We set off at 6am-relatively late for us- from Durban on 18 December 2019. A stop at the Escort Engen, a couple of tolls and desperate sunblock application later we were ready. By 10:30am the Drakensberg mountains rose ahead of us and if we stretched our arms sideways they would tangle in the reeds.
Our party for the hike: the Nel family. Hannah, Erin and Ben- as well as Erin’s friend Laura. Claire, their mother. Her brother, Brendan and his partner Al and Gramps.
The trail to Xeni Cave starts at the Cathedral Peak Hotel and follows the river for the first 4km. This section of the path is clear, relatively flat and allows for easy walking.
The sky was clear but there was a nasty looking cloud hovering over the valley into which we were to head. I had been caught in a storm the previous day in the mnweni area and was not keen to repeat the experience. I kept a watch on the sky throughout and had to shorten our lunch break. As we turned into the valley the quality of the path deteriorated. It zig-zaged across the river with some boulder hoping. Gramps, in his early 70s, amazed me! There are many beautiful pools along this stretch, and soon enough we were standing at the base of the 100m hill to Xeni Cave.
Xeni Cave is absolutely magnificent- it is huge and could easily accommodate 30people. We stripped off our backpacks, jumped into our costumes and headed down to the river for a swim.
The family were exceptionally entertaining and we spent the afternoon in stitches. Around 8pm everyone was in bed and snoring happily. In the middle of the night there was an outrageous noise. A buck had wondered upon us and been spooked.
After breakfast in the cave on 19 December we headed off the mountain the same was we had come. The classic swim at Cathedral Peak Hotel, and then back into the car…home time again. Thank you Nels for the adventure!