MHC - Cleopatra Mountain, Highmoor Nature Reserve, Central uKhahlamba Drakensberg, 21 March 2021

Report and photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]



Highmoor Nature Reserve is one of my favorite hiking destinations in the berg. The map does not show much, but it is an adventurers paradise, but beware the weather, it is very changeable, and does so very quickly. Cleopatra was the name given to a very steep cliff face that one sees as you approach closer to Highmoor Nature Reserve. It was to the top of this cliff face that our day was planned around. The weather forecast was once again for a very wet and cold week end, however the team that was aiming to do the hike were clearly made of sterner stuff, and all decided that wee would go, and face the weather on site.

The drive up the Kamberg Valley was a beautiful site, the early morning sun shining perfectly on the high mountains and hills around, and the soft light showing off beautiful pictures around every corner. Unfortunately this breath taking scenery only last a short while, and all is turned as the sun rises higher.

First on the list of not so often seen pictures was that of the great hill known as "White Mountain", the name derived from the cliffs that shine white at certain sun angles in the morning and sometimes at sunset - pic 2. Then the whole far Drakensberg range, from Sterkhorn at Monks Cowl to just past Giants Castle was bathed in a kaleidoscope of morning sunrise pictures. One could not help but notice the change of the grass colours, winter is on its way.



Approaching the entrance to Highmoor one looks straight up to the top of Cleopatra's Cliff face. The very high, sharp cliff edge was Cleopatra's face, which disintegrated some time ago, but for some of us, a head figure appeared from behind the fallen face of Cleopatra, that head we call Anthony,



Driving up the valley to the office one is met incredible cliffs that make up the huge valley that leads up to the office.



At our assembly point everyone was happy, relaxed and excited at the prospect of hiking in a new area. Also to the prospect of possibly being caught in some bad weather as the rain clouds were looking ready to "rock and roll", and the Giant was well covered by storm clouds. The area we were in is not visited by any hikers, or anyone else by the looks of the paths that are now non existent so the going was tough through the long grass and stony mountain side. We eventually rounded a corner and came in sight of the "knoll" that is an important landmark for me in this area.



After a bit more rough ground cruising, we came to the top of the cliff which was our point of interest for the day, and spent time looking down into the depths of the Kamberg Valley



As we looked at the beautiful scenery around us, the weather was still holding for us, a number of vultures were circling around us and heading back to the cliff face, climbing a small rise we saw a number of them sitting on the top of some rocks not far from us. On seeing us they took off and glided into the higher airways. What a privileged encounter.



We then stopped for a short snack break, some ate and some explored a bit more of this very beautiful spot. The weather was building again, so a short while later we were on our way homeward.



However, there was one more surprise for our new hikers to this area. There are large rocky outcrops around about, and these rocky knolls have some very intricate rock pools eroded into them. In summer with the rain, they fill with water and blossom into all sorts of plants and tadpoles.



Heading back to the "Knoll" was done fairly easily as we followed our footsteps through the grass. Then after a few "strogies" had climbed up the knoll for more 360 views, we dropped down to the top of a steep buttress that gave us great views of this new valley. Here lunch was had amidst very incredible surroundings.



There was a steep scramble to get up from our lunch spot to the top of the valley ridge, and from there we followed the edge of the ridge keeping the valley bottom well in sight, and at the same time watching the clouds over the Giant getting ever darker and more menacing. Reaching the cars in a dry and exhilarated state after such an incredibly lovely day in the mountains it was time to pack the cars and head home.

As we headed down the valley, the first raindrops fell, and on reaching the valley floor I looked back up to the top of Cleopatra, the place from which we had had such great views, the rain clouds were gathering and Cleo was going to get a bath.



By all reports, a great day was had by all. A good decision made by each hiking member back home on Saturday night, to head for the Highmoor Hills on Sunday.

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If you do nothing else these next 2 months, make an effort and visit one of our berg resorts, it is the best time of year to visit the mountains.

Beware though, do go prepared, the days will be cold, the afternoons will get colder early. Go prepared, do your planning around your route, your timings and most of all around your party. The slowest person is your weakest link, plan around them, not the strongest. Enjoy.

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ADDITIONAL PHOTOS FROM THE HIKE COURTESY VANESSA TAYLOR:



Pic 46: The image in the pond which was on top of the ledge is Chris Dobson walking past

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