We landed at King Shaka airport in Durban on December 28th and rented a car to drive to our next destination, the Drakensberg Mountains.
It took us about three hours to arrive at our hotel “the Nest”. Our drive was very scenic as we passed farms and towns. When we arrived at the Nest and presented our reservations to the Front Desk they told us that they didn’t have us in the system and that they were sold out as it was summer holiday time in South Africa. We booked through booking.com. They told us to sit and have a drink while they figured it out. After an hour they came back and told us they have a room for us as long as we don’t mind switching rooms half way through our stay. We agreed as we knew most places were full. I had tried to book a much nicer hotel for our stay called the Champagne Castle hotel that was at the base of where we wanted to hike but they weren’t open during our stay.
We spent 4 days in the Drakensberg region and we visited a number of nice restaurants, a bakery. However the number one reason for visiting here was to hike in the mountains.
We did the Champagne Castle hike and although we didn’t make it the entire way up the mountain, the elevation is 3377M. It is the second highest peak in South Africa. I always like hiking in other countries, it’s new and you have never seen it before. One of our concerns was the snake warnings, we read the poisonous snakes in this area were puff adders which like to sit on the trail and have toxic venom that destroy human tissue, berg adders and rinkhals a snake that looks like a cobra when it approaches. While nobody wants to be bitten by a poisonous snake while on vacation it is something that you need to think about when hiking in a country like South Africa. The other warning at the park office was a warning to watch out for robbers at the top of the mountain, it went as far as to say sleep with your shoes on if you are camping. As we were told the country of Lesotho bordered the mountain and sometimes some of those people wandered over to the hiking trails. Just something to be aware of.
After signing in with the park office we started off on a trail in a wooded area with lots of nice woodland animal noises. It was very humid that day and we brought lots of snacks and water. The trail was well marked and while there were a few difficult parts where we were close to cliff edges I’d say the difficulty rating was moderate.
As we were hiking through the trail we started to get a view of the Drakensberg mountains through the trees and they were absolutely beautiful. As we elevated we exited the tree portion of the trail and walked up the trail on the side of the mountain. This was one of the most picturesque hikes that I have been on. We started our hike with a perfectly sunny day but by the time we were getting close to the top of the mountain two things had happened. The weather was changing very quickly and I think I was getting altitude sickness. It was a weird feeling that I had never had before. I felt a little nauseous and it felt like everything was going in slow motion for a few minutes. The slow motion feeling only lasted a few minutes but the nausea lasted a couple days, I didn’t tell Charlene at the time because I didn’t want to freak her out but I should have. The rain clouds were moving in. We didn’t want to get stuck at the top of the mountain in a storm during late afternoon so we started to head down.The rain didn’t last longer than 30 minutes but it made the rocks and ground quite slippery.
As we were leaving the park office to finish our hike. There were a few hikers that asked if anyone had seen a lady that had been hiking by herself in the mountains. The hiking groups discussed that nobody had seen her in a number of hours. I never found out what happened with that lady. I will say this, hike with a partner as you could get injured or have something happen to you. It is a safety thing.
I remember watching a nature documentary on the Drakensberg region and the beauty and ruggedness of the mountains are what inspired me to include this in our trip. The Drakensberg mountains are also a world heritage site although most people I’ve talked to in Canada have never heard of them.