Drakensberg National Park in South Africa - By Robyn Leslie
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park in South Africa was declared a World Heritage site in 2000, and it’s not hard to see why. This range of mountains has some pretty spectacular scenery, as well as unique San rock art caves, where drawings over 2300 years old have been preserved. The Drakensberg is also known as a challenging hiking and running destination, with loads of trail running races taking place on its outskirts, and the ultimate challenge of running its spine. This is known as the Drakensberg Traverse, and was most recently taken on by one of South Africa’s most famous trail runners, Ryan Sandes. You can watch the 30minute doccie of their run here, it’s pretty amazing. 220 kilometres of harsh mountain territory covered in 41 hours and 49 minutes…respect!
On each trip home to South Africa I try and squeeze in a trip to the Drakensberg, which is where I was lucky enough to spend many a school holiday Jthis year, we went to the camp at Injisuthi – one of my favourite camps as it has a profusion of natural pools and gorges where you can cool off during hiking. The aim was to spend our time running two different routes: the first would be a long, undulating route to view the rock art, and the second, a shorter but way more challenging trip to the top of Van Heyningen's Pass.
Unfortunately, the weather just didn’t play ball. Despite it being peak Summer in the rest of the country, at our camp we had quite serious mist and rain, making the conditions in the mountains less than ideal. Part of the challenge of running the Drakensberg is getting the route right: there are cut paths, but some are overgrown, and signage is kept to a minimum. You really need to know where you are going or you will definitely be getting lost!
On our last day, though, the weather cleared enough for us to tackle Van Heyningen's Pass. This is a pretty special route as it winds its way through forest that grows in a steep gorge between the mountains, keeping you in suspense until you have climbed to the top – and then unveiling a spectacular view, if you’ve made through the steep ascent! I took the opportunity to try out my latest purchase – a pair of Inov8 Terraclaw 250s. I bought them after I was so stoked with my minimalist Inov8s (and before Maverick got sponsored by them!), and they were pretty good. I have yet to find a shoe to rival the Mizuno in wet conditions, and the Terraclaw didn’t have the same awesome drainage as my Mizunos, but the grip on the wet and slippery rocks was up to standard. They are also way lighter than my Mizunos, which is a plus, but I have yet to see how quickly they will wear.
I must admit, though, that I really missed my Merrells on this trip to the Drakensberg. I normally do my holiday Drakensberg hiking / running in a pair of the Merrell Vapour Gloves. I absolutely hate running in wet socks when you’re out for the whole day – and there is nothing worse than having to take your shoes and socks off at the first sign of fording a stream or river. But with the Merrells, I can barge through pretty much anything and be sure my feet will be drained and dry pretty soon after (and my shoes will be dry by the next day). Seeing how much rain had fallen in the Drakensberg though, fording the rivers this time round was tricky due to the strong currents, so it was best tackled bare-foot anyway!
See you guys on the trails!