What you need to know about the 2 day Amphitheatre Hike in the Drakensberg
The pick-up location for the tour?
The pick-up location for the tour is “The Stables Village Market” situated on 3rd Road, Chartwell. You will need to drive into the property. There is secure parking with security so don’t worry about your car. It will be safe. Click here for the Google Maps Directions
Why we can’t pick you up from you home?
Pure logistics are to blame. We have over 12 people to pick up. So you can imagine the nightmare of driving all over Johannesburg to the various areas to pick up over 12 people. We would not only have some grumpy clients, (especially the ones we picked up first) but we would only get to leave Johannesburg way behind schedule.
The departure time?
The bus leaves at 5:15am sharp. Please could you be at the Stables by at least 5am in order to give us time to pack your luggage and get everyone sorted. We know it is early and you would rather be cuddled up with your favorite teddy bear, but we have a tight schedule to keep to so please could you not be lateJ If you don’t have a car or your better half refuses to get up that early to drop you off….sorry for you. It’s gonna have to be Uber or roller-skates I’m afraid.
How long is the drive down?
Looking at about 5 hours to be safe. The last 8km is on a really dodgy road that can take up to an hour to navigate.
What time do we return to Johannesburg?
On average we usually get down off the mountain by say 12pm. The drive back takes 5 hours. So work on 5pm return time to Johannesburg.
What South Africa Adventures supplies?
This is what we supply on the trip. Please refer to the section on what you will need to bring
- 2 man tents
- Cup, spoon and bowel.
- Park Fees
- Breakfast on the mountain
- Dinner on the mountain
Do I get my own tent?
Nope. If you do not have a partner you are going to have to find a friend. If you can’t make friends we will assign a friend to you. And of course the pairing will be kept gender based. So no ladies… we are not going to put you in a tent with a complete stranger. So no hanky panky on this hike please. Unless of course a budding romance is fired up on the hike and circumstances dictate otherwise, we may turn a blind eye. The tents are 3 man tents but we put 2 people in them. See how kind we are hey? That gives you space for your hiking bags as well in the tent.
What about lunch?
Our modus Operandi in the mountains is all about keeping the rhythm and momentum going. We take breaks every 30 minutes for about 10 minutes. That gives you time to fuel upon snacks, energy bars, nuts etc.
What do we suggest for snacks?
You are going to need snacks for basically 2 days. Now don’t go stock up on heavy, bulky stuff. We suggest a mixture of nuts, biltong, energy bars, and dried fruit. And try compartmentalizing the food into small zip lock bags for ease of use and convenience. You may want to also consider a powdered energy drink or rehydrate solution to help with energy. Just bare in mind you are going to be burning some serious calories. And for all you protein only type, may we suggest you drop that idea for this hike. Try and get snacks that cover carbohydrates ( 60% of your RDA), Fats (20% of your RDA) and protein (30 % of your RDA).
What equipment would I need for the hike?
Ok, so you are going to spending 1 night in the mountains. So you are going to need to have the correct equipment to survive in the mountains. Sounds dramatic I know but safety first. And please note that although the day time temperatures should be pleasant, THE EVENINGS CAN GET VERY COLD. EXPECT 4 DEGREES CELCIUS.
These are the basic things you will need, but please check out the following links for a more detailed description. And PLEASE, watch the Youtube video as well. It will give you a visual aspect on what to bring.
- A 55 litre backpack ( it must be able to fit your sleeping bag, clothing, snacks, water, sleeping mat). A 35 LITRE DAYPACK IS NOT SUFFICIENT (unless you can fit all your stuff in it. And good luck with that we say)
- Sleeping bag that can handle 4 Degrees Celcius. ( Of course you can sleep in all your fleece jerseys if need be as well. A good sleeping bag liner also adds a few degrees to the sleeping bag rating)
- Warm fleece and waterproof jacket. Even if rain is not predicted, we always prepare for the worst. Getting wet in the Drakensberg can be potentially dangerous and lead to hypothermia.
- 2 pairs of hiking socks
- Trail shoes or hiking boots
- Liner Gloves
- 2 x hiking shirts
- 1 x hiking pants
- Walking poles (optional)
- Wetwipes/toilet paper ( optional. you can use leaves if you like)
- Thermal underwear to sleep in ( optional)
- Warm jersey for camp
What should the weight of the backpack be?
