Drakensberg II: Tugela Gorge

Day 2 in the Drakensberg Mountains led us into the Tugela Gorge at the end of which we hoped to find the Tugela Falls with the famous Amphitheater. As we woke up in the Mahai Campsite with the first light at around 5:30am, the sky did not promise great views on the impressive Drakensberg scenery. Nevertheless, we set out hicking into the Tugela Gorge after a short drive at around 7:45am.

As we walked into the gorge, turn aufter turn it became more narrow and the rocks on either side became stepper and steeper. It already looked very impressive but we had no idea yet of what we would find as we further approached the cloud base that hung in the mountains.

As the path turned from a smooth hicking trail to boulder-hopping, the gorge also became smaller. Soon enough we had reached “The Tunnel” – the most narrow part of the gorge with just enough space for the river. A hanging ladder led the path up the steep rocks and around this section (see below). As it is the dry season now, it looked like we could also make it directly through the gorge. However, we decided to take the usual path – a smart decision as we found out later that the vertical rock at the other side wouldn’t have allowed us to exit there.

We kept bolder-hopping in the river bed for what felt like an eternity and I had to convince Gab more than once to keep on going. Just as we had decided to take our lunch break before turning back, the sky opened and presented us with a magnificent view of the Drakensberg Amphitheater:

The return to our campsite was just as beautiful as it provided an ever-changing scenery every time we looked back with the setting sun and moving clouds.

This 24km hike was in the end definitely worth the struggle, especially with the luck we had with the disappearing clouds just as we had reached the top. Although, because of the current drought, the Tugela Falls were basically not visible. We would still recommend anyone on this hike to push on over the boulders till the end of the valley where the most spectacular views can be found!

For more on the Drakensberg, read our post on Giant’s Castle or on the Sentinel Trail.

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