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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Drakensberg

Although everyone here knows the Drakensberg Mountain range and I had driven past some of it before, I have never taken pictures of them. During Gaelyn's visit, she wanted to go for an overnight hike there so I stayed in camp, taking pictures of them and the insects.

There are many hiking trails which include places beautiful scenes and waterfalls, with wonderful places to stay in the area. In winter, these are one of the few mountains high enough to get snow and for a brief period, people go skiing there. Covering an area of 240,000ha the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is dominated by sheer cliffs, deeply incised valleys and crystal clear rivers.

San Art
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is one of the richest rock painting areas in the world. Many enthusiasts and experts have searched for paintings in the park over the last 40 years. During this time 30 000 individually painted images in 520 different rock shelters have been recorded.

There are a number of prime destinations in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park to see these paintings and have their cultural and spiritual significance interpreted for you. The Main Caves Museum at Giant's Castle is an easy half hours walk from the Giant's Castle main camp and the Battle Cave is relatively close to the Injisuthi camp. There is a new rock art centre at Kamberg with guided walks to Game Pass shelter and in late 2003 a magnificent San rock art centre is due to be opened at the new Didima Camp at Cathedral Peak.

Mountain Biking
At Cathedral Peak mountain bikers can enjoy the awesome views of the Drakensberg as they traverse the existing network of tracks originally put in place for forestry purposes in the sixties. A simple 14km mountain bike trail has been established in the beautiful Lotheni valley in the Southern Drakensberg. Mountain bikers have the opportunity to stop at the historic 'Gelib Tree' site and on a warm day there is the opportunity to swim at the magnificent 'Cool Pools'. The 75km Giant's Castle Mountain Bike Challenge is a major annual mountain biking event. This event combines the majesty of stunning Drakensberg views with the opportunity for mountain bikers to pit themselves against South Africa's toughest mountain bike challenge.
Flowers
Yellow irises grow in profusion on the alpine meadows of Lesotho within metres of the escarpment edge. The 'suicide lily' clings to its precipitous habitat on the damper basalt cliffs and from uder its leaves to the foot of the little berg is a spectacular variety of flowers making this a superb destination.

Fishing
Kamberg Nature Reserve is the a most popular trout fishing venue for novices and more experienced anglers alike. An added attraction here is the trout hatchery. River fishing is found at Kamberg, Royal Natal, Injisuthi, Cobham, Garden Castle, Giant's Castle and Lotheni. Dam fishing is found at Coleford, Kamberg, Royal Natal, Highmoor and Lotheni. Dam fishing at Lotheni is reserved for the occupants of Sime's cottage only. Highmoor is reserved primarily for stillwater trophy fishing and is closed intermittently for several months of the year. This is arguably one of the most productive stillwater flyfishing venues in KZN and caters primarily for the more experienced angler in wilderness surroundings.
WILDLIFE
The Drakensberg has a diverse population of birds, mammals and reptiles. The more common larger mammals that can be found are Mountain Reedbuck, Grey Rhebok, Grey Duiker, Eland, Klipspringer, Bushbuck and Oribi. The main predators in the Drakensberg are Leopard (found in very small numbers) Black-backed Jackal, Caracal, Serval, Cape clawless Otter and Spotted-necked Otter, various species of mongoose and genet. Troops of Chacma baboons, porcupines and colonies of rock hyrax are also found throughout this mountain park. The Drakensberg is home to over 300 species of birds. Thirty two of the species are endemic to Southern Africa. Some of the specials that can be found are Wattled crane, Cape vulture, Bearded vulture, Orange breasted Rockjumper and Yellow breasted Pipit. The Drakensberg is also home to 25 species of amphibians, 18 species of lizard (six of which are endemic) and 21 species of snake.

