Giants Cup Hikeathon Trail

Looking towards Cobham

The Giants Cup Hiking Trail is part of the National Hiking Way. The hike follows a well established and clearly marked trail that runs southwards from Sani Pass in the north to Bushmans Nek in the south, the full trail being approximately 60km in length. It falls within the Ukahlamba Wilderness Area (a World Heritage Site) and is administered by KZN Wildlife who provide 5 overnight huts along the route - at Pholela (Cobham valley), Mzimkhulwana, Winterhoek and Swimans (in the Drakensberg Gardens valley) and at Bushmans Nek.

SA Adventure Trails has introduced slackpacking to this trail for those who would like to walk the trail during the day and stay at comfortable lodges at night where all meals are provided for.

Black Eagle Pass

Participating lodges in the Giants Cup Hikeathon are Seaforth Country Lodge in the Sani area, Albizia House in Himeville, Briar Lea in Cobham Valley and Orchid Valley Lodge or Castleburn in the Drakensberg Gardens Valley. Hikes normally take over long weekends (Friday to Sunday) and include the best sections of the trail from Sani Pass to Drakensberg Gardens.

Private parties of 4 to 8 hikers are scheduled for departures in the spring and autumn months when the weather is predictable and mostly fine - outside of the summer thunderstorms and cold winters.

 

 

Flora and Fauna : Most of the hiking trail traverses treeless mountains and Themeda grasslands, with a few scattered protea species and patches of montane bush in the protected river valleys. Although the Drakensberg has rich grassveld during the spring and summer months, the severe winters result in a dramatic decline in its food value and the area cannot support large populations of animals. Many species have adapted to these extreme conditions and are endemic to the area. None are plentiful but all are interesting. Antelope species that you may encounter include Eland, Reedbuck, Rhebuck and Oribi.

There are about 200 species of birds in the region, including the endangered Bearded Vulture, Jackal buzzard, Black and Martial eagles and Secretary birds. Smaller birds such as sugarbirds, sunbirds and flycatchers are endemic to the area. Others are summer migrants to the region such as the blue and wattled cranes while several species including the fairy flycatcher migrate down the berg from Lesotho during winter.

Route Description

Hike Day Photos

Day 1 (approx 13 km) After a restful night at your lodge in Himeville where you will gather for dinner the day before your hike, you will be transported to the start of the trail at the bottom of Sani Pass. The first objective is to cross the ridge between the Mkomazana and Gxalingwa valleys. Ngwenwa Pools is an ideal stop for lunch on a sunny day or, if it is raining, there is a cave a little further along the trail. After this the trail gradually ascends through attractive country into the Pholela valley, crossing a suspension bridge over the river to the Cobham reserve. You will be collected from this point for your transfer to Briar Lea farmhouse in the Cobham Valley where you will overnight.

on the trail

Day 2 (18 km) : This is the longest and most eventful day and you will need to make an early start to get the most out of it ! You will be transported to the beginning of the day's walk at Cobham and continue the trail which ascends the Sipongweni Ridge past Tortoise Rocks before traversing its southern flank and dropping down into the Mzimkulwana valley. You will see the Mzimkulwana Hut (normally the 2nd nights hut on the GC Trail) nestling beside one of the tributaries of the Umzimkulu. A good spot along the way is bathplug cave, named after a hole in the cave floor through which disappears. Observe but do not touch the Bushman paintings on the cave walls.

Try and leave Mzimkulwana Hut after an early lunch in order to complete the remainder of the days hike which will first take you on a long climb towards Little Bamboo Mountain. On the top of the ridge you will find a number of small vleis (tarns) where blue cranes frequent and remains of petrified forests can still be found. The trail then continues down following a pleasant stream valley with tempting swimming pools, and finally reaches the tar road of the Drakensberg Gardens Valley where you will be picked up and taken to Orchid valley for the third night.




pholela suspension bridge
Day 3 (13,5km) : The first half of the trail ascends the ridge from the Winterhoek huts to the west of Garden Castle mountain via the scenic but steep Black Eagle Pass. Be sure to fill your water bottle before you start as there is little surface water along this section of the trail. Eventually you reach an altitude of about 1900 metres between the two river valleys of the Mzimkulu and the Mzimude and many pleasant vistas present themselves as you follow the contour path to the top of the Drakensberg Gardens. Near the end of the trail you will see Drakensberg Gardens hotel below you; follow the path down to the hotel from where you will be picked up. The Hikeathon ends here with the option of returning to collect your cars from Seaforth or spending an extra night at the lodge before returning home. rhino peak

Optional 4th Day Activity

Spend an extra night at Orchid valley or Castleburn or alternately use the time to partake in one of these optional activities which can be added to your package :

  • Climb Rhino Peak from Drak Gardens
  • Continue Giants Cup Hike to Bushmans Nek
  • Take 4 x 4 Tour up Sani Pass

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