Berg Alert 2018
I'm new to the forum but so far really enjoying what i have seen of the site.
Quick question with regard to security issues on Rhino Peak - I would like to do a trip up there soon, (end April beginning May) overnight in pillar cave on night 1 and then tent on top night 2. or would it be better not to camp on top on the second night and rather come back down? we will be a small group of between 3/4 people.
mykitchin wrote: This is bad news, especially as a group of us had planned on going up Fangs and camping on the escarpment near/behind the Mnweni pinnacles over the long weekend coming up! I'm reluctant to cancel the trip but in light of this incident I think we will have to alter our plans and overnight in Fangs cave followed by Mponjwane cave the following night instead. My feeling is that this should be fine, especially as Fangs cave is a bit down the pass and out of sight of the escarpment, but what are others thoughts?
Personally, I would feel fine in Fangs Cave though it's probably best to avoid having to go to collect water in Lesotho on the afternoon before the evening you are staying there. Consider Pins Cave instead of the escarpment tenting in the cut-back area. That said, the cut-back is a fair distance from the Fangs trouble spot.
I am no expert on Basotho culture but I would assume that certain families tend to their livestock in specific areas for generations. There may well be a family name that can be associated with grazing their livestock in that specific valley. These guys are all mostly youngsters and it is part of their right of passage to manhood - to do their time in the mountains. Normally in any initiation situation, there are elders or mentors that are there to install a moral grounding. Find the family or village associated and get them to install some disciplinary standard? I think this has been discussed before in relation to the last incident.
I guess somebody needs to find the time. It would be great to go up to the area with an interpreter and group of hikers with the sole intention of interaction with the shepherds and lessening ambiguity.
For reference, see the Berg Alert 2016 thread where other incidents in the area have happened. There were lengthy discussions around the security issue and what the solution to it may be. Much of this discussion can be read on the Solutions for the Amphitheatre thread.
My own thoughts on the matter are that there is a definite "bad apple" element among locals that frequent or reside along the Khubedu Valley, or in the general vicinity. Petty theft has been a very long standing problem in the general area of Tugela Falls, with occasional incidents of tents being slashed. The severity of these incidents in recent times escalated in April 2016 when hikers were violently attacked in the Khubedu Valley. These "bad apples" now seem to be on to the idea that they can attack hikers in this way. We saw a similar "bad apple" trend in the Giant's Castle area which was prevalent in 2004-2008. This trend seems to have quietened down. My speculation on what caused the Giant's Castle problems to settle down is that some of the attackers from the Easter 2006 incident stood trial in Lesotho. This at least goes to show that it is possible for the law to take its course with this kind of problem.
For the current problem we can observe the following (much of this has been pointed out by others already):
1) they happen mainly at night
2) they usually involve tented camping
3) they are location-specific
4) they might be linked to the time of year
Given that we are now seeing a trend (albeit over a period of years) my advice would be to avoid overnight camping in the problem areas. Sleeping in caves may offer some advantage in avoiding this kind of problem. I suspect that any side-valley connected to the Khubedu Valley, or any camping area which is easily accessed from there, is a potential problem area. I have attached a map showing the locations of incidents in recent years that we know of. This map may need to be revised from time to time as we receive more reports, or if there any corrections to the existing details. We are at the mercy of available information, so this is a good time to remind everyone to please post all possible information of security related incidents that happen in the Berg, even if they are very minor. Please also make sure that all relevant matters are always reported to the authorities. If a crime has been committed it is also very important to lodge a case with the SAPS - even if it seems that "nothing can be done about it". We need official reports to be lodged.
Be safe and alert out there!
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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We camped close to that location the night before. We had come up from Manxome and camped one valley South from Fangs. We didn't see any Basothos (or other hikers) at all, which I found a bit unusual. Doesn't mean that there weren't any, of course. We did see one donkey below Fangs on Monday morning and heard some sheep bells. But we were only three people in two tents, and we weren't particularly well hidden from the "highway". Not sure if one can draw firm conclusions from that, but possibly the guys heading South from the Amphitheatre are noticed, or the criminals don't live there permanently? We also had quite a lot of rain that night, which may have helped.
This is an account of what took place on the night of 03/04/2018.
My self and two friends set of on the 02/04/2018 for our Mini GT,
After a late start on Monday and myself not feeling so good by the time we reached Tugela falls, we decided to make camp there for the night and make up the remaining distance the following day,
On the 03/04/20178 we set off quite early not sure what time, but it was not late, a couple Km's from the Tugela falls we ran into a couple sheppards tending to cattle near their huts who we greeted and carried on.
