How often is it that you find yourself driving through a remote area and caught yourself wondering: “What the hell does anyone do here?”
We are so often caught up with the road in front of us that we hardly take a step back to see what we have around us, taking a road less travelled and perhaps being pleasantly surprised with what we may find.
Our weekend to the Drakensberg was just such a weekend. Finding interesting little areas off the beaten track and finding out not only about ourselves but also a little more about the area.
This weekends’ trip with Soul Adventures started with some eggs on toast just off the highway in Harrismith, a sleepy little town that I think relies heavily off of the rest stop where we were eating. It had been quite a cold week in South Africa, we are now well into Autumn and this was confirmed as we drove onto a lesser taken road into the Drakensberg. There was snow capping the very peaks of the “Berg”, it may be a little early for snow, but the view was spectacular.
Yeah, I was a little girl again, going back home.
We met up with a couple, a lovely German lady and a Tanzanian gentleman, at little spot in the middle of the Berg(we’ll get there later). Then we were off the The Royal Natal Park for our hike for the day.
Not only is hiking to the top of the Berg a great experience but to walk the Gorge, the bottom of the Berg and to see the Worlds Second Highest Waterfall dropping from 1000m(1km) above you is altogether astounding.
Perhaps one of the best hikes in the Drakensberg as it can be easily accomplished in one day(around 14km in total) you find yourself walking along the riverbank, through forests and grassy plains, which so well depict the different biospheres the Berg accomodates.
For me the Forests were the highlight, you almost know that nymphs and river sprites are watching you from behind mossy outcrops of rocks and little waterfalls that create rainbows of ligh tin their wake. Also if you are lucky you may spot some of the local wildlife, gazelle and of course baboons, but a wide range of bird life as well.
On most of the journey you have the sounds of the river next to you, sometimes loud and powerful, sometimes hushed and soothing. Again the waters are fresh and pure, perfect for drinknig along the hike, most rejuvenating, not only physically but also spiritually.
We ended our journey into the gorge with a 30m abseil into the rivers. A little scary but completely exhilirating, if one could be suspended there for the entire day it wouldnt be long enough.
We made our way out and on the road again to find our accomodations in Swinburne, with some of the best rock climbing and bouldering I have at least ever seen.
That evening we stayed in a converted barn, a little upgrade from the usual tent accomodations, lovely because we had rafters from which to hang about and practise our belaying and abseiling techniques. All of course being done while we were sipping on some Sherry to keep the cold at bay.
We were all fairly early into bed, but not all of us slept, I perhaps managed an hour or two, but that isn’t unusual for me out there in the wilderness, and not that I mind.
We woke early to sunrise over the fields and rocky outcroppings surrounding us, with horses in paddocks and the locals making their daily run to the local town for supplies. The air was crisp as we had our morning coffee and muesli, all of us preparing for the day of rock climbing ahead of us.
It was only a short brisk hike up to the first bit of Bouldering for the day, a warm up for the dragons that lay ahead. For me a lot of fun, practising my belaying and rock climbing techniques, absorbing the sun and watching whilst others attacked the rock faces.
By this time our expert rock climber, Jonathan, was leading up the Spear, a somewhat intimdating rock with a vertical face looking about as pleasant as a gunshot to the foot. He made it all the way to the top, looking like a speck in contrast to the mighty Spear.
Next up, a Polish woman whom I think was bred for this, she made her way swiflty up the rock, resembling a gecko, I was beyond impressed and in awe. We all had our turns up this face, including me. I may not have reached the top, coming away largely humbled and a little bit defeated. In the end par for the course.
One of the most rattling experiences is having to belay someone else, you know what to do and how to do it, but you know that that person is relying on you to have them if something goes wrong. You have to have confidence.
It’s amazing to see what the human body is capable of, finding ways up rock faces that look sheer. A great thing to witness when someone reaches the top triumphant.
Once we were done rock climbing it was off to our accomodation for that evening, where , even though we were sleeping in tents, we had access to hot showers, green lawns, and most importantly a Jacuzzi.
Our rock climbing expert Jonathan made us a chicken potjie to kill for(and by this I mean we were all ravenous and would’ve killed him had it not been ready a minute sooner).
The african experience:
A sky full of star and a full moon, the Drakensberg amphitheatre silouetted in the background, a group of strangers and friends sharing a campfire, reflecting over the days events, not only tough but exhilirating.
Then it was off to the Jacuzzi!
Sitting toasty warm in a jacuzzi, sipping on Spiced Gold and Coke, talking philosophical, trying our hand at a climbing wall while dripping wet and listening to the likes of Johnny Cash in the midst of other travellers is perhaps as close to heaven as one can get. And perhaps to get you back down to Earth, a dip in an ice cold pool making bets on who can stay in the water the longest before chickening out.
Sadly it was off to bed in the early hours of the morning when the bar lady decided that we had all had a little too much fun for one evening.
And in the dark, lying in the tent, the moonlight(or was that the camp light?) shining down, every stress and strain of that world out there fragments and disappears. The past and the future don’t matter, who you are and where you are from don’t either. All you have is the moment.
The sun rose too early, the only thing making up for it the beautiful amphitheatre panorama before us.
Before leaving for Johannesberg we made our way to another of the Drakensberg treasures, where we lay on the rocks like lizards, basking in the beauty of of surroundings and the sun, also learning to drink water from the falls like cowboys do. It was with a heavy heart that we had to leave.
For me , the drive back is almost always a sombre one, leaving home to go back to what…the office? Taking your memories but leaving more of yourself behind.
What did I learn this weekend?
That I apparently have shit taste in music.
Other than that nothing could’ve worked out better.