The Zulu word for the Drakensberg Mountains—uKhalamba—translates loosely to “barrier of spears.” And the reasons for that are clear to anyone who has completed the Drakensberg Traverse: a (roughly) 40-mile hike among the steep basalt towers of South Africa’s most dramatic mountain range.
The traverse does not follow a maintained path but a series or ridges, valleys, and animal trails. Hikers walk in the shadow of 3,000 foot cliffs, pass by rock art painted by hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago, and cross paths with local herders, many of whom live in small villages in the area.
If you go: There is no one path through the Drakensberg Mountains, but most hikers choose to start with the exciting climb up Mont-aux-Sources and traverse high ridges to Cathedral Peak (and to a well-earned stay at the comfortable Cathedral Peak Hotel). The trip takes most five to seven days, and is best done in late summer (March–May).
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