After walking for the remainder of the day we decided to make camp at the location stated in earlier posts, at this stage we had not seen anyone since the sheppards earlier that morning, there were also no huts or kraals or anything in sight that we could see where we choose to camp. we also saw no military patrols at all.
After a hard day of hiking we were all in our tents by no later than 7:30pm.
We each had a tent, I had a 3 man tent(salewa litetrek3) and my 2 mates each had a Vango Mirage 2 man, the reason for this is we wanted to be able to put all our gear in our tents at night while sleeping,
At 21:45 i was awoken by the sound of my flysheet being detached from my tent poles, i then started shouting immediately to my friends that we where being robbed, when i started shouting rocks the size of bricks and bigger started being hurled at mine and my friends tent, while they were throwing rocks at myself and my friends tent they had cut my other friends tent and stolen his bag, At this stage we are in our long johns not sure whats going on and to top it off in a cloud.
My mate who's bag got stolen had climbed out his tent, My other mate then got out of his tent, i then got out of my tent, we were not sure how many there were or if they would comeback, We decided to abort our hike there and then packed up camp and was on the move again by 22:30, after an hour or so of hiking with no headlights as we did not want to give away our location, we got caught in a massive storm and managed to find an overhang were we spent the night, the following morning we decided to hike out via fangs pass,
Which is another adventure in itself,
At the end of the day it was not a great 1st thru hike for me, i did learn a lot about myself and my friends, over those 48hrs, and what i also realized is if you plan to do hikes of a similar nature make sure you know who you going with and can trust them, Security is a must at all times, caves or no caves.security must not be overlooked and don't let your guard down just because you are on one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world.
If you have not experienced crime in the Berg yet and you go often you have been very fortunate up until now, but the reality of this country is that it is only a matter of time before you become a statistic, Something needs to be done, i don't think speaking to the elders will make any difference, the people who attacked myself and my friends where trying more than just to steal our stuff, this is obvious by the size if the rocks that were thrown and the way my flysheet was undone so that when they through the rock it would not just bounce of my tent but rather penetrate the tent and do some serious injury.
I myself have thought about it and if i go back which will be no time soon, it will mainly be for day hikes, or i will buy night vision googles and walk at night and rest during the day.
This is their back garden and they are like goats on that mountain, don't feel cold, altitude does not affect them and can cover distance at an incredible pace, what chance do we stand?
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Could I ask how far inland you walked to get to Fangs? Did you follow the escarpment, e.g. the head of Ifidi or Icidi Passes, or did you follow the river valleys inland? What time did the mist come in? Was it misty when you stopped to camp? I ask because it would have been difficult to find tents in the mist which suggests they might have been following you during the afternoon. Is that plausible?
When last I walked from Tugela Falls to the Mbundini area in January 2017, we stuck very close to the escarpment - as in a few hundred meters max after Ifidi. We saw shepherds and settlements in every single valley and an estimated >1000 sheep. The extent of the basutho presence really surprised me. We were watched pretty much all the way, though not by the same people of course. There was basically no solitude. It sounds like, by April, many of these guys have gone down the valleys. Though not the bad apples.
As far as i am aware we within a couple 100 meters of the escarpment the whole time.
Anyway it was not cloudy on us when we camped but cloudy around us, buy the time we went to bed we were definitely in a cloud,
and when we were attacked we were also in a cloud, which cleared up a little buy the time we had packed up camp, but had pulled in around us again when we started walking, I do definitely think we where followed.
Regarding putting the GPS tracks on Google Earth, try the following:
which I have used successfully before. It is a free online tool.
I think it would be useful for us on the forum to see where you might have been followed.
In a post from Herman a few above this one, he notes that the attacks happen on people heading south from the Amphitheatre which also suggests that hikers are followed.
There has been increased security near the chain ladders which might mean that the criminals who once had rich pickings there have now chosen to operate around Fangs/Khubedu while still spending their time near the Amphitheatre so that they can pick up on hikers heading south. There are advantages to them committing the crimes near Fangs and not near the Amphitheatre since it will take longer for the hikers to raise the alarm after the attack, longer for anyone else to get there to help and is generally more remote so that shouting or making a noise is not going to help the hikers. As you point out, Udi420, it is not a big deal for the criminals to walk that distance themselves.