THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO THE SOUTHERN BERG
EPISODE 3 - Hodgson's Peaks
Well, here's something to consider. A hike to Hodgson’s Peaks, either the north peak or south peak, or both. Heading south-east from the highest pub will put you on track for Hodgson’s Southern Peak, the highest of the two at just under 3300m. It’s a moderate hike of about two and a half hours to the summit, where you can enjoy some R&R on one of the most beautiful view sites in South Africa, before heading back again.
We had a wonderful experience a few years ago, where I was asked to assist Drakensberg Adventures with a Hodgson’s hike for a Dutch group from Utrecht University who had been in SA for the World Choir games. The World Choir games was hosted by SA and had 80 countries represented. This particular entourage had won their category making them the World Champions in their genre.
It was September month as I recall, and there had been quite a substantial snowfall so we decided to do the North Peak hike, which is marginally closer. The summit of the Southern peak is approached from the non-sun facing southern slope, and with the snow turning to ice it could make it somewhat hazardous to ascend the final section.
An early start is always prudent when doing these hikes, as the weather can start closing in in the latter part of the day. It was a perfectly clear morning on this occasion, with a keen easterly wind gathering icy claws as it swept across the snow clad mountains, so wind protective clothing was a good option.
We headed out across the Sani flats, taking a good few hundred metres to acclimatize, and one would be forgiven for thinking that you were about to run out of air. I’m sure the Chinese left with half the oxygen after completing the beautiful highways in Lesotho. The Dutch did handle it very well though, considering the highest point in their homeland is just a little over 300m.
After a few hours we reached the peak, where the phrase “seeing forever” is no exaggeration. Our packed lunch of tuna mayonnaise sarmies and fresh orange nectar tasted like a gourmet meal when surrounded by such splendour.
Our existence, they say, is just a string of moments or memories tied together to make a life. What happened next was going to be one of those knotted moments on my life twine. While the three guides were seated on one of the pinnacle rocks, the choir encircled us and started to sing. Already spell-bound by the beauty surrounding us and the snow that lay all around, the perfect pitch that carried over us and down the valley on the mountain breeze was certainly the icing on a perfect day for me.
The return hike was along the edge of the one hundred and sixty million year old basaltic escarpment that forms part of the Southern Drakensberg, the Uhkahlamba World Heritage Park.
Walking along the precipice and looking out further than the eye can see, peace amongst the turmoil of a less than perfect world descends for a moment, and we fleetingly get to understand the need to protect and conserve such beauty and wonder for those still to pass on its rocky path.
So in the previous episodes we've taken you up the Sani Pass, to the highest pub in Africa. Now that you have summited the pass and had some sustenance, what's next?
Places to see
What to do