If you have never seen bushman paintings this short hike suitable for the whole family is the one for you. One of the Drakensberg’s greatest treasures is cultural. Some 40 000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 600 different cave and overhang sites between Royal Natal and Bushman’s Neck.
This three-hour guided trail starts at the Kamberg Rock Art centre, where you can watch a 20-minute DVD on the art and history of this famous rock-art site. As you walk, take heed of the poignant verse that is found on all the marketing brochures: “No more do we Bushmen hunt in these hills. The fire is cold. Our songs are quiet. But listen carefully. You will hear us in the water. Look carefully, you will see us in the rock.” And you will.
Leaving the centre, the trail heads south, then, after crossing a small stream, gradually meanders up the hill under the spray coming off the Waterfall Shelter. Shortly after this overhang, the path crosses a small river and then it’s a bit of a slog up a zigzagging path until, about 40 minutes from the start, you reach the gate of the shelter.
Most of the paintings in the shelter are complex polychrome images and the first ones you’ll see as you enter are imposing therianthropic figures (mythological creatures that are part human, part animal) clad in long black karosses. The most frequently depicted animal is the eland, the largest antelope in the Drakensberg. Apart from providing meat, fat and skins, eland had symbolic importance to the San, who believed they had supernatural powers. Archaeologists studying these paintings uncovered a vital key to understanding the symbolism of San rock art(how hunters gained power from the animals they killed) so, in a sense, they “cracked the code” – hence, the site is commonly referred to as the “Rosetta Stone”.
It’s then downhill all the way back to the centre, which has a few books, posters and videos, as well as limited snacks, tea and coffee for sale.
Walks are limited to groups of 10 people and leave from the centre at 9am, 11am and 12.30pm or by special arrangement with community guides based at the centre.