An overland adventure full of hiking activity and beautiful scenery
Nomad’s 8 day Lesotho, Addo and Drakensberg tour, Day 1 – 3, by Reshma Deva
Sawubona. We landed at King Shaka International Airport, Durban. Green volunteers were everywhere welcoming delegates to the much talked about COP17/ CMP7. Durban hosted this international conference from the 28 Nov to the 9 Dec 2011. What is COP17? The United Nations Climate Change Conference is meant to bring together representatives of the world’s governments, international organisations and civil society to basically discuss how to deal with the threat posed by climate change.
On entering the city of Durban with the taxi arranged for me, I could feel and see the tight security around the event as at almost every corner were police vehicles; mostly surrounding hotels and beachfront areas.
The King Shaka Airport is located about 30 minutes away from the Nomad pre-accommodation, the Garden Court South Beach. The hotel is situated along the Marine Parade so within walking distance to soak up the sun at the beach and to sample the local cuisine at the many city restaurants.
It is a lovely cool drizzly afternoon which is unusual for Durban known for its humid, subtropical weather which is why COP17 is so important so that we can understand the climate and look after our environment to preserve it. Responsible travel is an essential factor in Nomad’s African Trust initiative thus Nomad Adventure Tours allows travellers to purchase green seats. This allows travellers to offset their CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions generated from their trip.
In Durban, you can experience attractions such as uShaka Marine World, the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium and religious places of worship to name but a few. Durban is truly a city which can showcase its cultural diversity of African, Eastern and Western influences.
Ride a Ricksha in Durban, is a must do – Rickshas were brought from the East in the early 1990s as a tourist attraction and as a way of getting around the city. Nowadays they operate on the beachfront – so hitch a ride with a Ricksha!
The Moses Mabhida Stadium, is a beautiful designed stadium which has a cable car that takes you to the viewing platform on top of the 350m arch. The stadium has also the worlds only and largest stadium swing.
The Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding – a spiritual Hindu temple and Jummah Masjid Mosque – the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere.
After a comfortable night at the hotel, a yummy buffet breakfast was ready the following morning from fresh fruits, croissants to omelettes. It was time to meet the Nomad crew and group at 07h45 at reception.
Warm smiles from the Nomad crew, documents were completed and I was on my way to meet ‘Ella’ – named after Ella Fitzgerald. She was also known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella,” an American jazz and song vocalis. Ella was beautiful – my ride for the next 8 days.
My luggage was loaded onto Ella into the locker compartments built in the truck. It is handy to bring a padlock to lock your items for safe keeping. Johannes – our Nomad guide welcomed me to the Nomad family as most of the travellers started the tour from Johannesburg and were heading down to the fairest Cape. There were friendly faces who introduced themselves to those starting the tour from Durban. The rest of the crew was Rimson – the Nomad cook and Svenn the German translator were on board Ella.
On specific tour dates Nomad offers German translators on board the English speaking tours for those German travellers struggling to fully understand what is being said by the Nomad guide.
Johannes briefed us on the days ahead. There was a quick shopping stop for the next few days to settle any cravings we might have on the journey… like chocolate… mmm more importantly a 5 litre water bottle and an emergency rain jacket as the weather looked unpredictable.
It started raining as we were leaving Durban. We drove through Winterton and Bergville – small towns known for commercial farming. We reached our first accommodation of the night being the Drakensville Berg Resort located near the Royal Natal National Park. A cosy accommodation place with an animal farm and amazing views of the Drakensberg escarpment in the distance. Lunch was prepared quickly as we were all starving so we helped with grating cheese, cutting tomatoes and dicing the onions and setting the table. It is great when the group gets involved in preparing meals with the guides as you get to interact and have fun. That is why Nomad’s tours are all self-participation tours which is key to making the tour enjoyable.
After lunch we were free to roam the resort or go for a swim in the indoor pool (to cool down for the outdoor pool), I decided to explore the animal farm. There were donkeys, geese and cute little ducklings waddling down the hill to a beautiful posing peacock trying to ignore the playful goats and kids . This is certainly a child friendly vacation spot.
In the evening, dinner was served from one of the rooms as it was too cold to sit outside. We dived into our lovely meals, thanked chef Rimson and were briefed about the next day’s activities and history of the region.
Awakening to the sounds of the ‘flying vuvuzelas’, the loud Hadeda Ibis birds, it was time to wake up and get ready for the days activities of hiking in the berg. Quick breakfast and we were out of there, getting ready as we drove for about 30km to the Royal Natal National Park. The landscapes are stunning and reminded me of the Sound of Music hills. Out of the windows of the truck we saw the Zulu people carrying on with their daily routine with women carrying water on their heads from the village tap to their huts.
We reach the park and are introduced to a friendly Zulu tour guide who takes us up a hill (1400m high) to view Bushman San paintings. The San people were hunter-gatherers who lived here about 4000 years ago. The guide is very informative explaining how the San people painted their daily life on the rocks to tell their story. I found it very interesting as we were shown how they used to rest their elbow onto a stick which was held in a slit in a rock. It is so fascinating to see the clever techniques used many moons ago. We are then shown the Tugela river which separates the village from the national park.
Ella takes us to the starting point of the big walk for the day. Along the way we see Grey Rhebok; the largest population of antelope species is found in the Drakensberg region. We also meet the Nomad camping crew who started from Cape Town.
Royal Natal and Rugged Glen Hiking trail starts from the parking lot and heads up through the Gorge to a view where you can see the world famous Amphitheatre at close range. The weather was cool but cloudy so this did hide the full spectacular view of the Amphitheatre. The UKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage Site. This is an amazing hike through fauna, flora and birdlife. The route follows the Thukela River and there is only one path so you really can’t get lost.
We had our packed lunches and water bottles with us in our backpacks. It is a 3 hour walk from gradual to steep paths that I definitely recommend. Beautiful waterfalls can be seen flowing down the mountain in the distance – it is like from those fairy tale landscapes – just simply too stunning for words. We had our packed lunches and water bottles with us in our backpacks. After the energetic hike, we head back to the resort to freshen up while dinner was prepared.
Hiking is the good way to enjoy Drakensberg so pack comfortable hiking shoes, your water bottle, energy snacks and a light rain jacket should the weather change all of a sudden. The Nomad crew walk with you and according to your pace so you do not need to feel rushed and you can take in the beauty of your surroundings.
On route back to the resort, sheep where being herded around our truck which was quite amusing – only in Africa! (And Wales)
Day 3 sees us heading off to Lesotho, I’ll catch up with you soon to tell you the rest of the story!