For the end of my stay in South Africa, let’s go to Drakensberg, a wide mountain region listed to Unesco World Heritage: incredible landscapes, pure air and water and endless choices to go hiking… a fantastic place!
Focus on the Drakensberg
The Drakensberg, located in the North-East of South Africa, is the only park in the world to be listed to Unesco World Heritage for four reasons: its landscapes, its rocks with very characteristic stratums, its fauna and flora (of which 10% can be found only in the park) and its rock paintings. It is 250 km long from the North to the South and 20 km wide from the West to the East. Water is so pure there that it can be drunk without any danger in all the streams and waterfall of the area.
I only went to the Drakensberg South but the whole park would of course need to be discovered… if you have enough time and a vehicle to go from one place to another, as transports are not very developed there!
Sunday 26th November 2017
Back on Saturday evening from the pony trek in Lesotho, I went on Sunday morning to discover these landscapes, which I had just started to discover once the clouds had gone on the way back the day before. The sun was present so I went to climb on Ndlovini Mountain, a summit where the panoramas are wonderful.
This hike is supposed to be around 18 km long, but I did more 26,4 km with an altitude of 1 200 m! I’m not sure I should be proud of it as it more because I was unable to follow the itinerary! I made it much longer as I struggled to find the path climbing towards the summit, but even more on the way back. I did not recognize the path as the rain had come and prevented me from recognizing where I came from.
But despite this rain on the way back and these troubles to find my way, I came back really happy of this first hike. The landscapes were amazing, I didn’t see anybody for the whole day… how not to feel good in such conditions?
Monday 27th November 2017
Rain, rain and rain for this day, a good reason to force me to have a break and write the numerous posts that were late on the blog!
Hiking with good company
Tuesday, 28th November 2017
After talking with my roommates, two Dutch guys, we decided to go hiking together. They had also got lost during their hike on Sunday but with the three of us, we should be able to make it!
We went in the direction of Cobham nature reserve, but this hike looked a bit boring for us as it mainly stayed in the valley and didn’t have any special viewpoints. As the path joined the ascension towards Ndlovini Mountain, which I now perfectly remembered of, I offered them to make our hike longer with this “short” detour (we walked for 22 km instead of 18 km, which is not that bad!). I was very happy to come back to this summit, as the view was clearer on that day. And we didn’t get lost nor did we have any rain for this time!
To perfectly end up, I had a refreshing dive in the hostel’s small swimming pool, where there was nobody but me. What else did I need?
A perfect birthday
Wednesday, 29th November 2017
First birthday far from France and my relatives… I was expecting a relatively calm day but it was absolutely not the case thanks to the amazing team that was staying at the hostel. I had planned nothing but hiking with Germans with who I had made friends the two evenings before.
Two of them, Tobias and Martin, made it very special from the beginning as they offered me some flowers freshly picked in the garden, to which they then added some taken during the hike. I already felt so grateful!
Our hike, heading towards Balancing Rocks – rocks that are strangely piled on the top of a mountain’s summit and that look small when seen from far away but are actually huge! – was also superb. The ascension is steep and intense but a beautiful waterfall and its pool are waiting for you at the arrival and make it very rewarding, as well as the amazing views from the top.
Threatened by a storm that was getting closer, we decided to slightly shorten our hike and went back to the hostel right on time, as the rain was arriving.
To end up this day in a perfect way, we had a big braai (barbecue for those who don’t remember!) with about ten people staying at the hostel. My clothes and hair still have the strong smell of the smoke as I write these lines but what lovely memories! I was really spoiled with nice attentions, but I even a birthday cake and a bottle of South African red wine as a present… spending one’s birthday far from home but so well accompanied is definitely a great experience!
Bye-bye South Africa
Jeudi 30 novembre 2017
Thursday, 30th November 2017
After a short night, I left with a slight hangover after this boozy evening (not that I was alcoholic before but I drink even less since I’m in South Africa and could really feel the difference!). Tobias and Martin, who were leaving to Durban, dropped me off in Pietermarizburg, where I was to take a bus to Johannesburg.
The bus was supposed to leave at 9.40 but it was 3h late on departure, as the air-conditioning stopped working. We had to wait for a long time with an incredibly hot temperature, and then outside once they announced us that another bus was on its way from Durban…
Once in Jo’burg at nightfall, the bus arrived at the same place as when I arrived two months ago, Park Station. I had a feeling of déjà-vu in this dangerous and so unpleasant station… which was confirmed as my phone was stolen while I was desperately looking for my Uber!
Luckily, several people helped me to then find and contact the hostel where I was going to ask them to pick me up. I arrived safe in this nice place, which feels more like a house than a hostel, and had a short night before heading to the airport.
This last experience reflects my opinion about this country, full of contrast… but the conclusion about South Africa will be the subject of another post!
TIPS & PRACTICAL INFOS
Flight from Cape Town to Durban: 48€ with Kulula.com
Transfer from Durban airport to Sani Lodge: R650 – 38,50€ with Nud Express
Bus from Pietermarizburg to Johannesburg: R180 with Intercape
Sani Lodge Backpackers: R165 – 9,80€ for a 4-bed dorm, without breakfast. Very friendly hostel, perfectly located, with nice common spaces and small outside swimming-pool. They organize a lot of treks and excursions in Drakensberg and Lesotho.
Lakeview Backpackers : R200 – 12,24€ for a 4-bed dorm, without breakfast. Very friendly hostel, in a quiet suburb, close to the airport. Warm and friendly welcome and a very pleasant feeling to feel « at home ».
Permit for each day hike in the park: R40