Drakensberg Dream: “As I perched on the cliffs overlooking the Tugela Falls, the aching in my heart subsided. The mountain embraced me, her tempestuous winds caressed the tears from my cheeks and my eyes beheld her sacred landscape. I was home.”
Every adventurer will have their Garden of Eden, their utopia, their little slice of paradise. Of my years of travel, there is one place that keeps calling me back, and that is the Drakensberg.
The Drakensberg is the largest mountain range in South Africa, spanning five provinces and reaching altitudes of more than 3000 metres. The name itself “Drakensberg” means Dragon Mountains and one can easily imagine the folds of the mountain range slithering serpentine across the country. Here we find some of the African continent’s most enchanting hiking experiences.
For many years the dreams of hiking in the mountains were all but impossible. As a single mother, I could not afford either the price of the equipment or the luxury of time to join a local hiking club and the few specialist companies I did come across were well out of my budget. Fortunately my luck changed when I stumbled upon a local adventure company called South Africa Adventures.
In late 2012, I was given the opportunity to join a group hike to the Drakensberg (specifically to Sentinel Peak) with friends of mine. The offer was too good not to accept. South Africa Adventures had covered every aspect of the trip: transport, guides, equipment, food and tents. All I had to do was pack my clothing and prepare to have a life altering experience.
Starting in the Witsieshoek parking lot some 2000 metres above sea level, underneath the towering Sentinel Peak, our guide Jonathan prepped us for our trip explaining safety and emergency procedures, detailed weather conditions on the mountain and oversaw efficient packing of our backpacks, all with a smattering of light hearted humour. It was clear that this man was both proficient and knowledgeable leaving our group feeling comfortable, at ease and eager to begin our hike.
Our three hour journey to the plateau of Mont-Aux-Sources was breath taking. I had never imagined the beauty of the Drakensberg to be a fierce delight. Grand basalt cliffs clawed skyward and sheer drops into the greenest of valleys assaulted us. We were compelled to stop many times to admire and appreciate the views where Jonathan imparted his knowledge of the mountains and shared his enthusiasm (which couldn’t help spreading among all of us.)
When we reached our campsite, next to the banks of the Tugela River, we were encouraged to set up our tents and cosy up while Jonathan prepared us hot cappuccinos as mountain mist swirled around us, after the mist had cleared we explored our surrounds and marvelled at the pristine mountain top. Our special treat was viewing the world’s second highest waterfalls, the Tugela Falls, which swept off the edge of the mountain in a drop of 948 metres. It was here, admiring the falls, that I had to acknowledge the presence of a higher being – I felt captured in an artwork created by something much larger than us.
As the sun sank behind Sentinel Peak we were treated to a home-cooked meal while being regaled of tales of the mountains, adventure and wanderlust. We settled into our tents underneath a blanket of stars, relaxing our tired limbs as the wind rose up and lulled us into slumber. We woke with the sun peeking into our tents, and were taken aback by the morning canvas before us: clouds had settled a few hundred metres below the plateau, concealing the escarpment, jagged peaks pierced the clouds here and there and the Tugela Falls fell through them in almost perfect silence.
We settled for breakfast with a view by before heading down the mountain. We took time to drink from the river and Jonathan surprised us with some abseiling along one of the many clefts (for those amongst us who were brave enough.) Reaching the parking area we were all a little bone-weary and somber. The Drakensberg was an enchantress and we had all fallen under her spell. We bid our goodbyes to Jonathan and made our way back to the city.
This was to the first of many encounters with the Drakensberg and South Africa Adventures. Since 2012 I have made countless return journeys to the “Dragon Mountains” with the adventure organiser and its owner, Darren MacDonald (an adventurer that has turned his passion into his life’s work), making sure that not only all the necessities are provided for, but also for feeding my soul with encouragement, enlightenment, a sense of purpose and wanderlust.
South Africa Adventures is a highly recommended South African adventure organiser catering for people from all walks of life, not only are you guaranteed professionalism of the highest quality but also light hearted fun and never ending humour. Every detail is taken care of meticulously: from airport pick up to dietary needs. Their trips are budget friendly and ideal for those who want to tick their bucket list without breaking the bank.
The Drakensberg mountain range
South Africa Adventures offers trips to various areas of the Drakensberg: a World Heritage Site that remains a favourite tourist destination not only for South Africans but also for those coming from abroad. These trips range from overnight to week long, meals are catered for, hiking equipment is available for hire at affordable rates and porters are optional.
The Savvy Goose -Blogger, Explorer & Entrepreneur