Matt Brittain will be remembered as one of our ‘Oarsome Foursome’ gold winners at the 2012 Olympics. Less time on the water these days gives him more time in the mountains
Pictures: Peter Brigg and Supplied
One of my favourite places in South Africa is the Drakensberg, in particular the Cathedral Peak section. I usually stay a night in a hotel and then hike the mountain and spend one or two nights under the stars.
I am one of four brothers and we used to hit the Berg together once a year after I finished my annual rowing camp. Since retiring from the sport, I have been back once with my wife and we’re planning another trip this month. Usually we go in summer but I think I will swap the thunderstorms for the snow this time.
My best is to hike to one of the peaks and spend the night somewhere cool. For next time, I’ve got my eye on getting to Roland’s Cave, way up high. Apparently you have to climb across this frightening narrow path on the cliff face to get to it, but I reckon when the sun rises in the morning it’ll be worth it.
For me the thing that makes the Berg special is the quiet time with friends and family. Hiking is physical enough that you don’t get bored, but not so demanding that you can’t let your mind go and think about other things. I find it amazing how few places there are where you don’t see some form of human touch, but much of the Berg is pristine and untouched.
I remember one trip where it drizzled non-stop for three days. We braved two nights before giving up and descending for a hot meal. Negotiating the terrain in that mist, wondering if we really knew where we were, still lingers on my mind. And I’ll probably never live down the time I forgot the matches and disappointed my wife with a lack of Bear Grylls skill to start a fire by rubbing twigs together.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @brittainmatthew