My idea for this subject is to start a forum for those 'flashes of brilliance' we may have in the mountains from time to time
Are the Drakensberg Cliffs or Mountains?
While on a Southern Secrets day hike from Sani Top Chalet to the well known Hodgson’s Peaks (3256m), situated either side of the Giants Cup on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, I was struck by how no two human beings see things in exactly the same way, no matter how ‘like-minded’ we might be.
That’s what helps to make us individuals.
From the South Africa, the Drakensberg is a spectacular and seemingly impenetrable range of mountains. The Zulu people call them ‘Ukhahlamba’ or the ‘Barrier of Spears’, a towering rock wall stretching for hundreds of kilometres, symbolised by the iconic ‘Amphitheatre’ in the Northern Drakensberg, featured in nearly every coffee table book on South African scenery.
But from Lesotho, the Drakensberg, because it is an escarpment, appears as a line of cliffs, the ‘Cliffs of Natal’ or ‘Dilomo tsa Natala’. South Africa, the world beyond, and especially KwaZulu Natal appears as a land way below, stretching as far as the eye can see into the distance. For many young Basotho, highways, railways, the sea, ships and airliners are something only heard about from others. The twinkling lights of the South African towns represent a lifestyle very different from that back in their home villages.
From the well-known Sani Top Mountain Lodge, the ‘Highest Pub in Africa’ the hiking route to Hodgson’s Peaks and the ‘Giants Cup’ entails approaching the area from the Lesotho interior, actually hiking in the Maluti Mountains, a vast ancient high plateau at the top of the Drakensberg escarpment. When viewed from this perspective the landscape is very different. What from the South African side appear as the two freestanding Hodgson’s Peaks, are now the ends of two ridges extending back into Lesotho. The Basotho people call the area Masubasuba, 'a place where there are holes in the rock'. If you are familiar with the area you will know what they / I am referring to.
It occurred to me that there must be a lesson in this somewhere! As individuals, cultures and religions we see the same things so differently. And in this is a key to understanding the many misunderstandings of our turbulent Southern African history.
If it was possible for all of us to understand and appreciate our numerous different perspectives, wouldn’t it remove the reason for most, if not all, human bickering, argument and wars?
Philip wrote: If it was possible for all of us to understand and appreciate our numerous different perspectives, wouldn’t it remove the reason for most, if not all, human bickering, argument and wars?
I doubt it - people will always find something else to fight about. The Roman's argument for trying to take over the world was the objective of world peace. People always want power for themselves...
I think its great that 3 people look at the same thing and see 3 different things. That's how new things get invented etc.
Philip wrote: Let me bring you back to the main point of my musing - Are the Drakensberg cliffs or mountains??
I would say the Berg is primarily an escarpment. But because parts of the escarpment have broken away to form free standing components (Sentinel, Tooth, Cathkin, Cathedral Peak, Mponjwane etc) the Drakensberg are also mountains.
PS. Your comments about people appreciating each others circumstances are noble thoughts. I would add to that by saying we are usually very absorbed within our "selfish" life circumstances and need to care or have compassion for people in spite of not knowing their circumstances. This to me is less about the law of Kharma and more about empathy and forgiveness for fellow human beings. That said, its hard to have the grace to do this...
Mountains are somehow defined by comparisons with their surroundings, not as absolute heights, as consider Joburg at 1600m high but is not a “mountain”. Most anything that shoots straight up for 500-1000m as do the Cliffs of Natal could be considered a mountain, but in Nepal they would be laughably small and inconsequential as I have observed. (I once dismissed the Himalayas as clouds when looking from a distance; they weren’t. They were THAT [incredibly] high.)
I agree with what Phillip is implying, however, that the Berg is mostly a one-sided mountain range, in both physical aspect as well as Meta-physical point of view. Few see it from the Lesotho “side of things” but that would be human nature I suppose: the tourists, the travelers, the explorers, the profiles, the accounts have mostly been one-sided from SA, and frankly not much by comparison has come out of Basutoland. It is the duty of historiographers and social geographers like myself to profile the “other” histories to account for all sides and realities and bring balance to the nature of things (“Mafadi” being one case in point). The name of the Drakensberg is another perfect example, a very wonderful expression derived from Afrikaans capturing its mystery and menace and a name I am perfectly happy to use (and what appears in print and maps overwhelmingly until relatively recently). Barrier of Spears uKhahlamba is also very evocative but “new” to the public (written, English) sphere. There is no necessarily correct typology, just points of view which demand, command, attention. Like the blind men touching their small part of the elephant, everyone is “correct” when they say I know what an elephant feels like, but no one is “complete”. To know the Dragon’s Mountains completely is to know it from all sides.
I do have a question about the dimensions/ descriptive aspects of a mountain. When is a pinnacle a mountain peak? If you look at something like the Dru in Chamonix it is a massive rock pillar and stands alone to some extent but I have never considered it as a full blown mountain in its own capacity.