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Giant’s Cup Trail Running Tour

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In Himeville

-29.7486, 29.5124

48km, 48hours, Intermediate - Hard

+27 84 240 7277 www.active-escapes.co.za

Configuration: These are point-to-point routes

General Information: Gravel roads, hiking trails, steep climbs, contour paths, long grass and loose gravel. There are ground markers along the trails. Day one covers 20.5km while you have the option to reduce the 27.5km of day two. Customised variations on this tour can be made. The best time to run here is during the winter months (April–August) when the weather is stable.

There are no facilities en route, but you will have full amenities at the overnight stops. Cell phone reception is intermittent over the two days.

About

The southern Drakensberg is an alpine landscape of dramatic beauty just off the beaten tourist track. There are several nature reserves and numerous crystal clear lakes and rivers. The Sani Pass (the highest pass between SA and Lesotho) is one of the obvious highlights.

Due to its mountainous location, the trail is undulating and steep in sections, but generally follows contour paths and switchbacks onto the flat, higher-lying plateaus. This is a hiking trail and is thus not designed or maintained with runners in mind. Be prepared to deal with long grass, loose ground and erosion berms in parts.

The Giants Cup Trail is a renowned 5-day hiking trail that is accessible by road at a few key points. Runners will be able to complete the full distance over two days. The standard tour package includes two nights' accommodation, all meals, pick-up and drop-offs and luggage transfers.

The trail run starts at Cobham Reserve. Day one covers 20.5km up onto eSiphongweni Ridge, where you will pass the giant Tortoise Rock en route to Bathplug Cave. After crossing the suspension bridge at Mzimkhulwana, it is a steep climb to the plateau between the two Bamboo Mountains. The incredible views across the Drak Gardens Valley are ample reward.

Runners descend along the Killiecrankie Stream to exit on the Drak Gardens road and run the last 4km to the second night’s lodging at the foot of the majestic Garden Castle peak.

Day two sees two trail options, depending on your group’s fitness. The longer distance of 27.5 km includes 8km of country road taking runners to the entrance of Drak Gardens Hotel. Otherwise groups can opt to be transferred along the road to the hotel or trail head. This route traverses the remote Sunken Valley to Bushman’s Nek via the famous Langalibalele Cave.

The tour finishes with lunch at Bushmen’s Nek hotel. One night's accommodation in Himeville is included, plus another night at the Garden Castle Guest Lodge. 

Take Exit 99 off the N3 and head towards Underberg on the R617 for 112km. At the Shell garage, turn right onto Arbuckle Road and travel approximately 5km to the Himeville Arms Hotel.

uKhahlamba Drakensberg

KwaZulu Natal

About

The Drakensberg mountain range begins its rise in the Eastern Cape, running along the length of KwaZulu-Natal’s western border. It also extends in fits and starts into Mpumalanga and covers a vast area stretching into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

It is generally agreed that the ‘Dragon mountains’ got their name from their ragged, irregular silhouette that looks like a dragon’s back from a distance. It was so-named by Dutch settlers. Another, albeit less popular, explanation is that early settlers were told by the locals that dragons lived in the mountains. This theory was given a bit more credence when numerous dinosaur footprints were discovered in the Eastern Free State.

The Zulu tribe has given the mountains its own, equally descriptive name – Ukhahlamba, or ‘the barrier of spears’. Whatever the language and whatever the explanation, there is no argument that the Drakensberg mountains are evocative and mysterious. It is a wild and beautiful area that can change from sunny to snowy in mere moments.

In 2001 a park was established that encompasses a huge tract of the mountains. Known as the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, it covers 13 000km² of Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal. It includes the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site that by itself covers some 2 400km² and is 150km long.

The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a place of immense beauty and enormous spaces. It is one of the few true remaining wildernesses where hikers can walk for days without encountering other people.

It is no surprise, then, that this place is as dangerous as it is beautiful, and one must be well-prepared if tackling it on foot.

In the very north of the park is Royal Natal National Park. It is one of the jewels in the crown of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the proud guardian of the world famous ‘Amphitheatre’. This can be easily viewed from the road to the main camp of the park. A short walk along the river gives amazing photographic opportunities. The attractions of this park are many, from pleasant walks to fly-fishing and swimming in clear mountain streams. It is also home to the 850m-high Tugela Falls, the highest waterfall in Africa and the second highest in the world.

Other notable parks within the greater Drakensberg Park are Giant’s Castle, Kamberg and Loteni Nature Reserves. Each has its own attractions, capable of keeping the tourist busy for days on end.

The Drakensberg was declared a World Heritage Site for a number of reasons. It is an area of incredible natural diversity with over 2 100 plant species, more than 200 of which are endemic to the area. It is also home to over 60 species of mammal, including the threatened oribi and herds of eland and black wildebeest. It has nearly 50 species of reptile and more than 300 bird species. The naturalist will definitely find a visit to the Drakensberg incredibly rewarding.

No less interesting is the human history of the area. A prime drawcard is the San rock art. Excellent examples can be seen in Giant’s Castle. There is also a recreation of how these people prospered in the mountains until they were ruthlessly hunted out of existence by both black and white settlers.

Look out for

The Bushmen paintings are a unique art form that shrouded in mystery and deserving of at least an afternoon’s attention. The fact that they are almost always to be found in remote, beautiful caves adds to their allure. And the walk there adds to the attraction.

Hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in the Drakensberg. Depending on fitness and time, hikers can choose from short but beautiful walks to multi-day hikes. On the latter one needs to be entirely self-sufficient and equipped for inclement weather - including snow - no matter what time of the year it is.

The Giants Cup Hiking Trail is the premier ‘Berg hike, totalling almost 60km and usually taking five days to complete. It runs from Sani Pass to Busman’s Nek in the south.

The Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park is one of the first things that should be put on the ‘To Do’ list. You haven’t really been to the Drakensberg until you’ve viewed it from below - and then again from the top. Here you will encounter one of the most breathtaking views in South Africa.

Fly-fishing is another excellent reason to visit the Drakensberg. KZN-Ezemvelo has a collection of very good trout waters in their reserves. Other dams and rivers are privately owned, but many are accessible to fisherman for a day fee.

The Lammergeier Hide at Giant’s Castle is an amazing place from which to get incredible sightings and photographs of birds. Highlights are the bearded vulture, Verreaux’s eagle, white-necked raven, lanner falcon and Cape vulture. Many smaller species can also be spotted. Booking is essential.

Sani Pass is one of South Africa’s great drives. In winter the pass is often closed due to ice and snow and can be a very hazardous drive. Remember that a passport is necessary to get onto the pass and a 4x4 vehicle is required by law.

When to go

To Do

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