14 May Sunset on the South African Bergs
In a canyon between two rock faces, I climbed up the boulders like Spiderman. ‘Don’t look down.’ The trail, appropriately named, The Crack, cuts through a crevice; to reach the plateau, you have to scramble over boulders and climb ladders bolted into the rocks; my legs were shaking when I got to the top.
But, what a view from the grassy plateau. I ate my peanut butter jelly sandwich, surveying a 360 panorama of mountains.
The day before I hiked a trail called The Gorge that meandered through a dry riverbed; and it was here, without a person in sight, that Mel skinny dipped in the icy water. What a feeling. Snaps ya back awake! No pictures.
I’ve been in the northern part of the Drakensberg Mountains for about three days now, staying at the most adorable cottage. The Berghouse Cottages sit on a mountain overlooking the valley and across from a semi circle of rocks called, appropriately called, the Amphitheatre. Owners Vaughn and Chantel had a cattle farm here and would visit often before they decided to make the permanent move 17 years ago. Coming through the gate for the first time gave me goosebumps- it’s that beautiful. They have mountain bikes, little wee horses (stubby legs below) and even big horsies to ride.
From a beautiful gazebo that overlooks the valley, I witnessed a lightening storm that turned the sky white last night, after which I ran back into my cottage to eat my hot homemade chicken potpie. Yes, I get breakfast and dinner served to me every day on a tray; breakfast on the patio outside, and dinner inside on the sofa.
Besides the hiking, the meals are my favourite part. Really. When you’re travelling alone, with little Internet connection, and no one to talk to, in the middle of a mountain range, the homemade chocolate cake with custard, or koeksisters (sugary donuts), or lasagna so large I saved half for lunch, the food is comfort. Or, what about omelettes with onions and cheese, with corn bread?
Amazing down-to-earth man, Vaughn, the owner, reveals as an Afrikaaner (Dutch descendant in South Africa) he grew up on a farm north of Durban, ‘on the back of his Zulu momma’ and spoke Zulu before English. Zulu is the largest tribe in South Africa from the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Vaughn drops me off at KZN Wildlife Park trailhead every day and picks me up, but not before I grab two beers from the park store on the way home. Nothing can match the taste of a cold beer after sweating for hours. I also found ladies making these sturdy baskets from straw: couldn’t pass up buying a few. Women are amazingly industrious no matter the country.
I head back into Durban to get my driver’s license (don’t ask- forgot back in Canada). From there, Lesotho, or should I say, The Kingdom of Lesotho. A landlocked country in South Africa which I’d never heard of before researching my trip. One of the poorer countries on the continent, many locals still ride on horseback. Should be a drastic change from South Africa’s cities that are walled mansions with security guards.
For now, I will finish off writing a story, and head to bed. I hit the pillow at 9:30 and wake at 6 am. I feel like a farmer: sun up to sun down. Speaking of which, I sat on the grass and watched the sun go down tonight. For about an hour and a half, I took photos of the light getting dimmer, and the mountain getting darker. I’ve never done this. It’s funny how I kept wanting to rush it: come on already, hurry up. But why rush? Let go of trying to control everything! The sun will go down when it freaking wants to, Chambers. And that’s how it should be.