For spectacular mountain scenery, you can’t beat uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site that encompasses several nature reserves. By Scott Ramsay
The Drakensberg is South Africa’s longest and highest mountain chain, and I’m always impressed by how wild and rugged it is. Dagga smugglers and cattle rustlers still use the steep passes to transport their merchandise, while the thousands of rock paintings in the sandstone shelters make it a particularly spiritual, poignant place. And the rivers and streams supply 30% of our country’s fresh water, making it one of the most important protected areas.
The clarity of water in the rivers of the Drakensberg is extraordinary. It is the cleanest water I have ever seen. I took this photo high up in the Thukela Gorge near Thendele Camp, where the river has its source. I was tempted to swim, but although the colour of the water looks tropical, it was very cold!
Didima Valley is home to one of the most impressive rock art sites in the world. Its location is kept secret by researchers, because there are more than 1,000 paintings in this shelter alone, many of them in excellent condition. But don’t feel left out – there are more than 30,000 paintings in these mountains, and many other spectacular rock painting shelters open to the public. Go to www.heritagekzn.co.za to see which shelters you can go to.
Drakensberg afficionados like John Hone, RO Pearse and David Bristow all rate Mnweni as the most dramatic and photogenic area. I spent four days hiking up the passes with guide Caiphus Mthabela [contact number +27 (0)73 603 9107].
These pictures by Scott Ramsay, the creative force behind the Year in the Wild, capture the magnificence of the Drakensberg mountain range.