A few weeks ago we got to spend a night at Monks Cowl in the Central Drakensberg, South Africa. The Drakensberg honestly has to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon, around 3pm, expecting it to be raining and chilly, but the weather was beautiful. We checked in to our campsite, helped by very relaxed and friendly staff, and found a campsite we thought was far enough away from people, but also not completely isolated. The camp grounds are really well looked after, and were a pleasure to camp at. We decided to do the walk to Sterkspruit Falls before the evening set in. It is a really short, beautiful walk, that climaxes at a small deck overlooking the Sterkspruit Falls, a beautiful waterfall. On the way back, we noticed a storm setting in, so picked up the pace a bit. We were fortunate enough to come across a magnificent male Bushbuck, and then, just as we were about to get to the campsite, a female Bushbuck and her baby.
Back at the camp, we set up our gas cooker for some coffee, and started the fire to braai our onions and Fry’s sausages on. Unfortunately then, a noisy family showed up in their RV and set up their camp right next to us. We were too lazy to move, but they didn’t end up being too noisy. In fact, they provided us with some entertainment when when monkeys jumped into their open van. The hilarity that ensued cannot be described with words. You had to be there. The storm was building, but luckily, winds from the mountain pushed the storm past us, and we ended up with a beautiful, crisp evening, with the mountains silhouetted on our left, and an intense storm with brilliant flashes of lightning on our right. The only negative was that some people thought it would be nice to play music, super loud, all night, probably up in the chalets. I think the no-noise policy at places like this should be more strictly enforced. I will never understand the need some people have to play their shitty radio music in places meant to be a tranquil escape.
The next morning we got up with the sun, brewed some coffee, and fried some tomato and onion. Then we set off to hike the Hlatikulu Forest Trail. The trail goes down past Sterkspruit Falls again, then crosses the river, and takes you up into and through a few think, lush sections of forest. The transition between exposed and forested was awesome. From hot and pretty dry, into dense, moist, thick vegetation, brimming with life. Watch out for spider webs across the path. There were these pretty little yellow moths EVERYWHERE, that made it feel quite surreal in some parts. There were tons of fresh baboon droppings, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. At the end of the path, we turned right to carry on to Nandi’s Falls. The falls are really beautiful, and we spent some time here to chill. It’s worth going up the path on the right, which leads you behind the waterfall. On the way back, we took a detour down to some amazing pools, which were super fun to swim in. Then we made our way back to the campsite, packed up and headed home. All in all a really nice little escape from everyday in one of the most beautiful part of the Drakensberg. I would highly suggest it to anyone.
– Don’t go for an electrified campsite. You don’t need it, and they are too close to the main buildings.
– Get a map.
– Keep food in your car, close by you if you’re cooking, and dispose of waste properly. The monkeys are relentless.
– Don’t be an idiot. Don’t litter, don’t scribble dumb things on rocks, and don’t make a lot of noise.
– Always make sure you have enough water.
Here are some facts about the Drakensberg, in case you didn’t know:
– The Drakensberg mountain range sits on the border between Kwa-Zulu Natal and Lesotho, and is a world heritage site.
– It is the main watershed of South Africa, and the source of the Orange River, one of the longest rivers in Africa.
– The highest peak is 3482 meters, the highest in Southern Africa.
– It contains the richest collection of San Bushmen rock art in the world. These rock art sites are now protected because dumb people draw over them.
– The San lived there for over 4000 years.
– 119 of the plant species in the park are listed at globally endangered. There are 2153 species of plants.
– It is home to 299 bird species, and 48 species of mammals.
– The Zulu name for the Drakensberg is uKhahlamba, which means “barrier of spears”. Drakensberg (Afrikaans) means “dragon mountains”.
– It is home to the Tugela Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the world, at 947 meters.
Behind Nandi’s Falls
My Vivobarefoot trail shoes. Check them out, they make good shoes.
Morning coffee / death.