Dan

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Africa Chapter III: Trek Part I

Months prior to the trip, a Google search of ‘Top Treks in the World’ led Christine and I to pursuing the Drakensberg Traverse. This trek is through the Drakensberg “Dragon” mountain range in South Africa. They get their ‘dragon’ name from different rock formation features as well as from the wispy clouds floating through the mountains looking like dragon’s smoke. Another fun fact, these are the mountains that inspired Tolkein’s mountain ranges of Middle Earth.

After a couple practice packs, the bags were ready.  Probably about 13kg here, but we still need room for tents, food, and sleeping mat.

After a couple practice packs, the bags were ready. Probably about 13kg here, but we still need room for tents, food, and sleeping mat.

And we were off. We had to go through customs again since we traveled through separate countries - Namibia to South Africa.

And we were off. We had to go through customs again since we traveled through separate countries – Namibia to South Africa.

Once we landed in johannesburg it was a 4ish hour drive to the countryside and start of the trek. Driver

Once we landed in johannesburg it was a 4ish hour drive to the countryside and start of the trek. Driver

Lots of cornfields in the countryside of South Africa.

Lots of cornfields in the countryside of South Africa.

There was also this giant water reserve which was running really low.  There has been severe drought problems in SA the past few years.

There was also this giant water reserve which was running really low. There has been severe drought problems in SA the past few years.

After a long drive through Zulu towns, we ended up at the Didima Lodge where we would stay one night, meet our guide, and start the trek the next day.

After a long drive through Zulu towns, we ended up at the Didima Lodge where we would stay one night, meet our guide, and start the trek the next day.

The hotel lodges were Hobbit-esque.  This lodge, though in the middle of nowhere, is a very popular vacation spot for South Africans to see snow in the winter.

The hotel lodges were Hobbit-esque. This lodge, though in the middle of nowhere, is a very popular vacation spot for South Africans to see snow in the winter.

In the distance is the end of the trek - where we would be coming out of the Drakensberg.

In the distance is the end of the trek – where we would be coming out of the Drakensberg.

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THE NEXT DAY

The morning after arriving in South Africa, we met up with Garth and Otto our trek guides for breakfast, then packed our gear in the car for a 3 hour ride to the start of our trek.

The morning after arriving in South Africa, we met up with Garth and Otto our trek guides for breakfast, then packed our gear in the car for a 3 hour ride to the start of our trek.

After dividing up the food and final rations to our bags, we all had at least 17kg to carry.  From left to right, Otto - Christine - Dan - Garth (main guide).

After dividing up the food and final rations to our bags, we all had at least 17kg to carry. From left to right, Otto – Christine – Dan – Garth (main guide).

Heavy bags.

Heavy bags.

So it begins.  You can see the trail zig-zagging ahead.  A lot of people come here and do a day hike up and down.  Going all the way through the Drakensberg is a bit ambitious.

So it begins. You can see the trail zig-zagging ahead. A lot of people come here and do a day hike up and down. Going all the way through the Drakensberg is a bit ambitious.

There was a good amount of flora & fauna going up the mountain, but they become scarce once you get to 3000 meters above sea level.

There was a good amount of flora & fauna going up the mountain, but they become scarce once you get to 3000 meters above sea level.

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The small road straight ahead is where we began the day from.

The small road straight ahead is where we began the day from.

The rock ladders were the bane of Christine's fear of heights.  Especially with our heavy bags.

The rock ladders were the bane of Christine’s fear of heights. Especially with our heavy bags.

The Basotho were herders who watched their flocks as they grazed high in the mountains.  They were usually alone and all wore the exact same attire (blanket, gum boots, hat).  If you set up camp, some will come up to you and ask for sweets (cookies/biscuits).

The Basotho were herders who watched their flocks as they grazed high in the mountains. They were usually alone and all wore the exact same attire (blanket, gum boots, hat). If you set up camp, some will come up to you and ask for sweets (cookies/biscuits).

The trick is - fear makes you hold on tighter.

The trick is – fear makes you hold on tighter.

Top of the ladder.  It had rained all week prior, so streams and waterfalls were flowing (waterfall in background).

Top of the ladder. It had rained all week prior, so streams and waterfalls were flowing (waterfall in background).

We always set up camp close to a river each day.  The water in the mountains is clean enough to drink without a filter.

We always set up camp close to a river each day. The water in the mountains is clean enough to drink without a filter.

After setting camp, we adventured around and looked over ledges.

After setting camp, we adventured around and looked over ledges.

There was a group of 40 or so others camping for a night nearby... We were worried they would attract thieves (scavenger animals or humans).

There was a group of 40 or so others camping for a night nearby… We were worried they would attract thieves (scavenger animals or humans).

Drakensberg Mountain has DIAMONDS.  We actually passed a Chinese diamond mine around day 4.  Though, it is illegal to take or own an uncut diamond.

Drakensberg Mountain has DIAMONDS. We actually passed a Chinese diamond mine around day 4. Though, it is illegal to take or own an uncut diamond.

There are also a lot of copper deposits in the mountains.  Tons of rocks speckled with blue pieces of copper or orangey iron ores.

There are also a lot of copper deposits in the mountains. Tons of rocks speckled with blue pieces of copper or orangey iron ores.

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One comment on “Africa Chapter III: Trek Part I”

  • Joy Donohue says:

    Fantastic. Wow — very well explained too. Land I have never seen and pics are amazing. What a challenging expedition…Thank you. So proud of you and Christine.