The guideline is not more than a third of your body weight. The average weight is about 10kg.
*Please note. You will be required to carry your own backpack which contains your sleeping bag and clothing*
What are the hiking conditions, terrain and difficulty levels like on the hike?
So, mountains are not easy. There are going to be some challenging sections that are going to need you to dig deep mentally as well as physically. The paths are mostly single track and sometimes hug the edge of the mountain. And yes….there is going to be a lot of ‘uphills’. But stress not. It’s not the mountain you conquer but yourself. We will mentally guide you through the tough sections to help you get to the top. But for the most part, the hike is pretty easy and a moderate level of fitness will see you survive with maybe a few sore leg muscles as a reminder of the awesome hike you just completed.
WARNING: We are going to be descending via the Chainladders. So if you have a severe fear of heights please could you let us know. There are 2 chainladders to climb down.
What if it rains?
So what if it rains you ask? Well then we dish out a big dollop of sympathy and carry on with the hike. Obviously you are going to have to ensure you have all of your bags and yourself waterproofed.
How do I go about waterproofing my gear?
Okay so the first thing you will need is a rain jacket to keep yourself dry.
What we suggest for your gear is pretty simple. You will need 3 waterproof bags. (Either thick plastic bags or the more expensive waterproof bags that can seal-you can get both from a reputable hiking or outdoor retail shop). The first bag you use for your clothing. It must be large enough to fit all your clothing. The second bag is for your sleeping bag. You do not want to get this wet!!!!. The third bag is for your sleeping mat.
And over all of this you will need a backpack rain cover for extra protection. And also a few zip lock bags to keep your cell phone and toilet paper dry.
Do I need Gaitors?
If you are asking ‘what are those?’ then probably not. In fact I have never worn them and I have been up there like 250 times. Gaitors are used to keep snow out of your boots. And rain. But I find my hiking pants cover the boots so they keep the rain out. And the possibility of snow is minimal.
Do I need hiking boots or are trail shoes sufficient?
Yeah you can get away with trail shoes. Just bear in mind that if it rains you are going to get wet feet. If you cool with that and promise not to bleat in our poor guides ear about wet feet..then we cool with it.
Water bottles vs bladders
If you are looking for approval on a bladder then you’ve come to the wrong place. I have spent way too much time in the mountains to see the disadvantages of a bladder. They are squishy. They are difficult to pack in your backpack. They leak. The mouth pieces break. And they are not easy to fill with water which is sometimes a freezing trickle from a rock. And you never know how much you have drunk. I prefer 2x 1 litre Nalgene water bottles with a wide mouth- Easy to fill up-Easy to drink from- Versatile. Easy to clean.
Do we need water purification tablets?
No. The water in the Drakensberg is pure. No human settlement and no animals to pollute the water. Sometimes you get a few floating things like grass and the likes but nothing that will kill you. And water purification drops are not going to dissolve the grass particles either. We have never had an upset stomach from the water.
Where do we get water for the hike?
There is pure mountain water from the source of the Tugela on the top of the escarpment. This means you will have a plebty supply of water . However…. there is NO water at the bottom. So please make sure your water bottles are filled up prior to the hiuke. You can buy in Harrismith on the way down if you like.
What about wees and poohs?
Okay so there are a few rules and procedures when it comes to this wonderful human experience in the mountains. First of all let us star of by telling you that there are no toilets in the mountains. Eish. So you are going to have to find a suitable spot for your business. The modus operandi? Dig a whole and a) burn the toilet paper or b) keep it in a ziplock bag and carry the paper out with you. We leave the mountain as we found it!!!! No trace that we were ever there. And of course you are going to have to bear with us in terms of where you can go. The mountain is pretty limited in terms of space due to the terrain. And privacy is also a big concern. So we will work out a plan on the mountain in terms of how where and how. All part of the experience right?
How do I wash or keep myself clean?