CULTURE
The Drakensberg is rich in cultural heritage. It is home to 35% of South Africa's San rock art sites. In South Africa the San inhabited the Drakensberg from the late Stone Age times until the late nineteenth century. The San had very few material possessions and did not build permanent shelters, but lived either under sandstone overhangs or temporary grass shelters. They left some of the finest examples of rock art in the world. The most common types of paintings are animal figures (mostly eland) and human-like figures.It is truly an awe inspiring experience to view this rock art. Guided Walks to some rock art shelters can be booked at Giants Castle, Injisuthi, Kamberg, Cathedral Peak and Royal Natal.
HISTORY
The Drakensberg was once inhabited by the San people, also known as Bushmen. They were hunter gatherers who lived in caves and overhangs in the sandstone cliffs of the little berg. They have left us a legacy of their paintings on the sandstone cliffs and cave walls, depicting their way of life and the various animals and people they encountered. In due course, the Amazizi, a tribe of the Nguni race arrived, and occupied the river valleys and approaches to the Drakensberg mountains.

They were pastoralists and agriculturalists, while the San people never tilled the soil or kept cattle. As there was no clash of interests, there was peace between the San and the Amazizi. In the early 1800's due to a series of events in Zululand, the Amazizi were attacked by the Amangwane. The Amazizi sought refuge in the mountains which were occupied by the San people and they clashed, probably over cattle. A third Nguni tribe, the Amahlubi moved into the valleys now vacated by the Amazizi but they, in turn, were attacked by the Amangwane.

The Amahlubi were in turn forced into the mountains just as the Amazizi had been. For ten years the wars raged until the Amangwane eventually settled in the valleys, having disposed of the Amazizi and the Amahlubi. Four years later The Zulu King Shaka's troops attacked the Amangwane who fled westwards into the mountains. After this period of slaughter and destruction, relative peace returned to the Drakensberg mountains and the survivors of the various tribes came down from the mountains and re-established themselves in the river valleys. This alleviated the pressure on the San people who had been badly affected by these wars. Respite was brief as within ten years the arrival of the Voortrekkers and the English settlers led to further troubles. The clash over hunting grounds, private ownership of land, and the arrival of cattle led to increasing numbers of cattle raids by the San people. Eventually the situation became so bad that the San themselves were hunted and decimated by the settlers.

In 1849, due to the failure of various attempts to prevent the cattle raids, a series of buffer 'native locations' were established between the settlers and the Drakensberg mountains. For some years thereafter, raids, particularly in the Bushman's River area near Giant's Castle, ceased almost entirely. A brief resurgence in cattle raids followed in the late 1850's through to the 1870's after which the raids fell off sharply. The last sighting of San people in the Drakensberg mountains was in the early 1880's.
EDUCATION
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park offers a wide variety of educational opportunities in many disciplines. These range from vegetation and animal studies to culture, sociology and geology. This mountain range rises some 8000 ft. or 2440 m. from its base on the midlands plains with vegetation zones that reflect altitude and aspect starting at sub-alpine on the summit, down through podacarpus forest, grasslands, wetlands and valley bushveld.

The ancient rocks of basalt and sandstone and the shale beds lie exposed with the earths history of upliftment and erosion revealed for the student. All these characteristics have resulted in a host of habitats and consequent diversity of plant and animal life. The incredibly rich rock art heritage from the San people and the interesting history of the Nguni peoples` movements and conflicts that has resulted in the current tribal occupation along the length of the Drakensberg, plus the interaction of the Zulu and Sotho speaking people on the eastern and western sides of this " barrier of spears" makes for fascinating cultural studies. It is a World Heritage Site and a Ramsar Site. There are education centres at Royal Natal and at Wagendrift from which the central Drakensberg is easily accessible within one hour on good roads.

38 comments:

Tony nile life said...

Last post of the moth.lat night Pam sent a photo of the cat sleeping in the bird bath in what little sun they get in Wales. and looking through my photos being a bit nostalgic, I am sure its the same species as the one I have on my website in the garden photos after the cats, flies, snail and then the moth.
http://www.myegypt.co.uk/index.php?f=data_home&a=9

Kcalpesh said...

The history about the place and the San people is very interesting! Beautiful shots!

Pixellicious Photos

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

So many memories of wonderful holidays including our honeymoon. Thanks for this one. Diane

Firefly said...

I have been to the Drakensburg only once and that was on my matric tour *mumble mumble* years ago. We have booked to go camping in the Natal Royal National Park in the Mahai Camp for 10 days after Christmas. I can't wait (and neither can my camera)

Gaelyn said...

