Royal Natal National Park, Afrique du Sud
2 days - May 2019
The Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon Mountains in Afrikaner) separate different provinces in South Africa and South Africa from Lesotho; hence the Zulu name: "Rampart of Spears".
They extend over 1000 kilometers and have peaks over 3500 meters.
Who says altitude, says cold! In Africa it is not always hot (# cliche1).
A 8 hours' drive from The Kruger National Park is required to reach this natural border; journey during which we will cross many farms, estates, plains to infinity.
100 kilometers before our stop for the day we start (finally!) to feel in Africa. We see Zulus villages and their typical huts, there are people walking around, noise, people hitchhiking on the side of the road (we've seen very little public transport), women carry groceries on the head, men dance and joke in the street, at gas stations. Here is the Africa we were looking for!
This province on the border of Lesotho is inhabited by Basotho (who speak Sotho) and Zulus (who speak Zulu therefore). It is not far from Swaziland so there are also many Swazis and we discover a language where some sounds are made by slamming the tongue. We quickly realized that all the inhabitants speak more than one language as the tribes are numerous.
We based ourselves for two nights near the Royal Natal National Park - known for its escarpment, its plateau and one of the highest waterfalls in the world: the Tugela falls.
7am, we are ready and fresh to attack this hike. We reach the entrance of the national park to realize that the beginning of the hike is only accessible by 4x4. After 10 meters we understand that we will never go through with our Kia Picanto and we find a 4x4 to take us there.
If the sun was so far high in the sky, the valley begins to be covered with clouds and it is in the mist that we begin the hike. Some beautiful green mountains stand in front of us.
Nothing complicated for the beginning, until we reach chain ladders, more than 40 meters high. Our Czech friends throw themselves while we protect ourselves from the cold and the wind. 10 minutes later it's our turn, the weather is crap but we think that it can not be worse so I start. I realize quickly enough (surely not fast enough however ...) the extent of the danger (40m high, no safety ropes, hands frozen, the wind whipping) but being well engaged it is easier for me to continue than to go back down. I keep focusing and forget the weather, step by step I go up. Arriving at the top, I shout to Cedric that the way is free, he starts and will go up like a monkey. It is raining now but we have to continue and climb a new 20 meters ladder. Extreme concentration, we get both to the top but totally scared ...
We continue to walk, this time at the top of the cliff, we do not see further than a meter away, the rain and the wind whips us. What an adventure, needless to say that the weather channel predicted a bright sun!
Arrived at the top of the waterfall, we can't see anything at all, too bad.
The four of us turn back and discuss the best way to go back. Chain ladders (of death) or descending in the middle of huge rocks? I didn't feel like going down without safety ropes more than 40m with winds and rain, so we opt for the very steep path. It's hard, we slip and fall several times but it's still much less dangerous than the ladders.
1 hour of suffering later, we join the original path and the mist dissipates slightly: the landscapes are grandiose! We realize how close the ravine is though...
5 hours and 30 minutes later we are at the starting point and return in 4x4. Clearly the most technical hike we have ever made, the weather conditions making it even more difficult ...
In the evening, deluge! Fortunately we are dry in our bling bling room with ceiling with strass, armchair and beds encrusted with diamonds. Haaa South African good taste, far from our sharp and minimalist references;)
Of course the next day, the sun is up!
A very nice hike despite the weather. We feel good in this country that has so much to offer both culturally and with its landscapes.
# do not miss the Royal Natal National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains. Be careful however the hike is very difficult and people fearing of heights, please abstain.
# entrance to the Royal Natal National Park (145 rand per person)
# 4x4 return trip organized by the Windhoek Lodge: 150 rands per person. Do not venture on the last portion without 4x4!
# We stayed at the Twilight Breeze Lodge, new and clean. Interesting visual experience as well as the design standards are far from our modern European references (#blingbling to death!)
# from the Kruger: 600 kilometers of good road. Watch out for the many radars. We also saw a huge truck accident ...
# from Johannesburg: 3h30 drive.