Ken Burrows48000, South Africa

The Challenging Drakensberg Mountains

Ken Burrows48000, South Africa
The Challenging Drakensberg Mountains

KwaZulu Natal – a World Heritage Discovery– 22 October – 9 November 2010

This was our first trip with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, so we were not sure what to expect. We both walk regularly, but there are few serious hills in our area so walking in the Drakensberg Mountains was potentially challenging.

Our first stay was at the Bonomanzi Game Park at Hluhluwe, north of Durban. We had walks along the beach, walks in game reserves, drives through game reserves and boat trips to see hippos. We were impressed with the variety of wildlife we saw, even from the front door of our thatched “hut”, but the highlight of the stay was a drive in an open 4WD truck through Umfolozi Game Park.

We had noted a large herd of elephants in the distance, but in spite of several attempts to get near them, we failed. Then in the afternoon they found us at our picnic spot! When the rangers realised what was happening we were hurriedly ushered to our vehicles and we attempted to leave. However, the elephants had blocked the road and one elephant was threatening us. We stopped the engines and stayed quiet. Then the rangers became more nervous because a large bull elephant in musth (ready to breed) came up from behind us and they can be quite unpredictable and aggressive in that condition. He brushed past our vehicle, made some threatening moves in front of us and then, fortunately, he pushed another elephant out of the way and disappeared into the bush. There was an audible sigh of relief and we continued slowly on our way.

What an introduction to Africa!

The second stay was in Dundee near to several battlefields involving Zulus and Boers. We found that it was not quite as they reported in Victoria’s day, nor in the film “Zulu”. The Boers and the Zulus were excellent fighters in different ways and both had local knowledge of the land. We lost heavily at first before slowly winning later battles, and used deceit to claim control of land.

The second half of the holiday was walking in the Drakensberg Mountains with a few day’s stay at the beautifully situated luxury Cathedral Peak Hotel and then at the more homely, but no less beautiful, Cavern Berg Hotel. The hotels were at about 5,000 feet and we climbed up to 7,000 feet. It was graded “D” but a fair amount of scrambling was involved and the heat (37 degrees C in the shade, and there was little shade) made it quite arduous. Most in our party of 16 were in their sixties with clearly mixed ability and on the last day only six of us managed the climb to “Sugar Loaf”.

One thing I must not forget is that the food (and wine at 65p a glass) was lovely and it was a good job we had some energetic walks to work it off.

I think we might go on another Ramblers Worldwide Holidays trip.