The Giants Cup trail is an excellent introduction to hiking in the Drakensberg for novices and those looking for a trail of moderate difficulty in the Drakensberg Mountains. The Giants Cup Trail is a trail in a pristine environment with excellent overnight accommodation. The trail runs mainly through grassland with patches of forest in some of the valleys as well as mountain fynbos.
The fact that it runs along the foothills of the Drakensberg, provides panoramic views down onto the lowlands below as well as views towards the majestic Escarpment such as towards Giant's Cup and Rhino Peak. Along the trail there are a number of caves (with some San paintings) and many small rivers and beautiful pools such as the Ngewa pool on Day 1 and a waterfall in the Killiecrankie stream on Day 3.
The weathering of the sandstone has led to some very interesting rock features such as the tortoise rocks on Day 2. It is unfortunate that the last section on Day 3 is running along the main road with heavy traffic. There seems to be plans to rectify this by re-aligning the trail.
Small patches of indigenous forest are seen on the first day but most of the trail passes through mountain grassland with wide views to the crests of the mountains.
The trail consists of five sections with overnight accommodation (usually a farmhouse) at the end of each section.
TRANSPORT AND PARKING:
Vehicles may only be parked at points indicated as parking areas on the map. You leave your vehicle unattended at your own risk. You are responsible for your own transport to the starting point and also from the end point back to your vehicle. This is not a round route; the start and finish are a long way apart.
The road to Mzimkhulwana and Winterhoek crosses private property. Trespassers will be prosecuted.
Should you need transport to and from the beginning of the trail please contact:
Sani Pass Carriers on (033) 7011017.
Duration: 5 days (5 nights)
Total distance: 59,3 km
Overnight huts: Pholela, Mzimkhulwana, Winterhoek, Swiman and Bushman's Nek
Start: Foot of Sani Pass beyond the hotel
End: Bushman's Nek
The trail may be shortened by one or two days by starting or finishing at Pholela or Swiman Huts, in which case vehicles may be parked at the Cobham or Garden Castle office parking complex.
The trail may not be started from Winterhoek or Mzimkhulwana Huts.
FACILITIES AT OVERNIGHT STOPS:
Each overnight stop can accommodate 30 persons and is provided with basic facilities of bunk beds and mattresses, benches, tables, broom and dust pan.
Hikers must supply their own bedding (e.g. sleeping bag), food, cooking and lighting equipment in the form of portable stoves, lamps and torches and are expected to leave the hut in a clean and tidy condition.
Flush toilets are provided and cold water is laid on at all huts.
Each farmhouse has a different design however, so that the number of rooms and number of bunks in rooms varies.
Parties of less than 30 must be prepared to share accommodation.
Firewood is not available. (While supplies last, firewood is available at Pholela and Swiman Huts).
Braai facilities are only available at Pholela and Swiman.
No fires are allowed at Mzimkhulwana and Winterhoek and Bushmans Nek huts.
Day one (6 hours - 13,3 km)
The starting point is at the foot of the famous Sani Pass, highest mountain pass in South Africa. The Ngenwa pool is suitable for a lunch break on a sunny day or, if it is raining, there is a cave a little further along the trail. After this the trail ascends through attractive country into the Pholela valley, crossing a suspension bridge to the Pholela Hut. The Pholela Hut is one of the original farmhouses and its design has been altered as little as possible.
The trees in the vicinity were planted by the early settlers and are mainly exotic, including snow gum, cypress, pines and pin oak.
Overnight at Pholela Hut in Cobham Reserve.
Day two (3,5 hours - 9 km)
The trail ascends the long slope past Tortoise Rocks before dropping into the valley. The Mzimkhulwana Hut nestles alongside one of the tributaries close to a clear pool.
A good lunch spot is Bathplug Cave, named after a hole in the cave floor through which water disappears. Please do not deface/write, scratch, pour water on, or touch the Bushman paintings on the walls.
A variety of indigenous trees and flowers may be seen along the trail, including Cape holly, yellowwood, cabbage trees, proteas, tree ferns, watsonias and gladioli.
Overnight at Mzimkhulwana Hut in Cobham Reserve.
Day three (5,5 hours - 12,2 km)
Pleasant vistas present themselves on the long climb towards the Little Bamboo Mountain, named after the indigenous bamboo found here. Blue cranes frequent the area around Crane Tarn and Scottish names such as Inverness and Stromness have been given to farms by early Scots settlers. The Killiecrankie pools tempt one to swim in the clear, fresh mountain water. The lovely old oak trees around Winterhoek Hut were probably planted at about the end of the nineteenth centuary.
Overnight at Winterhoek Hut in Garden Castle.
Day four (6 hours - 12,8 km)
Be sure to fill your water bottle as few streams flow along this section of the trail during the dry season. There is a steep climb up the slopes of Garden Castle, after which the trail is relatively level to Swiman Hut.
Overnight at Swiman Hut in Garden Castle.
Day five (4 hours - 12 km)
From Swiman Hut the trail crosses into the wide Mzimude valley, climbs again towards the fire look-out post passing Langalibalele cave which has Bushmen paintings. Here again please do not deface/write, scratch, pour water on, or touch the paintings. Sleeping in Langalibalele cave is prohibited.
The Bushman's Nek Hut is on a short spur off the trail and can be by-passed by those not spending the night there. The trail ends at the parking area close to the Reserve entry point.
RULES AND REGULATIONS:
• No pets of any kind are allowed in the reserves.
• Littering is an offence. Hikers are requested to bring back all their refuse for disposal in the refuse bins provided in the camps and on the picnic sites. If you carry it in, please carry it out!
• It is an offence to pick or damage any plant or to disturb or kill any animal (including birds and their eggs, as well as reptiles), or to disfigure any rock or rock paintings in any way, or to remove any archaeological or fossil material.
• It is an offence to make fires in caves or in wilderness areas. The only places fires are permitted are in the braai facilities provided for at Pholela and Swiman Huts.