FIVE-STAR TRAIL consists of a 25km round-trip from the Mnweni Centre, providing opportunities to overnight at 5-Star Shelter, visit two rock art sites and/or the Mnweni Pools. Part of the trail falls within the Community Nature Reserve & Wilderness Area. The trail is part of a well-known route commonly used by hikers to access several passes; however two rock art sites open to the public are less well-known and contain rare and unusual paintings.
Arrangements to visit rock art sites open to the public, a guided trip, porters and/or cultural visits: Refer to list at the end of Overview of the Trail, following.
For day or overnight hiking trips please complete the mountain rescue register and pay the hiking fee at at the Mnweni Cultural & Hiking Centre.
The trail allows several options for morning trips, day hikes and overnighting as follows:
1. A morning (or day trip) to KwaMfazi Rock Art Site (10km round trip from Mnweni Centre)
2. Day trip to Ezangomeni Rock Art Site (16km round trip from Mnweni Centre)
3. Day/overnight trip to the Mnweni Pools (20km round trip from Mnweni Centre)
4. Overnight trip to stay at 5-Star Shelter (24 km+ round trip from Mnweni Centre)
5. Related options for trips of 3 - 5 days depending on routes, passes and weather conditions
1. KWA MFAZI ROCK ART SITE
This lovely shelter, a short detour from the trail, has a scenic outlook and contains a wide range of paintings.
A short detour from the shelter leads to KwaMfazi Stream, ideally situated for a tea-break. Return via the same route.
AMAFA (the provincial heritage authority) requires that a local rock art custodian accompany visitors to rock art sites. A list of available custodians can be found here.
2. DAY TRIP TO EZANGOMENI ROCK ART SITE
This spectacular site, with rare images, is a short detour from the trail. Alternatively it can be visited en route to or from 5-Star Shelter. Water is easily available from the Mnweni River.
For more information on Drakensberg rock art sites and custodians, please visit this page.
3. DAY TRIP TO THE MNWENI POOLS, EMBEZENI POOLS, OR OTHER POOLS
Several beautiful pools between 5-Star Shelter and the junction of the Mnweni and Ifidi (Bhudlu) Rivers can be visited: The Mnweni Pools lie just below the junction of the Icidi (Chakide) and Mnweni Rivers (S28.83556 E29.00391) about 3km from 5-Star Shelter and are best accessed from a path on the right upstream bank of the Mnweni River.
Further down the river are lovely blue sandstone-coloured pools, unofficially called Mlambo Pools, (S28.83256 E29.02194) in the vicinity of Mlambo's homestead which is no longer occupied.
The Embezeni Pools are another 2km downstream S28.81475 E29.04335 (about a kilometer before the junction of the Ifidi (Bhudlu) River). All the pools are well worth a day's visit and a detour from the path (start early), but could also be visited en route to or from 5-Star Shelter.
4. OVERNIGHT TRIP TO STAY AT 5-STAR SHELTER
The shelter is also a popular stopover before ascent of the Mbundini, Fangs, Mnweni & Rwanqa Passes. Mbundini Valley, in which 5-Star Shelter (see photo below) is situated, lies near the base of Mbundini/Fangs Passes close to the junction of the Mnweni & Mbundini Rivers.
5) FURTHER OPTIONS: 3 day trips
For more seasoned hikers there is an option to continue to the summit via one of several passes: The Mnweni, Rwanqa, Mbundini or Fangs Passes. On the summit is the source of the Orange, in the vicinity of Ledgers Cave. 2km further on is the free-standing Mponjwane column, a mountaineering favourite, as is Mponjwane Cave.
Mnweni Valley from above Ledger's Cave
Rwanqa Shelter is near the top of Rwanqa Pass (one of the easiest but less spectacular passes to negotiate - provided the correct route is followed); however returning via Fangs or Mnweni Passes makes for a satisfying trip. The turnoff to Rwanqa Pass is via an indistinct track to the right of the main path, about a kilometre past Shepherds Cave. The once popular cave is now seldom visited - it is increasingly used by Basotho.
The return trip can be made via several passes leading into the Mnweni Valley or Rockeries Pass which leads down into the Tonyelane Valley. This trip can be made in two days but allows little time for stopovers, exploration or climbing.
Section of Mnweni & Mbundini Valleys
Further options for round trips of 30-45km (3-4 days) depending on the route, weather conditions and exploration:
Manxome Pass is an unnamed pass opposite Mnweni Pass, for the more experienced hiker only, as is Pins Pass. Alternatively, hikers can proceed to Cathedral Peak or Royal Natal National Park in which case additional time would be needed, as well as vehicles, if either of these two options are exit points. For details relating to these and other routes refer to www.vertical-endeavour.com.
Click to enlarge the map of the trail below, alternatively download a full-scale version of the map.
Trail development supported by the GEF Small Grants Programme, implemented by UNDP.