Oh Joan, you make me long for the green warmth of the Bergs. Such an incredible place. Sure wish I'd seen some of the rock art. Next visit for sure. Wagendrift was also pretty, didn't realize there was an educational center there.
I can understand why people fought to live in these mountains.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Joan, going back to the beautiful moth you put on the blog March 24 2010 which you said was not in your book. It is Family Thyretidae, name: Automolis Lateritia. Common name: Laterite Matron. Hope this helps. Diane

Craver Vii said...

All that information, and I didn't find even one thing about fire breathing drakens. ;-)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Those pictures of the cats are really amusing Tony. What a place to curl up and sleep. :)

You are right, that looks like the same moth as the one below but yours is a better picture of it. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Kcalpesh. Not having been to the area before, it was a great trip and I was pleased to learn some of this history.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What a great place to spend a honeymoon Diane. When Gaelyn and I were there it was very overcast and rainy but I guess it was that time of year.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! Something tells me that first trip was not fun Jonker. I am sure you will enjoy this next one. Even though the weather was not quite to my liking, I enjoyed the few days there. I guess when a person is hiking them, the cooler weather would be greatly appreciated.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I must agree with all you said Gaelyn. Those mountains are such a contrast to where you work too. Well next time we can explore a bit more.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks so much for this Diane. It is greatly appreciated.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

That was really dumb of me to leave them out Craver. So sorry about that!! LOL!!

Philip said...

I must say I have never been here too such a beautiful place that I have never seen in my own country bad boy! :) nice shots Joan 300 species of Birds WOW ! well Your Trip to the Kruger with my wife will have to wait LoL !!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I have been lucky to have traveled through most of our lovely country but there are places I sort of cruised by and only saw in the distance so I am just as bad Philip. It is not so far to travel and can easily do it in a week so make a plan, maybe for the next anniversary. :)

Okay, I will put her and my trip on hold for now, but not for long. :)

troutbirder said...

Oh my. Sounds like my kind of place. Beautiful vistas, interesting history not to mention TROUT. I'll bring my flyrod. :)

Andrea said...

Great Landscapes!
I have to come back on this post to read everything.

Bye

Zane said...

I have never been to the Drakensberg. It pays to view decent blogs like yours for ideas and travel destinations. Maybe the winter is really cold and the mountains get snow - maybe worthwhile to venture to the Drakensberg some time soon.

young-ecletic-encounters said...

I just sat down and read all of the posts currently on your blog and as usual I am thouroghly impressed with your photography skills and your research skills. Such an excellent blog, I've even recommended it to my grandson who loves learning about al different kinds of things. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and skills. Johnina :^D

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You would really love it there TB but we do have better trouting streams near to where I live. If you and Mrs TB ever came over, I would take you there.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Andrea. There was so much of interest I found there, I decided to put all the info on. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for your kind words Zane. Just before Woster you get a long tunnel going through the mountain and it is just as beautiful there. The wintertime is freezing and small streams tend to form and run douwn making it look fantastic.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

That is very kind of you Johnina. I am pleased that you enjoy my blog and hope your grandson does too. Please feel free to ask questions if you ever have some.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Joan: What a neat description of a wonderful expanse. I do love mountain terrain.

The Early Birder said...

Heard the name but now I am much better informed. Thanks Joan for sharing its history and the fabulous views. FAB.

JM said...

The beautiful famous mountains! Hope to see them with my own eyes someday...

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Good fishing there too Tom. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are welcome Frank. Glad you enjoyed the post.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I hope you do too Jose. There is much more to see here so you definitely need another visit.

A human kind of human said...

This is where I want to pitch my tent! (lol) Beautiful as usual.

Rambling Woods said...

and then the English settlers come in and nothing is for the better.. Interesting post...

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

It was so great there Anne. A pity the weather did not play its part but on the other hand, the cooler days made it nice for walking and hiking. Thanks.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Michelle.

Mary said...

Sounds like an amazing place.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

It is Mary and very beautiful.

cameravoyages said...

We went on vacation here twice when I was a child in the early '70's. I have fond memories of the hikes in the mountains, the soaring lammergeiers, the earth-bound dassies, and the little freshwater crabs. Thanks for the memories and the great background information on this special location.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I was not aware that you lived here Adrian. I can see from your comment that you really loved the trips to the mountains and I have to agree with you, it is a wonderful place.