The Drakensberg

by Anna

From Coffee Bay we headed out of the rugged Eastern Cape into KwaZulu-Natal. An eight-hour drive that took us through rolling hills dotted with round colorful huts, immense stretches of farmland and hectic, bustling towns where people and livestock outnumbered cars in the road, brought us finally to the Drakensberg (“Dragon Mountains”), a mountain range that forms the dramatic boundary between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho. We entered the pristine Champagne Valley in uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park and were immediately thrilled with our new “home-away-from-home” at the Inkosana Lodge.

Former mountaineer and owner of the lodge, Ed, showed us around the beautiful property, which had everything you could think of and more…amazing scenery, an indigenous garden where you could pick herbs and veggies to cook with, big shared kitchens stocked with every appliance under the sun, a colorful and cozy “hang out” room with piles of National Geographic magazines (I think Johnny and I read about eight cover-to-cover between the two of us before we left), four big, friendly dogs, delicious home-cooked meals, a fridge stocked with Savannah Dry and an “organic pool” (however, we decided after hearing from some German travelers that the pool had leeches that we’d rather enjoy looking at it than swimming in it!).

The lodge The indigenous garden
One of the super awesome kitchens Million-dollar slogan: “It’s dry. But you can drink it!
The “tree circle” on the lawn…our favorite late afternoon spot
Clouds reflecting in the “organic” pool

The Drakensberg is known as being one of the best spots for hikers and climbers in South Africa, and we took advantage of some of the half-day hikes in the Monk’s Cowl area of the range. Our first day we took the four hour “Hlatikhulu Forest Loop” and were blown away by the magnificent landscape of green hills and jagged rocky peaks. We passed through lush forests and waterfalls and even ran into a group of wild horses along the way. The magical moment of us alone with wild horses on the side of a mountain was a little bit tainted by the fact that one of the horses passed a serious amount of gas – really loudly I might add – in my face, but it was still a highlight of the day and Johnny got a good laugh out of me hightailing it away from the horse up the trail. Already very happy with our awesome hike and wild horse encounter, we couldn’t believe our eyes later that day driving back to the lodge when we spotted zebras on the side of the road! Where else does that happen?!

Our hike started out shrouded in mist Sterkspruit falls
Wild horses
We are getting really good at balancing our camera on rocks for self-portraits!
Nandi falls Flora along the trail
Zebra!
Our zebra sighting whetted our appetite for our final destination, Kruger National Park

On the second day, we took more of an uphill route called “Blind Man’s Corner” where our heavy breathing and sweatiness was rewarded with incredible views of the valley and mountain peaks. In the evenings, we’d sit out in the big Adirondack chairs on the lawn at Inkosana and soak in the tranquility and beauty all around us. It was such a peaceful place, and Johnny decried it as one of his favorite mountain ranges of all time.

Johnny taking in the view at the “Sphinx”
Johnny scaling the rocks Another great balancing act
We almost lost Johnny…
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