A recent camping trip to the Drakensberg, in Kwazulu Natal turned out to be soul refreshing.
After an agonizingly long wait for the day to arrive for our holiday and loads of planning, poring over all the hiking trails we wanted to tackle. The day finally arrived.
In the end our holiday did not work out the way I had planned it, and maybe it was for the better. Sometime you need to do things spontaneously, go with the flow and not get upset when your holiday don’t go as planned.
It all started as I am sure all holidays start. We got up early, as I wanted the car to be packed and on the road before the sun rises, as I wanted to make stops along the route, and potter around places I haven’t been to see yet.
After packing and unpacking the car three times, the sky greeted me with a kaleidoscope of colors, as though mocking me. Gritting my teeth, I decide that maybe there is a couple of things that can stay behind. One of the things to go back in the house, was my stretcher. Now I know that it sounds like I am making excuses, but I had a bad back injury a couple of years ago while white river rafting on the Mooi River. And I NEED my stretcher, I just can’t sleep on the ground, even WITH one of those foam mattresses and a blow up mattress.
Finally, the car now packed, third cup of coffee under the belt, we made our way, the sun now at a level where it shone into my eyes most of the way to our first destination.
Our first stop was at the Nelson Mandela Monument at the Capture site in Howick, Kwazulu Natal. The extraordinary sculpture by artist Marco Cianfanelli comprises 50 steel column constructions – each between 6.5 and 9.5 meters tall – set into the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands landscape. When you arrive, you follow a walkway to the monument, that they had named the long walk to freedom, the walk starts in the Apartheid Museum. The museum is filled with photos and running documentaries of Nelson Mandela’s life. Then the long walk down to the Monument, which was truly a masterpiece. The technical and artistic of ability of the artist is phenomenal. My photo, sadly does not show it at it’s best, my excuse, it was very windy that day.
The second photo shows my son doing a scout salute in memory of Nelson Mandela, who was until his death the patron of South African Scout Association.
We then went an visited the Belgium Chocolate factory, where we bought way, way to much chocolate.
The next stop was divine, Swissland Cheese. They produce only goats cheese and ice-creams. After a brief taste testing tour, Dylan proceeded to empty out their fridges of the cheese he likes. Made him put some back. Don’t want be greedy. The only complaint I had, was that ice cream containers were way to small. After experiencing nirvana, tasting their ice cream, I asked if they had bigger bucket. Sadly no. Only teeny tiny cups. I will be going back for more, trust me, those ice creams, make everything else taste like frozen water.
Finally we arrived at Mahai campsite at the Amphitheater in the Drakensberg. There is not enough words to describe the majestic beauty of the Drakensberg up close. After signing in at reception, we briefly sat in the car, enjoying the view.
My goal for this camping trip was to hike up Thukela Falls along Thukela River, up into the Amphitheater escarpment.
Alas, this did not happen. On the very first night there, Dylan went for a walkabout to the facilities and back, just before he got back to the tent, he took one huge stumbling step downhill, and sprained his ankle. Badly. This was at 1am in the morning, I was half asleep waiting for him to come back, then a “HELP! somethings wrong, Mom, help.” I must have set the land speed record, as I was awake, out of my sleeping back and at my son’s side in 1 second flat. Nothing looked broken to me, so I strapped up his ankle with all my level 1 first aid knowledge I had. Early the next morning, his ankle looked like a balloon and changing colour. Here we go, from the campsite it is an hours drive to the nearest hospital. Joy.
Deciding to stop at reception, hoping they knew of someone closer, I struck a luck. There was a paramedic in the reserve. Following the lovely lady’s directions, I finally managed to find Pete the paramedic at a workshop. Who confirmed luckily, that he has not broken anything. But that his foot has to stay strapped up and raised for 2 weeks.
Change of plans. No Thukela falls hike for me then.
No problem, I will go back again, and this time I will take a group with me, so that I can still go, even if someone is injured. After two days of hobbling Dylan to the bathroom and back, he could finally manage to walk by himself with the help of a walking stick, as we could not find any crutches.
My decision then was to walk the small hikes by myself. Which turned out to be fun and relaxing.
The first hike was to The Cascades, a gentle lovely 1 hour hike, there and back. This hike has also been made wheel chair friendly. At the end of the hike, you end up at the Cascades where you can take a dip, I chose not to, as we went in Autumn and the water was freezing. Along the way I saw a dassie sitting on a rock and some arachnids, or orb web spiders as they are commonly known.
The River walk is also a gentle 1 hour walk along the Thukela River, perfect for the early morning amble. The sound of the river flowing around huge boulder is magical. Bush buck are plentiful along the river and close to the camping site.
Four days after Dylan hurt his foot, he asked to go with me to Sunday falls, an argument ensued, which I lost. OK, how did that happen? We started early, so that we could take lots of rest stops along the way. Even though his ankle was strapped up, he could still hurt it again.
Sunday falls hiking trails starts at the Mahai campsite, and is a steady uphill walk, the trail is termed easy to medium and the round trip would take us 3 hours, or as it turned out 4 hours, as we came back via Fairy Glen.
When we reached the top of the first hill, we looked back and was greeted with a stunning sight of the Amphitheater. You can see the campsite nestled in the trees among the hills.
The trail was filled with protea and other flowers, butterflies, though they were very uncooperative indeed.
On the way back down, we followed the Fairy Glen route, which was very enchanting. The locals believe, that if you wait quietly for long enough, you might spot the fairies. Now remember, I have a 16-year-old teenage boy with me, and his response to that was “Blind Mom, I am not staying here”
The nicest part of the camping trip was, the very early morning hours, a bush buck and her baby would come browse around the campsite. They were very tame, and would come right up to you, nibbling on your arm.
Birds were plentiful as well, but they were faster than me. And we played a cat and mouse game, if I didn’t have my camera in my hand, they were there hopping around and if did have my camera, they would disappear in to thin air.
Some more views and panoramas.
Why the heading, the Drakensberg, is known as the Dragons Back in Kwazulu Natal. And the Amphitheater is the highest peak on the berg and the most northern end of the berg.