Legend has it that a cannibal kept his captives in one of the many caves found in the sandstone crevices and cliffs of the Maloti Mountains. But there are no man-eaters on the Cannibal Trail that traverses the eastern Free State. In fact, hiking it is a pleasure (find more: Drakensberg escarpment hiking trails).
The Green Flag-accredited two-day route has just about everything a hiker could wish for: a comfortable base camp, spectacular views, intriguing rock formations, a natural pool for bathing and a vast, comfortable cave that serves as overnight shelter.
The circular trail starts at St Fort farm, five kilometres from Clarens (where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Clarens), and takes you on a journey into the hills, past a waterfall, along a forested stream with a big swimming hole and beneath countless overhangs on the nine-kilometre hike to the overnight cave. And what a treat that is; the overhang is well protected from the elements and the nearby hut has flush toilets, showers and a kitchen. Firewood and braai grids are provided, so if you’ve packed meat and beers, you can overnight in style – and I’d thoroughly recommend paying the extra R20 to have your bags delivered.
The route on the second day is even more spectacular than that of the first, taking you high onto the plateau from where there are far-reaching views of the surrounding peaks, which were dusted with snow when I was there in May. There’s a steep descent to the valley floor, then you meander through a poplar forest back to the farm. It’s only seven kilometres and not as strenuous as day one, so there’s no need to avail a bag transfer on the return.
Cannibal Trail facts
Costs: R250 for the two-day, two-night trail
Distance: 16 km
Difficulty level: Moderate
Cannibal Trail contact details
Contact: Tel 058-256-1345, www.stfort.co.za.
(Photograph by Shaen Adey)