Izintaba Zo Khahlamba - Barrier Of Spears
The Maluti-Drakensberg TFCA is a place of exceptional beauty - no wonder South African-born J.R.R. Tolkien saw these misty mountains - the highest in southern Africa - as the inspirational setting for the Lord of the Rings. The Zulu people call these basalt peaks uKhahlamba, 'the Barrier of Spears' - an appropriate moniker for the rugged escarpment, which reaches over 3,000 metres and stretches more than 200 kilometres in a crescent shape along the border of Lesotho and South Africa. The early Voortrekkers described them as 'mountains of dragons' - the mighty Drakensberg.
There's a hushed call for silence, as umnumzane Hadebe - the Royal Praise Singer to the amaHlubi - announces the arrival of his Royal Highness King Langalibalele II, whilst young Hlubi boys dance to their ancient warrior chants, and the sound of rawhide drums echo amongst the mountains.
The clicks in their language come from the Abathwa, the San people who once inhabited these magnificent mountains. Now all that remains of these tiny hunter-gatherers are their enduring galleries of rock art, some of the finest examples in the world with 35 - 40,000 San paintings still in existence.
Near the Langalibalele Pass, we find the number '75' carved into a huge rock, marking the place where Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Durnford encamped with the colonial 75th Regiment in 1854. They were sent to the Drakensberg to close the pass into Lesotho and subjugate King Langalibalele I, who was refusing to register the guns his male subjects had received as part-payment for their work on the diamond mines. King Langalibalele was eventually arrested and banished to Robben Island as one of South Africa's first political prisoners.
Back in the Landies, we head back down the valley to meet a team ofadventurers from 4x4 Mega World headed up by old friend Adolf Waidelich, who are travelling ahead of the expedition to set up the first Boundless SoccerChallenge, complete with goal posts, nets, white lines, referee whistles, balls and bibs. We present the winning team with a floating trophy and there's a Man of the Match award. The Soccer World Cup is coming to South Africa - today, this is a rural 'Soccer World Cup for Conservation'.
Black clay beer pots are filled and a beast is slaughtered. As honoured guests, we're offered bits of the liver and the dancing continues well into the dark. Will keep you posted.