Day 10 + 11: Drakensbergen: The Mountains and Rain, and Rain and even more Rain.

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Africa » South Africa » KwaZulu-Natal » Northern Drakensberg
November 11th 2014
Published: May 23rd 2015
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Royal Natan. N.P.Royal Natan. N.P.Royal Natan. N.P.

Our Campsite, without rain
Drankensbergen, the place of the rural mountains. That's sounds great; a great place to discover. Too bad we were not able to doing so, thanks to Rain, and Rain and even more Rain. Did I mention we had much Rain? So no, know you know. Actually, this is no joke and it was not even funny. We had to pack our bags and in a hurry we were able to leave our camping space and the rain behind.

It started so nice. In the Drakensbergen you still can find the old paintings of the San people, you have very good hiking trails, and the nature is beautiful over there. If you visit South-Africa, the Drakensbergen are a “must” on your list. Also, it was the last park that we would visit without “safari” (except the Panorama Route) and “safari animals”. Here, you can hike alone, without being afraid to get hunted by lions, or attacked by hippo’s. What we did not all expect was that our trip was in the beginning of the rain season. In East-Africa, a lot of trips are not going between November and begin January; due the rain. But, South-Africa is quite a lot
Hello little fellow! Hello little fellow! Hello little fellow!

You can find quite a lot of birds in this park as well.
of distance away; but still in November and January you can expect a lot of rain. We had some; but not extreme. For the local people, this period was quite dry. Normally, heavy rain can fall for days. One plus is about travelling in the rain season is that a lot of young animals will be born, for example buffalo calves. The pregnant female animals can “hold” their young for quite a long time; they wait until there enough rain is fallen and the cubs shall born. Due the many rain, all the plants and the vegetation is going to grow extremely. If the young animals are born before this time, the change is very big that a lot of them will die due lack of food and vegetation. If enough rain was fallen and the vegetation is growing by day, the young have better change to survive. Going in the rain season means that you are able to see very, very young animals. Some animals might be some days old. If you go after the rain season; you will see some older cubs. If you go before the rain season, you mostly will see a low vegetation rate: it’s perfect to spot animals, due the fact that the area is more “open” and not grown. Do not expect to see that much savannas as in East-Africa where you can look from a huge distance in the open field; that is not true in South-Africa, at least, not at the places where I went. Here, there is much vegetation. Which also means that animals will flight quite soon in the vegetation when they are afraid. And, if the rain starts to fall, the vegetation will grow very fast. But, the vegetation is not a minus, it leads to some nice views. The last days we had some rain, mostly when we were sitting in the truck but not the extreme rain that most local people expect. But, we got that “extreme” rain just on the day that we would have plenty of time to discover the Drakensbergen.

We left early in the morning at half past five. We stayed in Malealea, a place in the South-West of Lesotho. As just told, we left around 6.30 and a ride of approx 7 to 8 hours was scheduled. The cause that the route was so long, is that we
Ampfitheater Backpack LodgeAmpfitheater Backpack LodgeAmpfitheater Backpack Lodge

This are our rooms.
had to drive around Lesotho. The Drakensbergen area start at the border of Lesotho/South Africa in the East of Lesotho, but due the bad quality of the roads, we are not able to cross through Lesotho with our truck and to achieve the camping site before night that was booked for this night. Bheki drove us to the Border crossing at the Peka Bridge; you can find this border crossing in the North-West of Lesotho. We arrived there at half past eleven. We could go further with our journey when we got two stamps: one for exit Lesotho, and one go get back in in South-Africa. As said, we had to drive around Lesotho, and that was why we had great day of travelling. Our end goal of today is the Royal National Park; it is one of the National Parks in the Drakensbergen area. In our route, we passed the Golden Gate National Park, where we took our lunch. Bheki drove straight though this park and we were able to see some safari animals already. So, we saw some Samango monkey’s, a roan (antelope), a springbuck, a Wildebeest (gnu’s) and in the far distance some zebra’s. At the Royal National Park, we made a stop in the shop to buy some souvenirs before we put up our tents. In the evening we had rice, cabbage out of the wok and chicken in a sauce with courgette and paprika.

