Dunblane is a massive estate, comprising a total of 3 000 hectares of pristine ecology in the Northern Drakensberg Mountains, with 15km of 2 000 foot high escarpment face running through its center. The Dunblane Golf, Trout and Berg Estate, widely marketed as South Africa’s Greatest Lifestyle Development, is currently being developed in the basin. However, the majority of the Estate and thus of the hiking trail, is situated on top of the Drakensberg escarpment, which is totally undeveloped and which is home to 13km of trout streams and endless waterfalls and views over Northern Natal.
The hiking trail is a 2 day trail, in a circular route, with a 12km walk each day. It ascends the 2 000 foot high Drakensberg escarpment on the first day, and descends it on the final day, both by totally different routes. The majesty and beauty of this walk, has had it acclaimed, as being on a par with the very best in South Africa. This trail was open to the public for a number of years, but was closed down during the initial stage of the development of Dunblane Estate. It has now been reopened to the public.
If you choose to come down on the Friday, then the first night of the stay will be in the Grey Goose Farm Lodge, “Academy Accommodation”, which comprises of a single dormitory with 18 bunk beds and mattresses and very adequate ablution facilities (6 hot showers and 6 toilet facilities). Saturday morning breakfast is optional at the Lodge (Phone lodge for price). An a la carte restaurant is available for supper on the Friday night. The academy is situated in lovely gardens with a handy swimming pool, in a Game farm with 800 antelope - Game abounds! A braai facility (+ wood) plus coffee /tea and kettle is provided. Please check in at the lodge reception to clarify all of this. Indemnity forms have to be signed. Bird /tree and flower lists can be printed off our website, G.P.S co-ordinates will be on the permit. The following morning (Saturday) you proceed to the Dunblane Club house Office (+/- 22km away) where you will leave your car, with 24 hour security and safety, on the property of the Dunblane Estate. Please note that the D96 access road to Dunblane is being tarred from April 2011 and is currently in a poor state of repair. Presently a 4x4 vehicle is advised. We can also, by arrangement, transport you there and back.
If you intend to arrive on the Saturday, then you will need to proceed directly to the Dunblane club house.
The first day’s hike starts at the club house where you have parked your car. Walk up Donkey’s Pass which is immediately on the left, and above the club house. Walk up for about 2km, and then, where marked, turn right onto the hiking trail which follows the escarpment, halfway up, until the turn off to Baboon’s Pass which is a steep ascent up the escarpment with a rope and tyre section over a short cliff face. At the top of the escarpment you can look back down over the Dunblane development. You are at 6 500 feet above sea level. From there you walk in a Northerly direction across the flat plateau and, following the markers, you angle downwards to follow a tributary of the Ingogo River, until you reach the main Ingogo River itself, on which the 3 overnight cottages are situated.
The 3 cottages are age old sandstone cottages (pre-Anglo-Boer War), which are electrified, with hot running water and flush toilets. They have 2 dormitories with 15 beds and mattresses as well as an ablution, kitchen and open dining room cottage, with chairs, tables and cutlery. Just bring your food, drink, toiletries, clothes (including hat, binoculars, warm tracksuit) and sleeping bag, etc. On the way to the cottages, you will pass numerous rock pools, where you may relax and swim. The environment is totally safe.
For the walk back on the Sunday, turn left at the trail gate just above the cottages, and follow the next (to the North) valley, upwards, in an Easterly direction. At the top of this valley there is a rope section to the top of the escarpment. You will walk to the escarpment edge, which you will then follow in a Southerly direction for ±3km which takes you past natural waterfalls and pans, to the edge of the Dunblane amphitheater where you will pass down “trek pass” and onto the basin of the Dunblane amphitheater, and then through the golf course back to the site office. Both 12km sections represent a conservative 4 hour walk.
Hikers need to be of average fitness, (fit people of 70 years of age have coped well with the trail), although it does ascend and descend 2 000 feet each day.)
A guide is always provided, although he need not accompany you all the way. Especially in times of mist and heavy rain, his presence will be absolutely critical. The guide’s name is Johannes. He will guide and help you over difficult sections. He requires transport to Dunblane Estate and back to the Grey Goose Lodge. His fee is R300 (or more if you feel he is worth it) per day (i.e. R600 per Saturday plus Sunday) plus two meals must be provided for him (Sat night/Sunday breakfast). You will very quickly find out that Johannes is worth his weight in gold. Please pay him directly. Fuel/Gas/Wood included free of charge
· Ensure that your “Indemnity Form” is completed (all hikers – names, identity numbers and signatures) prior to this hike. This is your responsibility. Collect at Grey Goose or online. We cannot be held liable for any theft, injury or death that may occur. The Drakensberg is a potentially dangerous/lethal environment and great care is always needed.
· If a 4x4 “rescue” vehicle is called up the mountain, for whatever reason, a R1000 fee will be charged (per return trip) and will be paid directly to the owners that same weekend.