A few days at Drak Gardens

16 Oct 2014 11:46 - 16 Oct 2014 11:47 #62057 by Dillon
Last week I had the fantastic opportunity of tagging along to the in-laws Time Share at Fairways, Drak Gardens. I’ve only ever been to this area of the berg once before on a day trip, quite a few years back, so I was quite excited to do a bit of exploring in a “new” part of the berg!







We had fantastic weather for most of the time there.




First up, I took my lighty for a quick trip to the popular Pillar Cave. The map indicates 3km, but my GPS measured closer to 4.5km for the easy walk. Hardly a big deal, but when you’re promising a 4-year-old that we’re “nearly there”, an extra km or two can make a big difference. :laugh:





About half an hour after we arrived at the cave, another group comprising of 1 x grandfather, 2 x fathers and a bunch of kids also arrived at the cave with plans to stay the night. No problem – Pillar Cave has plenty space! Although there were a couple of intermittent drips here and there that resulted in at least one wet sleeping bag! :laugh:




It was a chilly night in the cave but we were well prepared.





This photo was taken around 8pm with a rather bright moon shining.

"Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous."

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Last edit: 16 Oct 2014 11:47 by Dillon.
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16 Oct 2014 11:56 #62058 by Dillon
Replied by Dillon on topic A few days at Drak Gardens


We woke up to a beautiful morning and soon set off on the return walk, which took just over half the time it took to get to the cave the previous afternoon.


The following day, I decided to tackle Rhino Peak. I read through the description in Best Walks of the Drakensberg and subsequently decided to get an early start after seeing it described as a 10 hour round trip. Hmmm :unsure:

I set off from Hermit’s Wood campsite at 6am and made Pillar Cave in 50mins. There, I quickly filled up water and exchanged pleasantries with a trio of German hikers who had left the car park around 5:30am, also aiming for Rhino Peak.

Above Pillar Cave, the path is less of a highway but still pretty good most of the way up the pass, just lost it briefly about 200m before the summit when crossing from the Northern to the Southern bank, which resulted in a short scramble up a steep grassy slope to find the path again.

2 hours 40mins after leaving the car and I was at the top of Mashai Pass. In my limited experience, this is the easiest and quickest route to the summit, besides Chain Ladders, that I’ve done.




I chilled there for about 20mins or so, checking out the views.

Best Walks then suggests that it is an hour in each direction for the 2km traverse out to Rhino Peak and that “unless you are a mountaineer, you shouldn't ascend the final scramble to the summit of the peak” :ohmy:

Well anyway, 20mins later I was standing on the summit. What a fantastic view from a nicely exposed peak! The weather played along nicely too and my wife and lighty down at the hotel managed to “see” me on the summit reflecting the sun using the face of my phone!












I sat around there for just over an hour taking in the views and the silence.

Halfway through the return traverse back to the top of Mashai Pass, I bumped into the Germans. They had made it up the pass nicely, but weren't looking quite as fresh as when I’d seen them earlier, down at Pillar Cave :D




I stopped briefly at the head of the pass to check Mashai Shelter. “Shelter” seems a bit generous for this mere overhang.

From the top of the pass it was another hour and a half back to the car park. It also turned out to be a rather hot day down in the valley, so the last km or two under the midday sun really reminded me why I prefer winter hiking!
Total round trip: 21.6km
Total Time elapsed: 6hrs 30mins

I had planned to take a rest day the following day and then maybe have a crack at Wilson’s Pass, a day later. Unfortunately, a broken front wheel (and my stupidity) on the mountain bike resulted in me landing on my head and limping around for a couple of days after the “rest” day.

"Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous."

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16 Oct 2014 11:57 #62059 by Dillon
Replied by Dillon on topic A few days at Drak Gardens


The weather turned for the worse on the last day and we drove home in thick mist and rain. Apart from the MTB incident, it was a fantastic holiday and I look forward to more hikes in the Southern Berg in future!


"Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous."

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16 Oct 2014 12:32 - 16 Oct 2014 12:33 #62063 by Smurfatefrog
Some great pics there Dillon, nice to see some green back in the berg!

Dillon wrote:

Is this at the first river crossing?
Must've been added in the last few months
Last edit: 16 Oct 2014 12:33 by Smurfatefrog.

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16 Oct 2014 13:14 #62066 by ghaznavid
@Dillon: welcome to my "nek" of the woods B)

I don't know about Mashai Pass being the easiest pass around, but it is definitely not the hardest. The bottom part is easy, but the top is definitely steep and eroded. If you want really easy, go and do Langies at Giants some time :laugh:

Wilson's Pass is an interesting one, I would recommend going up it rather than down it (my hike report from December last year explains why :laugh: ). My favourite pass at Garden Castle, though, is definitely Mzimude Pass. The walk in is very long (but the Hidden Valley is well worth a visit), the south gully of the south pass is quite easy, but very scenic and goes right under some really impressive cliffs. No trail. It also has the king of escarpment caves - in the north gully right at the top is the great Mzimude Cave (well actually 3 caves). The only aspect in which Roland's Cave beats Mzimude Cave is view (not that the view from Mzimude Cave is by any means shoddy) - it is a seriously awesome cave.

@Smurf: first time I saw those rails was when I came down Mashai Pass with Hobbit a few weeks ago. It is by the river crossing immediately after the confluence of the 2 rivers. I think that's the middle crossing.
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16 Oct 2014 15:23 - 16 Oct 2014 15:24 #62068 by Dillon
Replied by Dillon on topic A few days at Drak Gardens

Smurfatefrog wrote: Is this at the first river crossing?
Must've been added in the last few months


Yes, it was at the first crossing after leaving the campsite, roughly 2km into the walk.

@ghaz thanks for inside info! You don't get useful info like that from staring at the maps :)

Btw, hoping to tick off Bannerman's and Langalibalele passes within the next month or so. Strange, my very first overnight hike was to Bannerman Hut back in 1992, yet I still haven't been up the pass yet. :laugh:

"Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous."
Last edit: 16 Oct 2014 15:24 by Dillon.

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17 Oct 2014 10:38 #62081 by Viking
Replied by Viking on topic A few days at Drak Gardens
Cool write-up and excellent pics! Thanks for sharing.

Great that you took your "laaitie" along, getting the next generation keen from an early age!

Glad that you found the going easier than good old DB's book suggests!

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

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