GRADE: C+
TIME: 8 hours.
DISTANCE: 13 km.
TERRAIN: Undulating path with steep slopes and some scrambles. Hotel guide required.

This walk is one of the least known, yet most scenic of all walks from The Cavern. The easiest route for the newcomer is to take the Sugar Loaf Gap. Turn right above the escarpment and proceed to Venus’ Bath. This holds water only in summer. Then just below the steep slope of Hlolela, bear left down into the valley along an easily found path running beside a stream. This eventually runs into the Metshimatsho River.

The hike now turns up the Metshimatsho River, with no particular path. The “black” bottom of the river is the origin of its name. The river must be crossed several times before reaching its source. Almost at the source is a waterfall. Climb up the right hand bank to enter a small, almost hidden valley. Proceed along game tracks while being almost entirely surrounded by walls of hills. Finally cross the stream and bear left to climb out of the valley to the top of Cold Ridge.

Near the corner of Cold Hill is a volcanic dyke – a strip of basaltic lava that has forced upwards through a crack in the sandstone. This indicates an easy route through and down Cold Ridge, where a game track follows a contour across the slope above Cannibal Cave. Turn left at this track and watch for the route down to Cavern Gap – just to the left of Cannibal Cave from the top. It is marked with a stone cairn. Descend through this rough gap down to Cannibal Cave, and thence home.

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