Another early start this morning- ate a hearty breakfast and then away we went to the hike the highest peak in South Africa- Tugella Falls. Apparently it is 1/3rd of the height of Mount Everest at its peak! Unfortunately due to our time constraints we opted for the single day hike (by parking hallway up) instead of doing the full 3 day hike that starts at the base of the mountain.
We borrowed Wesley’s sister little blue car and drove through the heart of several Sotho towns (Pronounced “Sue-too”). This area was off the beaten path- and deemed by some to be unsafe for foreigner’s, AKA white people. Like a midget on a urinal I was going to have to stay on my toes. The cityscape was pretty intriguing. There were lots of little 1-3 man shops set up along-side the road offering various services- everything from car washes to funeral home arrangements. Some of the houses had rocks and old tires scattered on top of their sheet metal roofs- supposedly to keep from blowing away. The people of this town however, seemed friendly and happy from what I could tell. Once safely out of town we bounced our way up an old and windy 4×4 road for quite a while- slowing down every so often to avoid the catastrophic rock or pothole that would have been the end of our little car. Finally we arrived at the top of the road and parked at the small lot at the top of a valley- no one else was there except for one old man who sat inside his ranger station. We got some information about our hike, grabbed our energy bars, topped off our water, and away we went.
The hike at first seemed pretty mellow- winding up and down through breathtaking scenery of wildflowers, rock, and dirt. The cool crisp air reminded me of the Rocky Mountains back home. After about an hour or so into our hike things began to get real. We popped over a ridge and were greeted by a clan of wild baboons. These things look like small gorillas and have teeth so long and sharp they could literally rip your face off- or so I’ve been told. I snapped a few pics before the male patriarch began letting out a few warning grunts- that was our cue to leave and continue on with the rest of the hike. Another hour or two of strenuous hiking we came to the first chain ladder, shortly afterwards another chain ladder.
Up and over the ladders, we made contact with three other backpackers, who had been staying for several days at the summit; they gave us a bit of advice before continuing down with their decent. We eventually hit a plateau that stretched for about 2 miles before jutting upwards to the summit. Along the plateau‘s meadow we saw another gang of baboons off in the distance, along with several ravens, vultures, and eagles that had begun to circle high above us. Apparently our fatigue was beginning to show. Eventually we reached the base of the summit, and started our trek up the last little bit. By this point my legs were beginning to liquefy into jelly. However the juice was worth the squeeze.
The view from the summit was indescribable. Pictures just don’t do it justice, non-the-less I snapped some anyways in a pathetic attempt to capture its magnificence and grandeur. Along the way back we followed the top edge of the cliff wall which towered more than 3,000 meters above the nearest canopy floor. The sheer heights of these cliffs were unfathomable. It’s the kind of cliffs that make you sit down on your hands and knees a good 10 feet from the edge and inch-worm your body slowly over to the edge before peering over. It looked like the ground was an eternity away. One misstep and you would barely even be a bug splatter on the ground. Like a couple of school boys we tossed a few rocks off the edge and waited for some noise. About 10 or 15 seconds later we finally heard the faint sound of a rock shattering into smithereens on the bottom floor.
The hike down was brutal; my left knee had begun to flare up from an old volleyball injury- so it was slow going for myself, Wesley seemed to be in good form apart from his now lobster red legs (don’t forget your sunscreen folks). Eventually we reached the bottom and were on our way back to civilization.
Tonight we stayed at a place called Backpackers Amphitheatre. We didn’t really know what to expect when we booked it, but It quickly became our favorite place to stay so far!