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Place of baboons ...
Izemfene hiking trail, Glencoe

Izemfene in Zulu means “place of baboons”. The trail traverses pioneer 1838 Voortrekker farms and several ecological zones in the Biggarsberg mountain range, in one of the richest cultural and historical areas of South Africa.

The terrain varies from typical Natal bushveld to glades, plains and Highveld grass. The kloof areas are dense with indigenous forests. The elevation ranges from 700 to 1 750 m, with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from the heights. Since the trail is situated in a coal-rich area, one sees traces of old mine shafts, an incomplete multi-storeyed concrete structure (the “jungle gym”), a Hindu temple and old structures where 21 coal by-products were produced.


On the first day, the trail climbs more than 1 000 m. Soon it enters the Bushveld zone where impala and kudu abound. It passes the following areas of interest: the tornado path cut in 1996; the banks of the Wasbank river, so named by the Voortrekkers who washed their clothes there en route to Blood River (one can swim in the river); an old orchard of pomegranate trees; the site of the “ou tuin” of the pioneer farmyard (1850 – 1890); a poplar grove and the Bamboo bush; the family graveyard; and the ruins of huts renowned as having belonged to erstwhile cannibals fleeing the wrath of Shaka. Keeping close to the mountain stream where there are several swimming spots, the trail snakes its way through tall grass in which mountain reedbuck can be seen. The four-way crossing on the saddle is almost the halfway point.


The trail reaches the top of the farm through the indigenous bush. The point from where one looks down into the Wasbank valley was a position for sentries during the Anglo-Boer War. It was here that the Long Tom cannon was positioned to ambush the English troops during their retreat from the Battle of Talana to Elandslaagte. In this protected basin is “Uil se gat”, an interesting geological cavity. Day hikers will return by following the yellow footprints. There is easy hiking on top of the plateau and wonderful vistas to be enjoyed. The trail descends the hillside through indigenous forests, past the waterfall, ending with a final climb. By popular demand, hikers overnight in tents, the full range of Cadac Sunseekers, within an old Dipkraal on top of the mountain farm.


Day 2 starts off on the upper levels, passing several species of aloes and euphorbia. It then enters the next valley to pass the ruins of an old stone house, the “Piano house”, after which it follows the mountain stream, which has several swimming spots, in the gorge. After the four-way junction, one reaches the top of the ridge from where there are spectacular views into both valleys, towards Job’s Kop, Wasbank valley and the Drakensberg mountain range. The last stretch meanders down the mountain through grassy plains, under shady acacia trees, past abandoned mine shafts and the “jungle gym”, to the river – for a final swim.


Izemfene hiking trail

Max number of hikers: 30.

Base camp: 24 overnight.


2-day backpacking.

  • Day 1: 12 km.
  • Day 2: 10,5 km.
  • Day trails: 15 km and 6 km.

Degree of difficulty

Moderate to difficult.

Overnight facilities:

Base camp: Thatch building. 2 bedrooms: 12 and 18 beds/mattresses, lounge/dining with 3 tables, seating 24. Donkey geyser, 3 showers, 3 flushing toilets, 3 basins.

Kitchen: scullery, 2-plate gas cooker, pots, 2 pans, cast iron potjies, 3 drum braais, lapa, wood.

Overnight - Dipkraal camp: 7 tents for 24. Donkey geyser, 2 showers/basins. 2 pit toilets , 3 taps. Kitchen - same as base camp, except no gas cooker. Take own. 3 braais/grids, campfire place, lots of wood.

Pertinent information

  • Exercise caution with fog and with lightning during thunderstorms.
  • Carry 2ltrs+of water, bring tick repellent.
  • Mountain stream water is drinkable.
  • Depart early in summer.
  • Fitness essential - no beginners please.
  • Bring own mattresses for tents.

Location of trail

12 km from Glencoe, 40 km from Ladysmith, 325 km from Durban, 350/400 km from Gauteng cities.


Acknowledgement and bookings: Jacana