In the night, the rain started. The problem was that we camped in a valley and the big cloud was not able to go away; it was stuck between the mountains. That means, that we had a lot of rain (that is an understatement). However, a small excursion was booked before of our arrival, to visit the San paintings. The guides where two local girls, but I can not remember their names. The excursion would take some hour, the trails up to the caves between 15 to 20 minutes. The trail was good to do, but we had to watch out. The stones became more and more slippery and the rain kept on going; it was falling with tons out of the sky. The wind started to get stronger as well. When we finally arrived at the paintings, the wind was the most problem: everyone had raincoats. And raincoats slam during heavy winds. This slamming makes quite a
Amphitheater Backpacker LodgeAmphitheater Backpacker LodgeAmphitheater Backpacker Lodge

The Lodge had also a huge grass field to put one some tents. Here, we had a view to the Drakensbergen and the Amphitheater in the far distance. Do you see the clouds?
lot of sound. The girls were almost not to be understood by the sound of the rain coats and the howling wind. The rain, the wind, everything, nobody had anymore fun to see the paintings. There were not much paintings. It was all more coincidence; if we had good weather, a good trail which did not have slippery stones and the sun was nice, that was probably no problem at all. But we expected also more paintings and from better quality. And the bad conditions let it drop to worse. But still, I would like to thank the girls that they went with us to the cave for the excursion. The San are better known as the Bushpeople. In this area, they lived mostly in the many caves of the Drakensbergen in the late stone age, but there paintings are found even back in Namibia. Archaeologist found out that the youngest paintings are probably some 800 years old. The art that they made was connected with spiritual world and healing powers. For example the Eland is connected with power than any other animal that is pained. That’s why you see the Eland in almost every cave. You also can see
View at the DrakensbergenView at the DrakensbergenView at the Drakensbergen

Shot by the Amphitheater Backpacker Lodge
a lot of medicine and trance dance in their painting. With the medicine and trance dance, they could connect in the spiritual world and it was a very big important part of their lives.

We went back to the campsite and waiting if the rain would stop. Which did not stopped. The huge problem was that hiking in this weather is dangerous. The stones are slippery, the path’s and trails are not doable with this weather. You have to climb and go down quite a lot and there is a very good change that you fall, and even you might fall to death. In this area, you do not have to fall from a very height, to fall to your death; you also smack against a stone. If you have good weather, you can do some hikes here. You might climb the “Amphitheatre”. The Amphitheatre? No, the Romans where not here; it’s a famous peek that you can find on posters, postcards and more souvenirs. The best trail in this area is the Tugela Gorge Trail; it takes around 6 hours to complete. You are able to see the Tugela Falls; This is an incredible waterfall, where
View at the DrakensbergenView at the DrakensbergenView at the Drakensbergen

Shot at the Amphitheater Backpacker Lodge
the water falls from a rockwall of an hight of 947 meters. The hike also brings you very close, with some very good sights, to the Amphitheatre. Here, you can enter some peaks which give you the good sight. This hike was defiantly on my list to do so, and also for the other ones. In some trails, you are also able to hike up this wall and see from quite close that the water does not have another choice than falling from this high end. If you would like, you can extent the hike with climbing up to the Tugela Falls, where you can stand at the top, where the small river falls down from the ineradicable height. And, of course, you can do more hikes and excursions if you want too.

But in the end, we were still in our camp. And, we faced more problems. All tents started to leak. Some tents had very bad leakages. The rain did not go away, but got stronger. Manda did not have other options to find a hotel in the neighbourhood. We were not able to camp here over night and to stay here. And
View at the DrakensbergenView at the DrakensbergenView at the Drakensbergen

Shot at the Amphitheater Backpacker Lodge
now the part comes that Manda was gratefully that Eelco had his Lonely Planet and I had my Rough Guide. And in the end, we found a place. At 5 in the afternoon we finally arrived at the Amphitheatre Backpacker Lodge. Here, we were dry and there were rooms left for us. I shared a room with Christa. Christa and I found out that they had some good red wine at the bar, so that was our goal for today. But first, made some pictures of the Drakensbergen from a distance. And especially from the clouds. The Amphitheater Backpacker Lodge has also a huge grass field where you can put on your tent. Here, it was dry, but we had a good sight on the very dark clouds hanging in the Drakensbergen. If we stayed at the campsitehere, the whole night, even until some days, it would rain there, continue. At least, we were happy that we had a dry place for the night. Manda made some dinner for us by the truck. We had vegetables with carrots, onions and garlic. He served with some roasted potatoes and a very tender T-bone steak. In the evening, Christa and I were found at our favourite place again for that day: at the pub. Drinking wine. That was all that us could satisfy that day.

I would like to thank the Amphitheatre Backpacker hotel that they were able to help us due the weather and that they reserved some rooms for us. Also, Africa Travel Co. Did not hastate to give us back the money that we had to pay first ourselves to pay the room. Great service!


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