Thursday, April 28, 2005

Drakensberg missing children found

Monday, April 25, 2005

Drakensberg hikers told: Be sensible

Mercury - Berg hikers told: Be sensible: "Berg hikers told: Be sensible
April 25, 2005

By Latoya Newman

Tourism service providers in the Drakensberg are concerned that recent fears over the safety of hikers are being blown out of proportion and fear the negative publicity will destroy the potential of one of the country's prime tourist spots.

Responding to an article in The Mercury last week on attacks on hikers, particularly in the Giant's Castle area, service providers said that if proper precautions were taken by hikers, they need not feel threatened.

David Sclanders, of Bergfree Adventures, has been a guide in the area for nine years and has done almost 200 trips into the mountains during this time. He said people needed to be responsible in how they approached their trip. His main concern was that the emerging panic could set back tourism in the Berg.

'The Giant's Castle area has been a problem area for years. Those who know the area do not plan to overnight there, but walk right through it and camp away from it. There have been numerous groups who have done this and have had no trouble,' said Sclanders.

While there was some trouble in the Berg at times, basic precautions had to be considered.


Precautions

'Mountain guides lead many trips in the Berg with no trouble, but they do not sleep there. There are other areas considered not safe to sleep at, so plans are made to camp elsewhere,' said Sclanders.

'While I am not saying that the mountains are completely safe, neither is anywhere else in our country. If one takes precautions, does proper planning and sticks to basic rules then any experience can be better enjoyed.'

Citing a few safety tips in relation to the attacks on a German tourist - who he said had hiked alone - and the schoolgirl group - who he said had camped in a non-sleep-over area - Sclanders said it was never recommended that people hiked alone and that research must be done when planning a hike.

He added that local herdsmen were not all threats, and he cited an incident last year when two French tourists, who had hiked on their own, had been helped by a herdsman after a dog attack.

Sclanders said one of the hikers had approached a hut and had been attacked by dogs trained to protect property. He had tried to avoid the dogs, had slipped on a rock and had broken his femur.

The herdsman had walked three hours to police and back again to ensure the man got to a hospital. Local authorities had arranged an airlift.

Sclanders said the hikers should not have been alone, should not have approached the hut and should have familiarised themselves with the area before going out.

Surprise snowfalls on Drakensberg peaks

Mercury - Surprise snowfalls on Berg peaks: "Surprise snowfalls on Berg peaks
April 25, 2005

By Stephanie Saville

National weather forecasters were forced to admit yesterday that weather could not always be accurately predicted, as the first snowfalls of the season wafted down on the high ground of KwaZulu-Natal.

The unpredicted light snowfall on the highest peaks of the Drakensberg on Saturday took the weather bureau by surprise as it had predicted freezing levels of 12 000 feet (3 658m). Snow will usually fall in the area at freezing levels of 10 000 feet (3 048m).

'Unfortunately we didn't foresee this one coming,' said a surprised forecaster from the Johannesburg meteorology office.

'We had actually discussed the possibility of snow falling on the Berg, but decided that the chance was far too remote to actually include it in our forecast,' he laughed.

The snow, which spread out on the highest mountains in a thin, patchy layer, was visible from the N3 between Mooi River and Estcourt yesterday.
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A spokesman from the Durban Weather Bureau said that the snow had fallen on Saturday and had surprised forecasters there as well.

With many self-proclaimed weather buffs predicting that this will be a dramatically cold winter, owing to the late rain in the province and the high water table, the forecasters in Johannesburg say that this is not necessarily the case, because a high water table is not necessarily an indicator of a very cold winter.

Meanwhile, according to the weather bureau, KwaZulu-Natal will shiver this week as a cold front closes in on the province.

Cloudy, cold weather with showers is forecast along the coastal belt. - Pietermaritzburg Bureau"

Friday, April 15, 2005

Drakensberg Hikers battle weather to help Aids children

Mercury - Hikers battle weather to help Aids children: "Cape Town: A group of 13 hikers who have taken part in the grand traverse of the Drakensberg have battled harsh weather to raise R250 000 for the Hearts of Hope organisation, which takes care of Aids orphans.

The group are expected to complete the hike today at the Bushman's Nek border post.

Hearts of Hope Chairman Paul Reid said the hike was going well yesterday, the 11th day of the hike.

The group members were carrying up to 25kg and had to endure 25km hikes with freezing winds, Reid said.

'The guys have been walking since April 4. The trail is about 250km and it's really cold out there. It has been -3C. There's frost on the tents. The guys have blisters and their feet are numb and sore.'
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But they were all in good spirits, said Reid, who walked the first four days of the hike.

Ten members of the group are Capetonians and the rest are from Johannesburg.

Reid said his organisation aimed to build homes and provide foster care for children infected and affected by the pandemic.

'But our first goal is to get them adopted,' he said.

Each of the group members had donated R3 250 to the fund before their Berg adventure started, he said. - Mercury Correspondent"

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tourists plucked from Drakensberg ledge

Tourists plucked from ledge: "Three foreigners were airlifted from the Drakensberg on Wednesday after they got themselves stuck on a ledge.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Jeff Gaisford said Australian Gary Frampton and British Peter Johnston and Dennis Murphy were airlifted in a joint operation by Ezemvelo, the Mountain Rescue club, the SAPS airwing and the SA air force.

They were trapped after discovering they could not move up or down off a ledge in the Monk's Cowl area.

'The three men got into difficulty when they scrambled down what they thought was part of Grey's Pass and then found they could go no further and were also unable to climb up once more,' he said.

After a day spent trying to get themselves out, the men contacted Ezemvelo's Lance van der Bank by cellphone. He sent two field rangers out along the contour path on horseback as the hikers reported had reported that they could see the track.

Van der Bank also contacted the local rescue convener of the Mountain Club of SA, Gavin Raubenheimer.

'When the men had still not been able to extricate themselves by 10:50, it was decided to initiate a rescue operation.'

An Oryx helicopter from the SAAF's 15 Squadron with a Mountain Rescue member on board was dispatched from Durban, collecting two other rescuers en route.

The SAPS Airwing had in the meantime located the hikers and passed the GPS co-ordinates to the SAAF helicopter.

'This enabled the helicopter to pick the men up and deposit them safely at the Monk's Cowl office,' Gaisford said.

'The site is very well known and clearly marked yet people tend to ignore it and choose the wrong route. We've always tried our best for people to take somebody local,' he said.

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