Things To Do in Monks CowlMonks Cowl to Ndedema Gorge Hike
Where? Start at the Monks Cowl office in Champagne Valley, Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal.
When? Daylight hours.
How much? Price on request
Start: Monk's Cowl office, Champagne Valley
Finish: Ndedema Gorge
Duration: 28 km and further, 2 – 5 days
Our tip: the hike is strenuous and open-ended, best done in a group with a leader who knows the route
In the Central Drakensberg find Giant's Castle area, its northern parts dominated by Cathkin Peak, Monk's Cowl, Champagne Castle and Battle Cave – an isolated wilderness that draws hikers.
Within the Giant's Castle Reserve is the Ndedema Gorge (also known as Didima Gorge), the heart of San rock art with access to almost 4 000 paintings at 17 sites.
Head up the Contour Path via the Sphinx – a popular route onto the Little Berg from Monk's Cowl. It serves as the initial route up to a number of the higher peaks and passes of the area. You will climb steadily, gaining 450 metres in altitude before reaching Breakfast Stream where the path levels off. From here there is a gentler ascent up to the Contour Path. It will take you roughly three hours to complete.
From here the walk heads through two river valleys, with both steep ascents and descents. The landscape is dominated by Gatberg, initially – the peak that has a 9 metre hole through its base. Later the Dragon's Back – a series of block-shaped peaks accompanies the trail, before you enter the Ndedema Gorge, some 28 km from Monk's Cowl office.
The choice from here is variable. You can head on to Cathedral Peak, hike down Ndedema Gorge (8 km), or return to Monk's Cowl along the Mhlawazini River and Hlatikulu Nek (23 km).