Berg Alert 2021

07 Oct 2021 16:24 - 07 Oct 2021 16:33 #77180 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Berg Alert 2021
Really sorry that you had to go through this, as has been said one of our biggest fears.  Also thumbs up to the staff at Giant's this must have made the ordeal slightly more bearable.  

Stock theft is a potential. Pity the attitude of being sorry didn't extend to not looting the tent contents.  I also don't think that guns are going to be the answer.  There is a financial incentive here which I would think these guys would defend, and PERHAPS would make no qualms about taking someones life.  I can't say definitely, but life is cheap here!  I think guns could escalate things, as they might think that all hikers carry guns.  Though I do take pepper spray with me this is more for dogs that aren't deterred by hiking poles.

I understand getting to the top of a pass and being so tired that you just want to dump your gear, pitch the tent, get water and something into your stomach.  We tend to be cautious about this threat, and will always try our best to keep in dead ground near the top of passes.  I think as Christine mentions, this would have been the right idea, but not always possible.  
Last edit: 07 Oct 2021 16:33 by Serious tribe.
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07 Oct 2021 17:47 #77181 by Richard Hunt
Replied by Richard Hunt on topic Berg Alert 2021
Christine, sorry to hear about this armed attack on your tent spot, thank goodness you guys were not hurt and some valuable lessons learnt for all of us. Most other countries in Africa send an armed guard with all hiking groups, and will not allow hiking without it, and SA is fast becoming like that. Giants Pass will never be used to smuggle cattle, because of the loose rocks/scree and the blockage rocks at the very top. Cattle & dagga smugglers will leave you alone if you leave them alone, so these attackers were def not herdsmen and on a criminal mission. Who wants to start a security company suppling armed guards for hiking groups??
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07 Oct 2021 20:18 #77182 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Berg Alert 2021

Giants Pass will never be used to smuggle cattle, because of the loose rocks/scree and the blockage rocks at the very top.

 

Caesar at Bush and Bundu once told me a story that included a dead cow in the river near Giants Cave - and I seem to recall seeing a cattle skull on that pass more than once, so I don't agree that they couldn't have used it. But a few passes top out in the same area there. They may not have been using Giants Pass - while I doubt a cow would get up Elandhoek Pass, they could definitely get up Lotheni Pass. Theoretically eNtubeni Pass could be an option as well, although I doubt it.

Re guns: I don't think that's ever the answer. Legalities, risk of shooting other hikers etc aside - how would you be planning on using a gun in the dark? Once you fire a shot, they have a reason to attack - they can procure firearms by robbing you, and know they may die if they don't attack you first - the situation will almost definitely escalate. Also, if you read Tommy Caldwell's autobiography (The Push - brilliant book, highly recommended) and see how pushing a kidnapper down a cliff hit him emotionally for years afterwards (and the kidnapper didn't even die), I don't think most of us would be emotionally ok after shooting someone.

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08 Oct 2021 07:58 #77186 by firephish
Replied by firephish on topic Berg Alert 2021
What a horrible experience, glad you guys are ok. Its a good reminder to always move away from well used passes, even if its a bit painful (I have failed to do this myself more than a few times).

It is a pretty strange one though, and i do wonder what that group of thugs where up to? Behavior and MO does not seem to "fit" with what we have seen from smugglers, shepherds or criminals in the past.
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08 Oct 2021 18:32 - 08 Oct 2021 18:33 #77187 by Christinejvr
Replied by Christinejvr on topic Berg Alert 2021
Thank you all for the messages. As I said to @Papa Dragon, they stole our gear, but they won't steal the mountains from us too. We will be back. 

An extract from an email by Ezemvelo: “And I’d like to reassure you that we intend to interact with our Lesotho counterparts to reinforce security in the Park in order to enhance our guests’ experience. May this not be your last time you visit us, as we try to improve security and convenience around these beautiful mountains.”
This incident is being taken very seriously by various parties. I am not sure whether it will be fruitful or not, but we can all do with a bit of hope.

I will keep you updated if and when there are any progress made.
Last edit: 08 Oct 2021 18:33 by Christinejvr.

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13 Oct 2021 01:52 - 13 Oct 2021 01:59 #77200 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Berg Alert 2021
@Christinejvr: so sorry to hear of what happened to you guys! Thank you for providing extremely valuable details and insights into what happened. These help us keep the record straight and enable us to understand the trends and make informed decisions accordingly. Good on you guys that you will "be back"! It has been VE's intent from it's inception to be a place where honest and accurate information regarding security problems in the Berg can be shared, and having first-hand information is paramount in that.

I wonder if your group has given any consideration to opening a case with the relevant police (which may be the Lesotho police)? I know this may seem like a task which will require time and a whole lot of perseverance and patience (which may well be the case!) - but it could be worth the trouble. My reasoning for this is that firstly we typically lack police records of these problems, and that while the cross-border channels that EKZNW pursues are really great, the reports they submit may still not constitute an "official record" of the incident and can still be dismissed by government officials.

Additionally, you may be aware of the really troubling period that the Giant's Castle area went through roughly from 2004 - 2007. One of the most notorious cases was the Easter 2005 incident, which really shook the hiking community at the time. According to my knowledge, some of the perpetrators eventually faced prosecution in Lesotho. It is my speculation that this played a role in breaking that really bad trend, because we are not aware of problems of this severity in that area for many years following. Details of the Easter 2005 incident can be read here .

I really hope this was a once-off incident and that this does not become a trend. Readers bear in mind that "trends" experienced by hikers in the Drakensberg may consist of less than a handful of incidents in an area in a given year. Even incidents that only occur once every year or two in an area could be considered a trend. That's important to bear in mind given the incidence rate of crime in other areas of South Africa.

It is good advice try and avoid camping near the top of passes. We have a comprehensive list of passes here - which, to the best of our knowledge, also gives an indication of the extent to which a given pass may be used by locals.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 13 Oct 2021 01:59 by intrepid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, tonymarshall, ASL, Christinejvr, wildingo

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