Did you know?
The southernmost section of the Drakensberg mountains is sometimes called the Tail of the Dragon. ('Drakensberg' means 'Dragons' Mountain).
Where the high Drakensberg Mountains tail down into high sandstone foothills in the northern part of the Eastern Cape, you’ll find the slackpacking Mehloding Adventure Trail.
Not far from the rural town of Matatiele in the northern part of the scenic Eastern Cape, the Mehloding trail is a relatively demanding four-day hike. Interestingly, it is designed and owned by the surrounding community, and you’ll walk through small villages as well as some breathtaking mountain scenery.
As you walk, you will be guided by community members and hosted in specially built chalets. There’s no need to pack noodles and dehydrated food, because the community will also cook for you.
In fact, the daily hikes, varying between 13km and 20km over hills and valleys, are the only things you’ll really have to work at.
For a small extra charge, the community will transport your luggage from chalet to chalet, leaving you free to stroll with only a daypack and a camera.For the rest, you’ll have hot showers, comfortable bedding and local food for dinner and breakfast, some of it grown locally.
Each chalet has flush toilets, and although there is no electricity, there is gas for cooking and paraffin lamps, which adds real atmosphere when everyone gathers in the lounge.
Depending on the season (late spring and high summer are the best) you’ll see plenty of wildflowers and your guide will point out the rock art if you’re interested.
The chalets and trail are run and owned by the Mehloding Community Trust.
If you have only enough time for a small taste of the trail, you could stay at their Masakala Guesthouse just outside Matatiele. Here you can take short hikes, go horseback riding on a Basotho pony, visit a traditional healer and partake of African cuisine.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Mehloding Community Trust
Tel: +27 (0)39 737 3289
How to get here
Matatiele, your starting point, is about three hours' drive from Durban. Take the N2 south via Kokstad, where you will veer west on the R56 to Matatiele.
Best time to visit
This is an all-year-round destination. Having said that, the thunderstorms can be spectacular in high summer (November to February, when the wildflowers are out) and mid-winter (June to August) can be snowy and icy.
What will it cost
The cost of the full four-day guided and catered trail per person is R1 920 (a minimum of two people need to do the trail). Transport from the end of the trail back to your car is R800 per group. If you want to slackpack, it will cost R200 between each of the chalets to transport your packs.
Length of stay
The trail will take four nights, but you may want to spend some extra time at the Masakala Guesthouse on your way back.
What to pack
Don’t worry about food or bedding. Just bring clothes, comfortable hiking boots and your camera.
What to eat
African cuisine almost always contains meat, but vegetarians can be catered for.