I took a deep breath in. It was the mountain air that gave me a sense that I was back home. “Home” I thought, yeah I confirmed, “home”. My happy place, and with my happy person. A luxury, necessity, and purely the simplicity to life. We began the long trek up the sublime Mnweni Pass.
This pass is in the Northern Drakensberg and is located between the Royal Natal National Park and the Cathedral Peak Conservation Areas, with areas that rise up to form the boundary between Lesotho and South Africa. We were hiking the Mnweni Hiking circuit, plus some extra. Without a doubt, we would rate it as one of the most scenic hikes of the Drakensberg. This is somewhat due to the remoteness and rugged beauty of the area and because of the incredible, towering spires and basalt pinnacles.
The first part of the hike covers about 15 km to the base of the Mnweni Pass and then you begin a long and windy ascend. We felt the majestic mountain tower above us as we climbed another couple of kilometers to reach the summit. When we got to the top, we had a massive sense of achievement. The sheer beauty of conquering a scramble with heavy packs, a couple liters of water each, and food for the next two days made me want to both cry and laugh all at the same time. It was exhilarating to look back over the pass.
We set camp up along the source of the Orange River and woke up to explore what felt like an entire world at the top of Mnweni. We went exploring for caves, edges, ledges and with curious hearts watched the world beneath us. To move with intent and then not, and to stop for coffee, and lunch and then find ourselves another sleep spot simply meant enjoying and embracing each moment for what life gives us. What a blessing - to simply be. That night, thunder, lightning and a downpour of rain reminded us of the power of mother nature. We watched and waited to capture the next lightning to light up the night sky as the sky roared and roared and roared. The dark grays, purples and pinks eventually faded away and the morning light powered through: orange, red, pinks, purples, blues, with more rain, and then mist and dew. We sat and had Futurelife and coffee. With no real rush we enjoyed the morning sky before heading down the grand Rockies Pass.
The freedom to move with “downhill legs”, lighter packs and in the rain reminded us that we are alive. To feel: to really and truly feel, the rain drops off our noses and sludge between our toes. The dramatic mist swept through us, and then it all disappeared, and reappeared and disappeared. As the sky flirted with us for a couple of hours, we became more familiar to feel one with nature as we moved with it. We stopped for snacks, and then swam in the rivers, dried our clothes with the now blazing sunshine, and we even got burnt in the cloud cover. The last 7km of our 50km route meant slowly reminding ourselves of life, other life, one that shares cultural differences, domestic animals, and different sounds and feelings. A gentle introduction to every-day reality. To open our legs and stride back to the Cultural Center was a bitter-sweet feeling. I wondered if I could survive, just packing up life in Johannesburg and living off the land. What that would mean, and if at all possible. Perhaps, it is the contrast of these two lives which gives me more meaning. Whatever it is, I will always be searching for something more in these beautiful Drakensberg mountains.