March 6, 2023
While I was researching the Drakensberg Mini-Traverse in summer 2022, I did not find many blogs or information about itineraries, routes, or anecdotal experiences. Our expedition was to take place in the first few days of October 2022 - I wrote a full account of it here. Most of the resources I found online were posted by guides; they were extremely helpful but of course did not offer the full spectrum of information necessary for planning a trip ourselves. We relied on AllTrails Pro for a deeper understanding of the kilometre-by-kilometre breakdown of the trek.
The first draft of our itinerary looked like this:
After beginning the trek, we quickly realized the reason that people doing this mini-traverse tend to spend the first night at Tugala Falls. Apart from its absolute beauty and how grand it feels to share the landscape with a surplus of other campers, Tugala Falls sits at ~3000m and is a good place to equalize to the altitude for the evening. In my Drakensberg First Attempt article I go into further detail about the altitude sickness we were feeling on our way up and why this is a suitable place to adjust.
Therefore our revised itinerary looked like this:
As mentioned above, we began our trek during the first days of October 2022. There were no other groups departing on our timeline and so it was extremely unlikely we would encounter anyone else for the first three days of our trip, until we were to get closer to Cathedral Peak. The winter’s drought had not yet subsided with the first of summer’s rains; Tugala Falls was not actively flowing and the ground was arid. Winds stripped the land of moisture even further. Several days after turning around major thunderstorms finally gave way to rainfall in the Drakensberg again.
Had we hired a guide for our journey, we likely would have been shown better methods of obtaining water in such dry conditions. Unfortunately the water sources we came across were not sufficient for survival and we doubted whether we would find anything on the way to Rat Hole Cave for night 2. After approximately 22 km of total hiking, 5 km short of our night 2 destination, we decided to turn back around to Tugala Falls where we knew water was available.
Other helpful resources:
Items I wish I brought:
To close out this technical summary, I will provide the powerful recommendation that new explorers of the Drakensberg hire the services of a guide. That being said, there's a strong degree of type two fun in safely going our own way.