|Charlie, Dave, Jacobus and I headed off in the jeep (being the only girl in a car full of guys was quite an experience...even though they were on their best behaviour). We had a nice drive though rolling hills of sugar cane and stopped in stanger for lunch (not somewhere to put on your must see list) and high tailed it out of there before I had a chance to take a bite of my sandwich. We arrived at the Drakensberg after sunset and almost made it to the site without any glitches. However, on the way in Moglie hit a little buck, I jumped out to see if there was anything that could be done, unfortunately it was too far gone and we had to send for a park ranger to have it put down. Poor Craig was pretty shaken up by the whole ordeal. We continued on and made it to our site and when parking Chris reversed Rupert into a tree (and the wooden spoon is returned to its rightful owner!!)
We set up camp for the last time ever (the rest of our trip we will be in chalets) and made a quick meal before heading to bed. We knew the Drakensberg was going to be cold but we had no idea how cold. I was so frozen all night I think I only got about 2 hours of sleep. The morning came too soon!
We had to get up early because the hike up cathedral peak is a huge hike and we had to be able to get off the mountain by sundown. We were told the hike would take between 9-10 hours and the sun sets at about 5:30pm. So we wanted to start by 6:00am just to be safe. So, I crawled out of the tent had a bite to eat and stumbled into the car as we made our way to reception. We only started on our way up the mountain at 7 and were all pretty uncertain as to if we would make it to the top as we were told that regardless of where we were we must turn back by 12:30 to make it back.
At about 200 meters it was pretty obvious that Sarah was not going to make it. She was wheezing terribly and decided to turn back (she forgot to mention she has asthma). After Sarah was sorted we continued on our way, the hike was hectic. It got to the point where it took everything I had to take just one more step, I thought my lungs were going to burst. All I kept thinking was that I had to get up this mountain, we had three smokers in our group, and if they could do it then I certainly had to. And so... I kept pace and actually did quite well. The view was out of this world. I focused much of the time on just making that next step but every once in a while I would look up and just be blown away by the beauty around me. We managed to get really lucky as we were going up the mountain on the same day as another group and were able to track our progress based on where they were on the mountain and follow their lead as they were with a guide. Laura started having some problems as she gets terrible vertigo so we had to slow up a bit to keep her going. I didn't think the climb up the mountain was ever going to end. Finally we came to a clearing where the other group had taken off their packs before heading up the last bit that required some more intense rock climbing. I was one of the first of our group to make it to this point so I was able to take a bit of a breather while we waited for everyone. The other group had ropes to climb the last bit and we were all so tired at this point that not everyone was keen to do the last climb. Jacobus and Julian headed off and I was bound and determined to get to the top, I was not going to climb all that way to "almost" make it!! I took off and Charlie, Chris and Craig and Mike followed behind. There were several places along the way that were pretty hectic climbs and one slip would have sent you plummeting to your death. These were the bits where the other group had ropes; we however just had to free climb it. I loved every minute of it though I was a bit concerned about how we were going to get back down. All that really mattered at this point though was getting to the top; we would deal with the rest of it as it came to us. It seemed with every bit of mountain we climbed the mountain grew taller before us. But finally we did make it to the top and the view was stunning. I really did feel as if I was sitting on top of the world. We took pictures and I felt like the adrenaline was seeping from my pores. I did a cartwheel on the top of the mountain to the surprise of most as we were finding it difficult just to stand. But, it had to be done! After spending about half an hour on top of the mountain we started our decent. I took my time and helped out some of the people in the other group get down the mountain. I overheard heard one of the guys in the other group talking to Mike, he was commenting on how I was the only girl that made it up the Mountain, I had to grin when I heard Mike reply that I was the only reason they made it all the way up, they couldn't have me get to the top and not make it themselves.
We finally made it back to where we had dropped our packs and had a bit of lunch before starting our decent. By this point my back and feet were already killing me but the hike was so beautiful that the physical exhaustion and pain didn't seem to matter. The hike down the mountain seemed to last forever. The total hike was 20 km and took us about 9 hours. When we finally got back to the hotel Sarah was waiting with cool drinks for everyone... I could have kissed her. I have not been so exhausted and yet so happy in quite some time. We contemplated having a drink before heading back to camp but decided having a shower before sundown was a better idea. That evening I was so happy to get my shoes off and my many layers on. We had a great dinner and custard for pudding and soon after I crawled into the tent and my eight layers of warmth.
The next morning we quickly packed up and headed on our way, next stop...Mkombati!