Royal Natal National Park brings us to the picturesque Drakensberg Mountains in Kwazulu Natal. My first time camping since childhood; memories resurfaced as my eyes bit-by-bit skimmed through scenery. A rustic feeling settled in with happiness intensified by serenity and silence. The weekend blessed us with majestic orange coloured sunrises and sunsets over peaks, and this coupled with congenial company certainly equalled to my satisfaction. Well, once camp was set up that is…
Ten of us arrived early evening, psyched for our Tugela Falls Gorge hike the following day. Half the crew old hand at camping, the rest of us blindly teetering through instructions, tent poles, and pegs! Maladroitly we pitched our dome shaped tents and set-up camp! Now, we were geared for the weekend….
Winding down with a succulent pepper-sauce steak & spiced kebabs hot from the ‘braai’, a crisp glass of dry sauvignon blanc, and vivacious flames of a blaring fire to keep us warm, we joked and laughed!
We had a prime spot at the Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort, including our own private bathroom and kitchen. Some say that this is not true to camping, but it fits perfectly fine with me. For those not wanting to ‘rough’ it, beautiful chalets are on offer at the resort. Activities include trout fishing, tennis, table-tennis, swimming, golf, horse-riding and scenic walks. Area activities include a cheese farm, arts & crafts, galleries, hiking and much more…!
Early morning (with a nip in the air), we set off to conquer the mighty Tugela Falls Gorge Trail (The Tugela Falls happens to be the second highest falls in the world, that is to the Angel Falls). The first part of the trail is well marked and took us through lush forests with exquisite flora, including the cloud sugarbush, also known as South Africa’s national flower – the protea. Spring had just sprung with perfumed scents of blossoms springing about. Once trudging through the dense indigenous forests of intertwined green-leafy trees and dense shrubbery, one trails along the extravagant Tugela River.
At one point ascending a third of the way down the mountain we did manage to lose the path and came to rest upon a narrowing rock-faced ledge overlooking the amphitheatre. This amphitheatre creates the most magnificent backdrop to the park! Barely able to put a foot in front of the other due to the narrow ledge we made the unanimous decision to turn around. Once through a spectacular tunnel carved by the Tugela River we settled down to have lunch at a rock pool right at the foot of the crashing falls. It was magic being surrounded by this curtain of water as we enjoyed our cold meat sandwiches and biltong, the sunshine and sound of water. The pools were ice-cold, and aching to the bone. Perhaps only one degree above freezing, I braved a swim along with one other friend, gasping for air as the reality smacked us! Others staring at us in utter disbelief!!
When it was time to head back, we returned through the forest that we had entered in, and although non-eventful, our feet were tired and sore!
Back at the camp, we lazed the late afternoon away with a dip in the resort pool, approximately twenty degrees warmer than the rock pool and a cold savannah cider. The evening entertained another ‘braai’ but this time followed by gooey marshmallows toasted on our roaring flames. Unfortunately the following morning was departure day but not before a real greasy cook-up on the skottle of eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomato and fried banana which we had earned.
Driving out the gates of Hlalanathi, I knew this I would definitely do again… camping and all!
Further info on Hlalanathi Resort
Visit Drakensburg Tourism