ENDING OF 2016

For New Years we planned to go to the Drakensberg with a couple of our friends to see the new year in over some beautiful mountains. It had been a while since we paid the berg a visit and it felt amazing to be back. However, other friends of ours dangled the carrot in front of our noses with the proposal that they were going to the bush just before we were set off for the berg. We decided what the heck! Let’s just do both!

We quickly booked our spots and hit the road once again! First stop: Mkhuze. We decided to take the longer, scenic route and enter via the Ophansi Gate. We were aware of the entrance fee which we had to pay, but not aware of the fact that they don’t accept cards, only cash (they failed to mention this on any of our booking forms or websites). I was mad. I just don’t understand how game reserves as popular as these have such rigid rules. There was no negotiating of paying at the main camp and returning with the slips etc. It was, drive back 60km (on a dirt road) to the first available ATM and withdraw the cash. Luckily our friends had already arrived and they had cash on them. An hour later we were all paid up and ready to finally enter the park! (p.s. don’t bother entering via Ophansi Gate. It’s not that scenic.) We had booked into one the rest huts which were quite comfortable and enjoyable. It doesn’t have it’s own kitchen or bathroom, but it’s certainly comfortable enough to spend a couple of days in. It does at least have a fridge and a kettle though.

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We arrived just in the nick of time before one of the most spectacular storms I had ever seen decided to break lose from the sky. Thunder, lightning, gusting winds, rain, hail – we had it all. It lasted a good hour before dying down, just enough time to water the park amply and cool off the park from the scorching sun.

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The park was lush and green but animals were scarce. We suspect the park is still recovering from the dramatic drought it had been through. Nevertheless, we were very lucky to spot some wild dogs, as well as cheetahs among the few animals we were to able to find. We enjoyed early morning drives, with delicious warm Amarula Coffee (thanks garreth and heather – definitely a new favourite!) and rusks and again sundowners at the viewpoint overlooking the Vulture Restaurant in the afternoons.

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I got extremely excited when I heard the call of a Bushbaby, as I hadn’t seen one in years! I absolutely love those little, wide-eyed furry animals. Turns out, they were right on our friend’s roof! And, the mother was transporting her tiny little babies from one tree to another. It was an exciting sighting and right on our doorstep! Literally.

The days went fast and before we knew it, we were ready for our next leg of the trip: the Drakensberg.

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We took the very long, very scenic route via Jozini, Dundee, Vryheid, Ladysmith all the way to Bergville. What a beautiful route. It took us a good 7 hours to get to the berg, but it was well worth the trip. Having said that, we were chasing a pretty spectacular storm and had arrived just in time to set up our camp before the rains came pouring down. This route provides plenty of pit stops and fueling points which made for a must less stressful drive.

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The weather was rather extreme, from boiling hot days, to chilly nights, to the most dramatic storms yet again! The first storm we experienced wasn’t too bad. We had some water running through our campsites which made it a bit unpleasant but we stuck it out. The next storm however, on the following day, was a different story. The dam walls literally broke lose and our entire campsite got washed away. We were a group of 12 friends, each with either a spade or bucket or a tin cup in their hand, trying to scoop as much water away, digging trenches, blocking holes, you name it! It was damage control to the max. We eventually got known as ‘the family with the buckets’ amongst our fellow campers. The hail came down and by now we were all completely drenched but we didn’t care. We actually had a lot of fun and we came to the conclusion that we had the perfect group of friends who would survive any crisis. The weather eventually cleared up and we ended up having a beautiful evening. We showered, warmed up, and simply continued with our festivities.The next day, however, we all kind of felt that we couldn’t do another storm like that, and started talking about leaving a day early. With a few confirmed weather reports, the weather stayed clear. We spent the day swimming and playing in the river, making delicious food, and just chilling out.

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photo by Jules

It was an amazing end to a rather rollercoaster year. 2016 was emotional, and tiresome and I just know that 2017 is going to be an amazing year!

Next trip: road trip to Cape Town!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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