All about our 3 day guided hike to Mnweni in The Northern Drakensberg
The Drakensberg is renowned for its various hiking routes. In fact there are so many incredible hikes that a traveller can easily get overwhelmed and indecisive when what route to go hiking on.
One of our favourite hikes in the Drakensberg has got to be the Mnweni area, situated in the Northern Drakensberg. The Mnweni Valley is situated just south of the Amphitheatre region. The advantages of this? It is only a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg.
The Mnweni circuit is also pretty cool as it is also one of he remotest and most rural parts of the Drakensberg. ( after the Injasuthi valley that is). The area does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Natal Parks Board. The area in fact still belongs to the tribal chieftains. This has of course some advantages and disadvantages. However we feel that there are way more advantages to this set up.
One of them being that all the park fees go to the local community and not a government organisation. So at lest the local people will benefit form the influx of hikers to this part of the Drakensberg. The area is pristine and is truly one of the hidden gems of the Drakensberg in terms of an overall hiking experience. The hike is a mixture of incredible views and of course the challenge of completing the circuit allowing that awesome sense of accomplishment us humans thrive and grow from.
The Cultural centre is run by some of the most humble and incredible human beings in the Drakensberg. The staff are so accommodating and are so willing to help wheee they can. The centre has shower facilities which is perfect for the last day. Nothing better than a hot shower after a challenging 3 day hike. The show also allows for a better smelling car for the drive home. Might just want to seal those hiking socks in a bag for safety sake though.
Where the hike up Mnweni starts
The hike starts from the Mnweni Cultural centre, situated about 30km from the town of Bergville. The road is pretty good. But expect a 15km bumpy and dusty sand road leading into the cultural centre. The driving distance from Johannesburg is only about 380km and takes about 4 hours to get there. Join our guided hike to Mnweni and we provide the transport. So you can chill out and take in the beautiful Drakensberg scenery instead.
The hiking route?
The hike traditionally starts at the cultural centre. The next challenge is an 8km walk up a sand road to the last kraal ( Zulu house) before the path meanders up into the mountains. We usually organise a transfer with the cultural centre to the Kraal. It takes off 1.5 hours hiking time. That time is well spent in terms of hiking into camp for the night. ( especially after a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg). The transfer also helps conserve energy for the trek up to to the escarpment. The first part of the hike is pretty flat. We cross over a river after about 4km and then head up for another 4km into our campsite for the evening.
The camp is situated about 5km before the start of the Rockeries Pass and affords some incredible views of the surrounding Drakensberg mountains.We set up a tented camp close the river and settle down to watch the sun set with a dash of grandads cough mixture. The second day is a pretty long one. We head up Rockeries Pass into Ledgars cave which is situated just below the edge of the escarpment. The cave can look intimidating from the top but is not to bad when you get down into it. The cave has an incredible view of the Northern Drakensberg including the edge of the Amphitheatre.
The hiking distance from the base of Rockeries Pass to the Cave is only about 10km but will take up to 6 hours. This is due to the fact that the altitude gain is over 1000m up the Pass. There are some incredible views of Cathedral Peak from the top of the Pass. The third day is also a challenging and long days hiking. We head on down Mnweni Pass back into the Cultural Centre. Distance covered today is 18km taking up to 7 hours to complete. The total distance covered is about 47km over the 3 days with an altitude gain of over 2200m.
How challenging is the Mnweni Hike?
This hike is definitely not for novice hikers or for people who do not have a moderate level of fitness. As mentioned the hike covers 47km over 3 days with an altitude gain of over 2200m. If you have never hiked in the Drakensberg before you must take into consideration that the paths are not easy. Sometimes they are single track paths that requires constant attention as they are strewn with lose rocks and boulders. The descent can be especially challenging given the loose shale type rocks that where hikers can easily slip down.
And of course….you will be doing all the trekking with a backpack weighing over 12kg. On our guided hikes into the Drakensberg we require that hikers carry their own gear like sleeping bags, clothing and sometimes a tent. Porters are available to hire if you are not up for the heavy backpack idea. In addition to all these factors there is also the weather to take into consideration. In the summer months you are going to get sweltering heat and thunderstorms. In the winter months you are going to get cold and possibly snow from time to time. The advantages of taking a hiking trip with South Africa Adventures is that we assist with all the planning and logistics to make the hike a tad more enjoyable.
Join our fully supported guide to Mnweni
We have been involved in guided hiking trips to the Drakensberg for over 15 years. Our services include all logistical aspects of the tour from transport, food, tents, park fees, guides and camping equipment. All you need to bring are you legs and clothing. Items such as sleeping bags and backpacks are also on hand for you to hire. So no need to go and spend money on expensive hiking gear. And of course there is no ned o worry about cooking. We have our own mountain chef who will conjure up one of the best tasting mountain cuisines you have ever had. And all of the food is healthy stuff. We have ditched the old school noodles and pasta sauce for fresh ingredients. We would love to tell you what is for dinner on the hike but that is best left a surprise in case our competitors get wind of what we serve.
Our `Drakensberg guides have been hiking in the Drakensberg for over 20 years. And not only that. They are actively involved in climbing expedition around the world from the the Himalayas, Russia, Kilimanjaro and the Andes. They have a wealth of experience to keep you safe in the mountains. They are also fully certified in level 3 First aid in case the need arises. Although there is cell phone reception in limited areas, we are equipped with satellite phones in case of an emergency. Having said that, we also have access to the emergency rescue services if they are required.
No getting lost
Hikers must never underestimate the Drakensberg. The routes and paths can be become very confusing if you do not know them. We do not suggest hiking in the Drakensberg as a group or as an individual if you do not know how to read maps and are competant at navigating in the mountains. Add thick mist and you are looking for disaster. We have led over 50 hiking tours to the Mnweni escarpment and we are not going to get you lost-An another added advantage of using a guiding company in the Drakensberg.