Karongwe Rhino Hike!

By Ari Whiteman, Karongwe Intern 5 years ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

Rhino Walk 2013! In what has got to be considered the highlight of the winter thus far, all volunteers and staff on Karongwe recently undertook a daunting 45km hike in the Drakensburg Mountain Range to benefit anti-poaching efforts here on the reserve. The path followed the vast majority of the Fanie Botha Trail, arguably the most famous trail in South Africa and a challenge typically completed over five days. However, we at Karongwe are anything but typical, and decided that spacing out the entyre trail into short manageable portions just wasn’t quite our cup of tea. Instead, all 23 of us hiked 45km in just two days! Furthermore, as if the task wasn’t steep enough, four of us very manly men completed the challenge in extravagant costumes ranging from tube tops with complimentary fairy wings to super-sensual cowboy drag that would appear far more at home in Brokeback Mountain than a Drakensburg Mountain.

Straight from the get-go, it was obvious that we were in for an adventure. Through the thick early morning fog, we huffed and puffed our way up into the  mountains surrounding our vantage point. The neatly arranged pine forests, despite replacing the natural rainforests for logging purposes, lent almost a mystical air about the place and gave off an aroma that left many of us Europeans and East Coast Americans reminiscing about the forests just behind our houses back home. After several kilometres of pine, the fog burned off and the trail gave way to amazingly pristine virgin rainforest. With the sun now sending shards of light through the dense canopy above our heads, we crisscrossed our way through the tropical forest, over cool mountain streams and massive Jurassic-esque fern beds. After a quick stopover at a towering waterfall, we made our way upwards to begin our ascent of a portion of the Trail known as the Cathedral. It was a tough climb, but the scenery kept us occupied and the promise of an incredible view from the summit powered our weary legs up the seemingly endless mountain switchbacks. Finally, with burning muscles and nearly empty camelbacks, we reached the top. It was a stunning view of the entyre region and a perfect end to the first day on the trail.

The second day took us through flowing plains of yellow grasslands, dotted with rainforest valleys and rocky bluffs. We walked up, down, and around the rolling hills of the Drakensburg plateau on a beautifully sunny day. Spirits were high and the ease of the terrain quickened our pace as we made it to the end of our journey by only mid-afternoon. It was an incredible adventure overall, with every bit of ecosystem variety you could hope for on a two-day hike.

While the experience would have been unforgettable on its own though, we owe genuine thanks to all of you who donated to our cause. Amid the silly costumes, complaints about sore feet, and jokes about relieving oneself in the outdoors, the truth is that we raised over 40,000 Rand (over 4,000USD) for the brave individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting an animal they may never even see. Over 560 rhinos have been poached this year alone in South Africa, however with your donations, we may finally begin to see a noticeable decline in the violence. From the bottom our hearts, we thank you, the anti-poaching forces thank you, and if Rhinos could speak, I’m sure they’d thank you as well. We look forward to more charity challenges in the future here at Karongwe, because as long as there are wild animals at risk, we’ll keep scaling mountains to support them.