The Top of the Magnificent Amphitheratre

Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
Trip End Jun 12, 2006

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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Against Gareth's advice we headed off to do the trail to the top of the Amphitheatre and the Tugela Falls.

What a great hike, the trail to the top of the escarpment is in fantastic shape and even concrete paved in places. There are some tough chain ladders that take you the last 50m up a sheer cliff face to the top and then a trail that takes you to a magnificent viewpoint and the top of the Tugela Falls. The trails on the top are not as well marked as further down, but on a clear day with more common sense than the average Muppet, there is no reason why anyone with a little hiking experience could not make to the viewpoint. Just watch out for the mist.

It was funny after Gareth's advice not to go alone we actually found 2 groups of people wandering around on the top who had lost their guides - don't ask! Both groups hadn't hiked much before and managed just fine. If you want to save yourself the $100 go alone and if it's cloudy you're not going to see much anyway, so just stay off the top.

Great views of the Western Buttress and the Sentinel on the way up. Once we got higher we were walking in the shadows of these huge rock towers.

Lot's of lizards on the way up, as well as dassies (rock Hyraxes), rheboks and a good sighting of the magnificent lammergeyer (bearded vulture). What a fantastic bird.

At the top we had fantastic views of the amphitheatre, in particular towards the Devil's Tooth and the Eastern Buttress.

We could see down over the falls, although as I mentioned yesterday the water was sparse. From the viewpoint we could also look back across the plateau to the Mont Aux Source that was 5 km away. This was the highest point in South African and the border with Lesotho.

I'd forgotten the hard boiled egg and cheese for lunch and managed to escape lightly although a do maintain that hiking is a team activity. Luckily I'd bought a whole loaf of nice fresh bread so there was plenty to fill are tummies.

The view from the top of the escarpment reminded me a lot of the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia.

Back down and back to the car and I began to realize why South Africa has some of the highest road death rates in the world. I would be traveling at 120km per hour on a single line highway with shared taxis stopping where ever was convenient and people walking by the sides of the road. All this time I was the slowest car on the road and it would not be uncommon for cars to pass me doing 160kmph (100mph).

We did finally manage to see a black backed jackal on the way back to the hostel. Erica had been looking to see these all the way through Kruger.

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