Like in Monk’s Cowl, where we walked on our first day in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park, the summit of Cathedral Peak gives its name to the whole reserve surrounding it. This is where we decided to drive out to on the second day.
Having learnt our lessons about how strong the sun can get in the Drakensberg, we decided for two shorter walks to Doreen Falls and the Rainbow Gorge, where at least the second part included guaranteed shade.
The actual Cathedral Peak summit (3,004 m) was unfortunately out of the question, as there just weren’t enough hours in the day for us. The hike is supposed to take about 10 hours over some 1,600 m of altitude. With the sun shining for just about 12 hours, there would have been too little time left for breaks and no buffer.
Prelude: Coffee at Cathedral Peak Hotel
After a heat test in Monk’s Cowl the day before, we were a bit sluggish to get going. By the time we have completed the one hour drive from Inkosana Lodge via Winterton we were desperately in need of a coffee. This we obtained at the Cathedral Peak Hotel, which is a very nice and traditional hotel and could be a very comfortable base for walks in the area and the peak itself. However, we drove back to the hikers’ parking lot and finally set-off.
Part 1: Doreen Falls
The walk to Doreen Falls was easy and took us about 90 minutes. There wasn’t much uphill walking and we enjoyed some spectacular views of the main escarpment. The waterfall itself was pretty cool too. Perfect for a midday swim. It is even possible to walk behind the waterfall into a cave!
Part 2: Rainbow Gorge
After lunch we headed back the way we came, but then carried on towards Rainbow Gorge. On the way we saw an Eland that seemed to have been walking along the path ahead of us. The approach to the gorge was longer than it seemed from the map, but again the walking was easy. After about another 90 minutes of walking through rolling grassland we reached the gorge forest.
It was a little bit of an up and down including some mini-scrambles as we were making our way through the thick rain forest along the eNdumeni stream. The serene atmosphere in the cool, dense forest sharply contrasted with the open, hot grassland we walked through in the last day and a half. It felt playful, nearly careless. We also got very excited about seeing real-life lianas that were growing everywhere – sometimes in the most bizarre shapes.
After about an hour in the forest we had to turn around and head back. On the way we came across some more wildlife. First, we saw a troop of seven Chacma Baboons trek through the rolling grass ahead of us and a short while later two Bushbucks jumped out of the grass next to the path.
Coda: a baboon invasion
In total it took us an hour to get back to the car from the gorge. And, when we got there, we understood where the baboon troop we had just seen came from. From our car. Our silver VW Polo was completely covered in baboon hand and foot prints – all windows, the roof, the doors, the boot. Not a spot was left literally untouched. They must have smelt the stakes inside!
- Drakensberg: Feeling the heat in Monk’s Cowl
- A road less traveled: Injisuthi
- Notes on walking in the Drakensberg