firm meeting of minds between the Batlokoa and EKZNW as well as very clear guidelines for hikers who are doing a GT or Northern Berg Traverse (or even a traverse from Sentinel to Mnweni - or from Mahai to Sentinel and beyond for that matter.)

These guidelines are something that we at VE could promote as VE is probably a very good source of information for serious hikers who are considering these sorts of longer and multi-day trips.

Whilst this approach may assist in sorting out who gets what and who is responsible for what in SA, it does not address the underlying socio-economic issues on the Lesotho side. This is a very much more complex issue, which also deserves attention.
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06 May 2016 09:38 #68253 by Richard Hunt
Surely EKZNW have channels in place to deal with cross border issues...those criminals who attacked the hikers and especially seeing they live within the small mountain communities of Lesotho should have been caught long ago. Everybody knows everybody there and it should not be difficult for the Lesotho Police to catch them. Have the Lesotho Police and the Tribal Chief of that area been contacted??

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06 May 2016 10:10 #68254 by GriffBaker
I think the issue is broader than just the issue that occurred in the amphitheatre region.
The VE community as a whole needs to take some responsibility here as the main source of information on the Drakensberg. I have noticed in my few years of hiking in the berg that the influx of hikers has started to increase dramatically. VE provides a very good free source of info to anyone in the world who wants to head into the berg.
It is the number one resource on the internet and is therefore directly responsible for increased activity in the berg.
This weekend we shared Umponjwana cave with 2 other groups. There were 4 groups descending Rockeries. Leonard and Agrippa from MCC told us they had a group of school kids of over a 100 hiking the passes for a few days. They have another big group this weekend and then the following weekend there are over 100 trail runners for the marathon.
Never mind the cable car debacle.
The interest from Ryan Sandes speed GT and Red Bull's massive pumping of the event also has caused renewed interest. We've also had dudes’ mountain biking down ridgelines. Guys cliff jumping in Wombat suits and so on.
The guy who made that beautiful time lapse video. I’m sure they used local guides and porters from Mnweni...but he is not even a South African and he is charging people 1300 UK pounds to do a 5 day photographic tour of the Drakensberg escarpment.
My point is that there are many people sticking their fingers in the Berg pie.
The Mnweni Cultural Centre is a community initiative but I can see no effort to keep caves clean or passes litter free with the money paid by hikers.
Everyone wants a piece of freedom that the berg can offer for a minimal daily fee.
So now we have this massive international community all wanting a piece of the Drakensberg but really not giving a hell of a lot back at all.
My personal opinion is that if you are using the Berg for commercial purposes you need to pay a fee of some sort that is higher than the recreational hikers’ rate. This fee needs to support some sort of Ezemvelo initiative to get patrols going on the escarpment.
I also think that if VE is going to provide all the info on the Drakensberg available to anyone that wants it, then maybe that valuable information should come at a price. Perhaps in the form of an annual membership fee that VE community members can use to fund some sort of initiative.
I don’t think the solution can come from offering the shepherds themselves some sort of employment or remuneration. They are youngsters who may only do one or two seasons. Also, they would technically be working illegally as guides on South African land.
The solution needs to be in some sort of a presence in the form of patrols that operate on the escarpment.
I would gladly pay a marginally increased daily hiking rate if this subsidised a patrol in each are of the berg. I also would gladly pay some sort of membership fee to VE for access to the wealth of information available, so long as it was used to fight for preservation and safety of the Drakensberg in some form.
My two cents...
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06 May 2016 11:21 - 06 May 2016 11:47 #68255 by Captain
@ GriffBaker, I couldn't agree more with some of your sentiments.

What I do find interesting, and trust me I am no conspiracy theorist, is that this incident will surely provide ammunition for those who are keen on getting the cable-car going. I'm a project manager in the construction industry and one of the projects I worked on a few years ago (early 2011) involved a rather high level individual from the City of Jo'burg Property Co. He mentioned over lunch one day that he had a few guys in the Lesotho Govt who were keen on building a casino near/on the Ampitheatre because they had information that the Cable Car was being proposed. They had a site demarcated and prelim plans were afoot to take advantage of the influx of cable car visitors once the cable way was built.

