Safety first and other rules
Wear sturdy, waterproof boots or walking shoes. In your day-pack carry a water bottle, wet gear, something warm to wear, a toilet roll, and a telephone. We can have rain and snow at any time of the year: be prepared. Hikers get lost when mist descends. Be sure of your route and carry the map. Do not feed animals, leave litter, light fires, pick plants, or deface rocks or trees. Bury human waste. Keep to the trail. Refer to the map and follow the signs.
We have 95 hectares (235 acres) of land. We allow KZN Wildlife to maintain an access trail through our property to the national park, but no member of the public is allowed to wander off that trail. You, however, have free range of our property during your stay. In addition, you will enjoy free hiking access to the national park.
Crystal Falls to the Sphinx and back (‘Knell’ route: 2,5 km; 200 m climb; 45 – 90 minutes)
Many do not realize that the Sphinx is not part of the national park at all, but on our property. This walk is a gentle one that rewards the non-mountaineer or the unfit with the sensation of reaching the top. From your cabin, walk up the path alongside Breakfast Stream to the split and turn left. Pass the Gerald Knell plaque (ask us about this) to another split.
You can choose to go directly up to the Sphinx at this point, or turn left and follow the contour path to the corner of our property, which is a lovely lookout over the valley. Carry on down to the stream at the bottom and then up until the path joins the public trail, and Crystal Falls are 20 metres to the right. Carry on to the Sphinx and then back down to your cabin
The forest trail (1,5 km; 293 m climb; 45 – 90 minutes)
May we recommend the walk up into our forest? This is a magical place, with dense indigenous trees, plenty of water, small caves, and waterfalls. You are private and alone, so skinny-dip in one of the many pools.
The water, as it is elsewhere in the national park, is clean, fresh, and drinkable – indulge. As you emerge from the forest at the top, and after descending to a junction, you can either return home, or rejoin the Knell route (see above). In 2007, we discovered a leopard in the forest. She hunts elsewhere too, such as in the Hlatikhulu Forest
Basuto caves and Gray’s Cave
200 metres above the Sphinx, our private path passes Basuto Caves and on to Gray’s Cave. Over 100 years ago, the first Drakensberg explorers would spend the night here before proceeding up to the main Berg. Breakfast Stream forms a waterfall here. Even if you don’t intend staying the night, a more peaceful place to spend the day can hardly be found.
Keartland’s Pass (4,0 km; 483 m climb; 1,5 – 2,5 hours)
From your cabin, walk over Breakfast Stream and up until you join Keartland’s Pass. Gazing west over the Hlatikhulu Forest, you see Cathkin Peak towering five kilometres away. The next 10 minutes are the steepest part of this hike: it’s better to walk up the pass than to struggle down it. The trail then becomes gentler. Look out for cycads. Early in the morning, baboons bark their warnings from the cliffs. You reach a huge rock – the size of a small house – that broke away in 2000.
You see the clean, greenish rock where the rock split. Around the corner is a stream that flows all year – the halfway point, a perfect spot for a cup of tea, and your last watering point. The rest of the walk is a gradual climb, the vegetation thinning out at the top of the Little Berg.
Sphinx to Breakfast Stream (1,0 km; 195 m climb; 30 – 60 minutes)
Most day-walkers, after ‘summiting’ the Sphinx, then go home. You are more adventurous, so you carry on walking uphill, under Verkykerskop and with the view of iKhayalamafu far below you to your right, until you reach the top of Breakfast Stream, which runs by your cabin at its bottom. As its name implies, this is a wonderful spot for a snack and a cup of tea. Although there is no shade, the bubbling water is cool and fresh, and the grass is soft. Don’t sleep too long.
Breakfast Stream to Verkykerskop (0,2 km; 60 m climb; 10 – 20 minutes)
Not many people climb Verkykerskop, probably because it is on the route to nowhere – you simply walk up and then walk back down again. The view is spectacular from the top and you have a good chance of seeing one of the families of mountain reedbuck or grey rhebuck that occupy the mountain.
Sunset Trail to Champagne Castle Hotel and back (8,0 km; 451 m climb; 3 – 5 hours)
You have reached Breakfast Stream via either Keartland’s Pass or the Sphinx, so you have probably already been walking for a couple of hours. If you still have time, you feel fit, and the weather is holding up, then the loveliness of this hike lies in its seclusion – not many people walk it. Besides, marvellous views and the hotel’s pub at the bottom make for a great day. From the hotel, walk along the tar road and then up the access road back to your cabin. Make sure that you take your key to the Monk’s Cowl gate, which is locked at 18:00.
Breakfast Stream to Blind Man’s Corner (2,0 km; 115 m climb; 45 – 60 minutes)
Leaving our property and entering the national park proper, this is a reasonably uneventful walk that takes you past the top of Keartland’s Pass to Blind Man’s Corner, the place where real adventures begin. However, along the entire length of this trail you have unequalled views of the Cathkin Peak skyline. From Breakfast Stream to the large pile of rocks, the property belongs to the Mountain Club of South Africa.
Nandi Falls (1,5 km; 33 m climb; 30 – 60 minutes)
This is just about the easiest walk on offer during your stay – hardly any steep bits and the beautiful Nandi Falls at its end, which are about 20 metres high and descend into dense, cool, indigenous forest – stunning. We give you a free aspirin if you manage to stand more than 30 seconds under the falls.
Nandi Falls to Sterkspruit Falls via the Hlathikulu Forest (6,5 km; 240 m climb; 2 – 3,5 hours)
This is another leisurely walk that avoids the traffic of more popular routes. Plenty of forest and water to recharge your batteries without you even noticing, and the Sterkspruit Falls are quite spectacular. The return to Monk’s Cowl car park can be walked in the other direction, of course, something that applies to all the hikes described here.