Monk's Didima- Purposeful Wanderings

19 Jul 2017 19:02 - 19 Jul 2017 19:08 #71892 by Papa Dragon
This last weekend, FlatDoggy and I wandered around the Little Berg between Monk's and Didima.

We had a couple of objectives in mind, and a rough idea, but not a rigid plan. Ascended the usual way, up Sphinx, BMC, and Hlatikhulu Nek, down to the Mhlawazini, and around the base of Gatberg, The path is quite overgrown in the Mhlwazini itself, if you go this way, stick in the river bed, if you leave too early, you will need to drop down again anyway, as we found out.

FlatDoggy needs to do a burn in the area in September, so our first thing was to do a bit of a recce to plan the burn...

We then left the contour path, and headed east along the ridge on the south side of the Nkosazana valley. With a bit of help from Google Earth, we found a break in the sandstone rock band, which was otherwise impassable. About 200m along the base of this rock band we found a cave, which I doubt has been used before. We named it Spear Cave, because of this rock, which looks like a giant upturned spear point: Our first overnight stop.

After a surprisingly warm night, we carried on along the ridge, below the top rock band, to the end of the ridge. Our second objective was to monitor pine infestation in the area, and sadly there are a number of pines in the smaller valley to the south of Nkosazana. A steepish traverse, and then a fairly rough descent, got us down to the confluence of the Nkosazana and Mhlwazini.

We crossed the Mhlwazini, onto the major path on the east side. Also lots of pines here..

Down the valley to the confluence of the Didima, and then a fair slog up again to above the sandstone rock band. We passed an idyllic spot with a waterfall in the forest..

When we got above the sandstone band, the wind was horrific. In places we had to hunker down, and were pelted by blowing sticks, leaves and ash. parts had been recently burnt, and the soot was terrible, blackening us, and our kit.

About 3 km along the path, there is a break in the rock band, and one can make way down to the next level, and traverse to the little known, and less visited Forest Shelter. A comfortable, very well sheltered and secluded cave, but with space for only a very few people, due to it's sloping floor. We spent the second night here.

We found this can in Forest Shelter, the straight sided steel can with the ring pull.., I wonder if this was when this cave was last used?

Unfortunately, there are a number of pines growing in the indigenous forest in the Didima Gorge..

We had an uneventful, but longish, walk out on Sunday, to our lift back to Monk's, on the Didima road.

A productive hike, in an area I haven't been to for years. Identified some areas for future work. We only saw 2 other people the whole hike, what we assumed were hikers on the path to Keith Bush, when we were on the slopes of Gatberg. The area between the Mhlwazini and Nkosazana is quite vast, and seemingly seldom visited..

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Last edit: 19 Jul 2017 19:08 by Papa Dragon.

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25 Sep 2017 11:51 #72188 by tiska
I meant to comment closer to the time of this thread being posted -

This is one of my very favourite hike reports on all of VE, in part because at a time when much of the effort is being put into making the Berg look smaller (FKTs, GT before breakfast, Mafadi in under an hour.....), this is one of the few that gets the scale as it really is: 1:1. And shows the value of just having a good look around.
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28 Sep 2017 06:55 #72197 by Richard Hunt
Nice write-up Papa Dragon. It oozes your deep love and passion for the Drakensberg. Looking at a foreword by Cyndi and Terence Jonker, page 6 in Encounters with the Dragon, he writes "In my twenties it was difficult to find hiking partners who were interested in not much more than rushing up and down the mountains" .............and so it is today, we have those that see and those that look.
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