Women in Wilderness in the Drakensberg Mountains – Cobham, South Africa
By Lihle Mbokazi
We left Pholela hut early in the morning to hike 14km, climbing steadily uphill to get to Gxalingenwa cave. The hike was very challenging for the 10 rural woman farmers from Mpumalanga who had never hiked or walked such a long distance before in one day. Carrying heavy 75L backpacks with food, group equipment, their clothes and utensils was definitely not fun.
Faces fell even further at the end of the long, arduous first day when they saw where they would be sleeping. In a cave on the ground on a thin mattress in a sleeping bag!!!
However, the mountains soon wove their magic spell and by the time the sun rose the next morning the women had thawed and were happy and smiling and awed and proud of how far they had managed to walk. We had made it!
Being in mountain wilderness for four days was a very spiritual beautiful experience. Each and every one of us connected with our traditions, culture, and our different beliefs and came to embrace these differences.
Our most powerful experience was when we visited a sacred site with Khoisan rock art. The sensitive paintings of many women giving birth naturally connected us to our womanhood and with the spirits of the great ancestors in that cave.
After we left the powerful sacred site, several women expressed a need to pray or phahla before entering a cave. In caves we all felt strong spiritual connections with Mother Earth. We are her children and the caves in the Drakensberg are like her many wombs that keep us safe and protect us from the elements.
I am grateful to EarthLore for the opportunity for my co-guide, Christeen Grant, and for me to guide the women through this experience.