SA’s poorly-documented mountains are vital water towers for millions of people

As a youngster growing up on Gauteng’s West Rand, Ralph Clark had plenty of open spaces he could disappear into and explore: waterfalls, open protea savanna, old mine workings and caves.  

Now, as the director of the Afromontane Research Unit at the University of the Free State, Clark jokes that although he gets paid to climb mountains, the reality is that he does a lot of desk work “to enable others in our team to climb mountains”.

Still, the Maloti-Drakensberg is only 40 minutes from campus and an hour from home. “I do have the privilege of getting into the mountain much more regularly than someone based further afield, for both work and recreation.” 

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