Mountain Musings

30 May 2013 07:58 #57099 by Philip
Mountain Musings was created by Philip
Does anyone else get philosophical in the mountains?

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?
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30 May 2013 12:42 #57102 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Mountain Musings
Interesting way of putting it :thumbsup:

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.

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30 May 2013 14:57 - 30 May 2013 14:58 #57103 by plouw
Replied by plouw on topic Mountain Musings

I think its great that 3 people look at the same thing and see 3 different things.


Just imagine we were all accountants. ;)
Last edit: 30 May 2013 14:58 by plouw.

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31 May 2013 04:41 #57105 by Philip
Replied by Philip on topic Mountain Musings
While I appreciate your comments on my 'flashes of brilliance' - and don't all 'flashes of brilliance' have a flaw somewhere? - the purpose of Mountain Musings is to hear more philosophical 'flashes of brilliance' from others!! ;)

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31 May 2013 13:54 #57108 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Mountain Musings
Lots of winking on this thread ;)

True - accountants tend to take the philosophical rather more literally than intended :laugh:

I had to break the run of winking smilies :silly: ...

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03 Jun 2013 06:41 #57117 by Philip
Replied by Philip on topic Mountain Musings
Let me bring you back to the main point of my musing - Are the Drakensberg cliffs or mountains??

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03 Jun 2013 09:56 #57119 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Mountain Musings

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.

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03 Jun 2013 14:18 #57123 by ASL
Replied by ASL on topic Mountain Musings
I have a literal take on Mt philosophy - Mountains cause me to feel that there is something bigger than me! I feel a sense of awe when I'm near mountains, it's quite a physical and emotional combination that seems to centre me completely.

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...
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03 Jun 2013 15:46 #57125 by thomas
Replied by thomas on topic Mountain Musings
The Drakensberg is a mountain range, defined by the watersheds it captures for two oceans. But Google “what defines a mountain” for plenty of suggestions on how hard it is to actually define a mountain in general. This also forms a point of contention when discussing what is a “khulu” or not. What sets the Berg apart, as I have written in VE a number of times, is that it arose from eroding down as a mountain range, not arose from building up (such as the Himalayas continue to do because India slammed into Asia when Gondwanaland broke up and keeps pushing the mountains higher and higher every year a few mm with its momentum). The great plateau of basalt that once spread to the Indian Ocean was considerably higher than today, called the Natal Monocline, but has weathered down more or less to the same 3000m level, while its mostly east facing edge (cliffs) has weathered back to present day Lesotho border. “Typical” mountain ranges are two-sided pyramids; the Berg is one sided by comparison (except the dramatic section from Qacha’s Nek to Ongeluk’s Nek where the Senqu River tries to bust out of Lesotho to get to the Indian Ocean (and will some day if not dammed = condemned).

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.
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04 Jun 2013 09:39 #57139 by ASL
Replied by ASL on topic Mountain Musings
That was very well said... I was trailing off the subject there

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.

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