The Northern and Central Drakensberg area has some of the most beautiful scenery that can be imagined. The area falls into four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Berg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre Valley, and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views.
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Royal Natal National Park
This area of the Drakensberg is particularly well known as a tourist attraction and accommodation area. Situated in the Northern Drakensberg, the most famous feature is the Amphitheatre. Here the Drakensberg, for the length of 5 kms raises straight up to the sky, to a height of over 3000 feet. It is here that the brave can climb up a chain ladder and view the escarpment from the top. A further feature of the Drakensberg is the Tugela Falls cascading down 5 drops forming the second highest waterfall in the world. Although the highest waterfall, the Tugela is by no means the only waterfall in the Drakensberg. Indeed the Drakensberg has many splendid falls of interest to the tourist. In the 8000 ha of the Royal Natal National Park is situated the Cannibal Cave, where tribal people had to resort to cannibalism whilst hiding from the wrath of Shaka Zulu as he purged the Drakensberg area of his enemies.This area has numerous walks and hikes to challenge the tourist, from easy to day long treks.Tourists are encouraged to register their presence when challenging this area of the Drakensberg, as the weather can change dangerously quickly.This area also has a wide selection of accommodation to choose from ranging from modest B&Bs to Self-
Cathedral Peak & Didima Valley
The Cathedral Peak Area of the Drakensberg has splendid scenery with the Doreen Falls as an excellent example of a Drakensberg waterfall. Views of the Central Drakensberg can be had by venturing to the top of Mike’s Pass (accessable with a 4x4 vehicle) and a natural feature of breath-
The recently built Didima Resort and San Art Centre, a KZN Wildlife Project is well worth a visit whilst in this area of the Drakensberg. A 4x4 trail leads from the Amphitheatre in the Northern.Drakensberg to Cathedral Peak via the Mweni Valley. It provides a challenging drive as well as a remoteness that is unique in today’s world.The Mweni Cultural Centre, which provides accommodation, trails and guides, is also in this area as well as some of the most challenging climbs in the entire Drakensberg.
The Cathkin & Champagne Valley
Cathkin and Champagne Castle have peaks at 3149m and 3248m respectfively. These, together with Monk’s Cowl (3234m) are some of the highest peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains.
Cathkin was named after an area around Glasgow, Scotland by the first Scottish settlers in the Drakensberg. The Champagne Peak received its name as a result of the first climber to reach its peak taking a bottle of Champagne to celebrate his achievment and accidently dropping it. Champagne Valley is noted for its many different sporting activites, especially golf, for which there are numerous challenging golf courses.
Lost Valley & Middledale Pass
Finally, there is “The Lost Valley” of the Northern Drakensberg. Here in this remote area of the Drakensberg is a unique geographical feature, repeated only at “Die Hell” near Outshoorn. This was reportedly the home of a “White Tribe” descended from Piet Retief’s Voortrekkers as they came into Natal, via Retief’s Pass.
Of historical interest is a man-
The San people or Bushmen first populated this area of the Drakensberg and 17 shelters and over 4000 Bushmans paintings are to be found in Drakensberg caves and cliff overhangs.The Bushmen are believed to have been exterminated in the 1800’s by farmers and bounty hunters, although in 1926 a bow, quiver and fresh grass bed were discovered in this area of the Drakensberg.
The Giant’s Castle area of the Drakensberg is rich in San Art Paintings and a visit to the Cave Museum showing San family life with clothes, tools and weapons is extremely interesting. Near to Giant’s Castle is a Vulture Restaurant where birds of prey like the Lemmergeier and Black Eagle can be seen from a camouflaged hide. A remote game reserve was established in 1903 between Champagne Valley and Giant’s Castle near Injusuthi Dome (3409m), the highest peak in the Drakensberg.
The Boer War Battlesites
The Drakensberg Mountains form a backdrop to Ladysmith and Colenso, towns which featured highly during the Boer War. Both towns have museums of great interest to students of this conflict. Numerous graveyards exist in the area and tour guides of considerable knowledge of the conflict can bring history alive for the tourist.
The Siege and relief of Ladysmith is perhaps the single most told incident of the entire war, and was in fact a series of battles before Ladysmith was finally relieved and this area of the Drakensberg returned to British control. Tourists can spend many interesting hours visiting the Beor War Battlesites where heroism and carnage were performed by both the British and the Boer forces, and the names of people like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi, Emily Hobhouse, JanSmuts, Danie Smit and Louis Botha became household names and world famous later in time.
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