There are obviously no showers in the mountains. And we can’t fit any in our backpacks . So you are going to have to live with the fact that you are going 3 days without a shower. And there is no bathing in the rivers allowed either!!! Unless you are brave enough to jump in without soap. We respect our rivers and would like to keep them as pristine as possible. Having said that, there are no rivers really on the hike big enough to swim in. So…..its wetwipes and hand sanitizer to keep you all fresh and lovely smelling I’m afraid. And bear in mind you are going to be sharing a tent with a possible stranger so keep those smelly feet under control.
What are we going to be eating on the hike?
So we are going to be bringing our very own mountain chefess Emma, who has worked out the art of creating tasty and nutritious food in the mountains.
Breakfast: oats with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon.
Dinners: Depending on her mood, Emma will conjure up a really cool meal. We keep things pretty healthy. So no 2 minute noodles. She will create stews with quinoa, couscous, potatoes, onions, vegetables and a secret sauce with either smoked chicken or tuna. Obviously if you are vegetarian there will be a vegetarian version. We have your booking forms with your requirements so stress not. And please be kind to Emma. Cooking in the mountains is not easy. And we don’t want you to get the ‘special’ order
What happens at meal times?
You will be assigned a plate, spoon and cup at the beginning of the hike. It is yours for the duration of the hike. At meal times you present yourself in an orderly fashion please ( no biting, scratching or pushing allowed) and help yourself to Emmas delicious food. Buffet…. but mountain style!!! After you have finished eating, there will be a bowl of hot water for you to clean your bowl, spoon and cup with. Then of course……put them away safely for the next meal. You don’t want to be eating with your hands from a rock if you misplace them. At the end of the hike we will collect the mountain cutlery from you again.
It’s my first overnight hike ever and I pretty freaked out!!!
That’s super cool. In fact 80% of the people joining the group are also on their first overnight hike. So there will be a lot of people walking the same path as you. So take it easy and enjoy the experience. Of course there is going to be pre-climb anxiety. That is super normal. We have been taking people up mountains all over the world and it is normal. Let’s face it…you are on an adventure. It’s not meant to be predictable. Adventure is all about stepping out of your comfort zone into a world of uncertainty. And that is what mountains are all about- Uncertainty. We deal with whatever comes our way. Bad weather, cold, smelly socks etc etc.
Please be kind and understanding to our guides.
Sometimes things cannot go according to plan in the mountains. Sometimes there are things that are beyond our control. Sometimes decisions are made or change of hiking plans. We are in the mountains. Please be patient and understanding with our guides. I promise you they will be trying their best (sometimes under some hectic conditions) to make you experience the best ever.
Can I bring alcohol on the hike?
Okay so a debatable topic. We are inclined to say yes but in limited quantities. Not some messed-up skunk, class A, can’t-think-let-a-lone-move stuff. And no glass bottles please. . Decanter the wine or whisky into a plastic bottle- It’s lighter to carry and you can just squish the bottle when empty.
Is there cell phone reception:
Yes. On 80% of the hike. It’s not the best signal but you should be able to make a call or wottsup. But please be considerate to fellow hikers. No late night heavy breathing calls to your loved ones.
I’ve hired a backpack or sleeping bag…when do I get it?
If you ask like that sunshine, the answer is never. Foe the more polite clients… we will make sure the rental gear is packed in the trailer. You would just need to pack you stuff in a small bag. We will then transfer your stuff into the hired backpacks when we arrive at the start of the hike. Don’t stress. There will be plenty of time to pack. We do not deliver backpacks prior to the hike.
Music on the mountains?
Absolutely not!! We are here to experience the peace and quiet that the mountains so freely give. And of course there is the courtesy factor as well. The chances of everyone liking your music are pretty low. So we rather go with the ‘no music policy’ to keep the peace.
Should I invest my money in the stock exchange?
Will I make the hike?
Sure you will. Just solve the below equation and you are pretty much guaranteed of making it.
Find all the roots, real and complex, of the equation x3 – 2×2 + 25x – 50 = 0.
x= 2, 5i, –5i. First, factor the equation to get x2(x – 2) + 25(x – 2) = (x – 2)(x2 + 25) = 0. Using the multiplication property of zero, you determine that x – 2 = 0 and x = 2. You also get x2 + 25 = 0 and x2 = –25. Take the square root of each side, and