On the roof of Southern Africa-The mighty Drakensberg Mountains
In the never ending process of creating the Drakensberg,the principal tools of nature have always been fire, water and wind. The combined efforts of these elements are clearly evident and even today, this gigantic mass of rock is still in the throes of construction.
How the Drakensberg came to be-100 million years ago
The Drakensberg came to be due to an astonishing change in the mood of mother nature. For more than 100 million years, the face of Southern Africa had been a vast swamp with forests dripping with rain and a haunt of dinosaurs and wierd monsters. And then, just recently, 180 million years ago, the Drakensberg began its drasric change into a new world.
The most majestically beautiful of all geological rock formations.
Now of course, we where not there so we don’ thave proof. But we reckon from the research we have done that the wind direction changed. This resulted in the rains being swept away. Swamps dried up, forests died and dinosuars became fossilized, buried in mud which later turned to shales and sand as it dried and compressed. This sand was rich in colour, oxidized by iron into shades of yellow, orange and red. Nature then played with the sand, using wind to pile it up above the level of the former swamps and creating one of the most majestically beautiful of all geological rock formations-cave sandstone about 100m thick.
25 million years later
As was the norm in those volatile days, another profound change occured. Nature decided to abandon wind ( which you would never believe if you have been hiking in the drakensberg) and replace its main tool of creation wit fire. Through great fissures in the mantle of the Earth, a vast mass of basltic lava surges out, covering much of the surface to a depth of over 1000m, with a solid dark block reaching up to 4000m-thenroof of southern Africa.
Here comes the rain again…
On this ‘roof’ fell the rains. Mother Nature was now using water to erode deep valleys into the basalt. Much of the rain originated from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The mass of basalt began to dwindle, leaving a myriad of unusual shapes and features, sculpted on a landscape of balancing rocks, pinnacles, cliffs, rock shelters, overhangs and deep caves.
All good on the Easten Front old chap?
The eastern side of the lava retreated before onslaught of the weather eroding backwards at a rate of about 1m evry thousand years, leaving exposed beneath it an undulating, fertile scar 150km wide-the present sandstone landscape of the Natal.
Where for art thou basalt?
The remnant of the original mass of basalt still forms the roof of southern africa. This is known as the highlands of Lesotho. Veiwed from the east, the basalt mass resembles a high wall, ( known as the Amphitheatre) irregular along its summit, but with no gaps. The summit is a high-lying moorland, cut by valleys and gorges but generally maintaining its altitude for 200km westwards until the entire basalt mass falls away abrubtly into the central plains with a precipitous edge almost as spectacular on the western side as the eastern side.
The barrier of spears
The zulu speaking nation in the east call the Drakensberg, uKhahlamba-The barrier of spears. The basalt is crumbly and the run-off water from the summit has eroded spectacualr gorges into its edge, while landslides have etched even sharper and steeper precipices. Streams cascade into these gorges. There are deep pools, dark caves and many places so remote from the outside world taht they can easily be imagnined to be the home of spirits and monsters long forgotten by time.
Here be Dragons
Europeans named the southern part of the basalt massif, the Drakensberg. This means ‘dragon mountains’ and of course, they assumed these mountains where the natural home for these creatures. There where even accounts of people seeing the dragons flying in the mist through the spires and towers of rock.
Throughout the Drakensberg can be heard the deep rumblings of thunderstorms, the rush of winds down ancient gorges, strage echoes, whispers and murmers.Here too are the hideways of rustlers and renegades, caves with paintings of people long vanished. An intriguing setting for the abode of the dragon.
Hiking in the Drakensberg
If you are looking at hiking in the Drakensberg, we offer guided hikes on most of the popular and less popular routes. Thes include, Cathedral peak, Champagne Castle, the Amphitheatre, Mafadi, the Mini Traverse and many other routes. ( both on the escaprment and in the lower berg).