Thursday, November 23, 2017 | South Africa – Western Cape, Knysna | Petra
MOUNTAINS WITHOUT END
THOUSAND KILOMETRES OF DRAKENSBERG
Days fly while we are working our way forward to the North along the South African side of Drakensberg Mountains. The giant mountain range stretches impressive 1,000 kilometres from North to South. On small roads we hop from one valley to the next. One nature reserve is followed by the next and each has it’s own sublime scenery and character. A lot of change is promised.
SLOWLY IS MORE FUN
Usually we only drive 60 or 80 kilometres a day, especially when we are on gravel roads, which always leave us well shaked. When driving slowly we enjoy the advantage of seeing a lot more of the country. The scenery passes by slowly and we can look around with all the time in the world. It’s amazing how much sceneries change even within these short distances. Sometimes high mountains and rocks, sometimes gentle hills and willows.
The pasture areas of the farms are incredibly huge. The cattle is free to ramble for food. Sometimes sheep flocks and their shepherds cross our way, sometimes cattle browse along the road delightfully champing grass or a pick up rushes by in a dusty cloud on it’s way to somewhere. When we stop anywhere for a rest we can be sure a farmer will stop for a small talk asking if everything is fine, where we come form and where we go to.
Sometimes it’s market day somewhere next to the road and everybody is around. Sundays you can see believers coming from all directions to visit church dressed up with their Sunday best. At lunch time kids are running home from school. No matter where we are, we always meet friendly people waving at us with a smile.
HIGHMOOR NATURE RESERVE
At Kamberg we camp at the beautiful guest farm Glengarry, enjoying the nice warm sun and admire the bright stars at night through our big dormer window. We listen the concert of the frogs living in the pond below and the twitter of the colourful birds. We can hear whinnying horses from far or a shouting cow. Countryside idyll.
The day when we are leaving our young host presents us our laundered and pressed bed linen as a free service. There’s really not much to complain about.
We head to Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park to „The Castle of The Giants“, Champagne Castle (3,377 m) und Giant’s Castle (3,314 m). Both are part of the 35,000 hectares big game reserve Giant’s Castle. There we get the chance for an easy hike to the Main Caves, where we can lionize one of the richest rock paintings of the San (bushmen), who used to live here ages ago as hunter-gatherers. Only one small painting of an elephant, I’m very sure, is a relic of the modern era which a funny visitor scrawled not long ago.
ROYAL NATAL AND WITSIESHOEK
From there our multi-day trip leads us via Royal Natal National Park and Witsieshoek to Golden Gate Highlands National Park. At Witsieshoek again we jump into our hiking boots for a hike to Thukela Falls (Tugela Falls). We join the party of Barbara and Martin from Berlin, who hired Simon as their guide. While chatting we walk up 500 metres altitude on a paved footpath first, later on narrow stony mountain paths, climb 60 metres of vertical chain ladders, break our personal altitude record at 3,050 metres an enjoy the stunning view up there. Finally at the top we walk on the extensive plateau to reach the rim of the waterfall. Different than expected it is quiet there, no roaring rushing of water. Normally the water of the Thukela River pours down 948 metres – it is the second highest waterfall on earth! Now the river is only a little runnel and is waiting for rain. And rain is coming in the form of a heavy thunder-storm. We are glad to arrive at our overnight spot before it starts to get wet and uncomfortable. We are concerned about the group of hikers we came across when we were on our way back. They planned to spend the night on the top of the plateau.
They might have it not very cosy up there tonight.
GOLDEN GATE HIGHLANDS
Obligatory we want to visit the tiny village Clarens, so many people told us about on our tour. The regional road R 712 to Clarens leads across Golden Gate Highlands National Park. If you come here you will immediately understand why it is called Golden Gate. The endless scenery is bathing in golden sunlight and in the evening sun the rocks appear in golden red – a marvelous play of colours.
Reason enough to make camp here!
At Basotho Cultural Village next to R 712 we stop for a short visit. Solomon the guide shows us the museum village that gives us a foretaste of Lesotho and the way of Basotho’s living. Basotho are called the residents of Lesotho. Apart from that we get a lesson in Sesotho, the Lesotho language, and learn the most important words. In a few days we will enter the small kingdom in the mountains. Preparation is everything.
Finally we arrive in Clarens and understand immediately the distinctiveness of the tiny town. Restaurants and cafés are nestled around the square park in the centre of the village. They have a bakery with tasty bread and lovely cookies. Small boutiques offer fashion, souvenirs and other important nice-to-haves. Clarens is a popular hot spot for the weekend. It’s friday and minute by minute new guests drop in to enjoy the weekend – so do we.
It’s our wedding anniversary today. To celebrate it we invite ourselves for a festival lunch at Clarens Brewery. We get freshly brewed beer and German sausages, something very different. There it is where we meet Grace and her friends from Johannesburg, who are wondering about our vehicle. They very much recommend to visit Joburg. They are enthusiastic about their city and are convinced it’s worth to see it.
So let’s put Joburg on our list!
Now we’ll only have to sleep twice until we’ll drive to Lesotho. Yippie!
Basotho Cultural Village
Pretty village Clarens