I'm not saying the attacks are related as this has clearly been an issue for many years. At the time I thought he was talking rubbish, but for guys like that, insider knowledge can be very financially rewarding.
Last edit: 06 May 2016 11:47 by Captain.
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06 May 2016 11:35 - 06 May 2016 11:54 #68256 by mayake
Hi all, I have experienced another exemple of fees. In Peru there is (was) a great trail (5 to 10 days trip) which is Huayhuash in the "Cordillera Negra" where a lot of years ago happened few criminal issues against hikers but that is not why people there implemented a fees system.
This mountain is divided between and belongs to 3 or 4 villageships. There are many valleys (4000-5000m asl) which are all year around pasture for cattle (sheep, cows, ...) with their shepherds and their families. As soon as you arrive by the bus in the one of two small villages at the starting of the loop trip you pay a fee. Then whenever you stop and camp in one the valley one guy or a girl of the shepherds family comes and chat with you and you'll pay him/her a fee for the night (per tent and per person)and they give you a receipt from an official receipt-book. The money is (should be) redeemed to the village board for development purpose. In these reserved places for camping in the valleys sometimes their are pits and poor cabins.

Problems maybe that pits and cabins are grubby (no cleaning and the waste & your ... fossilize to these temperatures and altitudes) and that if you hike the loop during 10 days that will be a bit expensive.

Just to give some ideas :dry:
Complement to the example of the Simien.
The scout is compulsory, not the guide. The scout assumes its own food and sleeping (normally). They cannot speak English and even not Amahric. They can be fully transparent and often a lot speeder and far in front of you as they have half more hemoglobin than you, but they are very very friendly. The Park Office choose him for you and you pay them the daily wages of the scout in addition to the rights of entry, daily camping fees, other services. At last you are lent a map of the Simiens.
Last edit: 06 May 2016 11:54 by mayake.

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06 May 2016 12:11 #68257 by ingmac
I will be very sad to see the day when we are required to pay a membership fee for VE. The valuable information provided on this site is a contribution from members themselves, for no financial gain. These members, in turn, glean information for their needs from other community member’s posts. This community spirit, in my opinion, will be lost.
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06 May 2016 12:32 #68259 by GriffBaker

My suggestion was more as a method that members could make a meaningful contribution to looking after the Drakensbergs interests from a hikers' perspective while regulating the information that is shared.

Maybe some other way then...


I think you are right, hikers are not the only ones that get info off of this site.
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06 May 2016 13:02 - 06 May 2016 13:04 #68260 by Ranger

Thank you for your thought provoking post, and indeed to all those who have replied on this thread. We are busy formulating a comprehensive response, but I can assure you that the need to use a guide would only be applicable to those wishing to visit the Amphitheatre area, and not the whole of the Berg.
Last edit: 06 May 2016 13:04 by Ranger. Reason: spelling error
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06 May 2016 13:09 #68261 by Papa Dragon
Any idea on the recovery of the guy who was seriously injured?

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06 May 2016 13:15 #68262 by Viking

If you are suggesting that Vertical Endeavour is somehow responsible for the degradation of paths and caves then I think you are shooting a bit wide of the mark.
I also don't agree with your claim that VE is responsible for increased traffic in the berg. I believe that most people will make the decision to hike in the berg before they start fishing on the internet for information. Obviously VE facilitates more informed hiking but the decision to access VE in my opinion is driven by a preexisting interest in things Drakensberg. An interest that for most people would not be extinguished sans VE.

I do agree with your assertion that commercial guiding and large groups should pay more and that this increase go to a separate fund.
I believe that commercial filming requires permits and incurs higher fees too.
The problem is that a blind and apathetic eye is already turned to large groups entering the Park, so are those on the ground going to bother to check whether you are off filming or guiding?

I would also like to make mention of Rangers comments about patrols enforcing the closure of the Amphitheatre. This seems like a contradiction to his earlier claims that there are no resources for general patrols aimed at protecting hikers and the park's resources in general.

In connection with patrols, perhaps an additional charge, not unlike the rescue fund, could be levied against entry permits towards proper patrols along park borders. Although that being said, if EKZNW was managed properly regular patrols would still be a reality. Surely patrolling falls under the job description of a Ranger?
Game rangers in the private sector earn very low salaries and work for 6 weeks at a time so the idea of sleep out allowance and 8 hour shifts for Rangers in the park is quite amusing. Guys like Bill Barnes and George Hughes used to patrol for days at a time.

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
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