We got high in the Drakensberg when we took on the infamous Chain-Ladder Hike at the Sentinel. Here are the ups and downs of it all.

The chain-ladder on the tugela hike in the Drakensberg Mountains

The intimidating but awesome chain ladders we climbed to reach the top of the Amphitheater.

We were high! From our perch on the rocks we overlooked the valley and dramatic mountainous outlines. These made up the Drakensberg’s amphitheater and the view was breathtaking. We were high. High on accomplishment. High on the reward of having hiked to this perfect spot. High on life. And literally high up.

Enjoying the view from the Tugela source in the Drakensberg Mountains

On top of the world, on the edge of the Ampitheatre.

We stood in awe, from our stance at 948 meters above the rest of the world. By this point my boyfriend (now husband) and I had just completed the 9km hike from the Sentinel car park in Witsieshoek to the top plateau of Mount-Aux-Sources. We should have been taking in the additional sight of the Tugela Waterfall which usually tumbles over the edge of the cliffs at this drop off point, however the rains had yet to visit the mountain and the source of the Tugela was dry. When flowing, the Tugela is the second highest waterfall in the world, only beaten by a breath by the Angel Falls in Venezuela. A mere 31 meters separates these two giants.

Source of the Tugela River in the Draknsberg Mountains

The stark cliff face in the dry season, where the Tugela Falls usually tumbles over once the rains have come.

The quietness from this height is overwhelming. It makes you listen. It coaxes you into taking in the sights that surround you. The rocky outcrops, the rock pigeons chasing each other along the cliff edge, the valley meandering and whispering below. It’s mesmerizing.

Setting up camp in near the source of the Tugela River in the Drakensberg Mountains

A camping spot with a million bucks view.

The actual walk to this flat, high heaven has its difficulties and its easy moments too. The route hugs the mountain-side. There are relatively steep sections as well as breathe-easy flat parts where you can stop and take mental and actual photographs of the natural beauty that you’ll find yourself submerged in.

The main attraction of the walk is doubtlessly the part where you’ll be expected to climb two chain-ladders up the mountain face to get to the top. This is both terrifying and exhilarating. We encouraged each other up the challenging obstacle and high-fived heartily at the top.

Climbing th chain-ladder to the tugela source in the Drakensberg Mountains

Climbing the chain ladder, one step at a time.

We had taken this journey accompanied only by our backpacks, which sometimes seemed bigger than us. They were not our friends during the last few steps of the walk when their weight really made itself known.This was all worth the amazing rewards of the adventure though.

On our Draknsberg hike to the source of the Tugela River

Backpacks bigger than us… not our friends near the end of the hike.

We camped for the night up there. From the top the stars are so numerous they smother the sky. My favourite part of the experience was watching the sunrise over the amphitheater as we sat next to the Tugela Falls in the morning. We were above the clouds as they cuddled below us in the valley.

Sunrise over the Drakensberg Mountains

Waking up to a sea of clouds below us in the valley. Whimsical and awe-inspiring.

You know you must be high when the clouds are below you.

The hike took us just under three hours to complete, from bottom to our camping spot near the Tugela Waterfall. It took us just less than that to get down again the next day. If you complete it in one day, without the burden of a full pack, the entire trip could take you 4.5 to 8 hours round depending on fitness level.

The starting point for the hike is about 360km from Durban and the closest town is Phuthaditjhaba. The hike itself is 18 km in total.

Original post on www.jhblive.com