WATCH: Chasing shade in the Drakensberg - wining, dining and ziplining
It’s August, and the Northern Drakensberg hasn’t seen rain this entire year.
It is nippy in the early morning, but even in winter the day soon turns toasty. Around 10h00, it’s already boiling at 25 degrees and you find yourself seeking shade, almost constantly.
Heading on a downhill descent with a Scootours Monster Mountain® Scooters bike, I engage my core, and let go of my fear of falling. The terrain turns from rocky to forest-like to swampy all in the span of 30 minutes - all the while I find myself cognisant of the majestic vastness of the mountains that have claimed World Heritage Site status on both cultural and natural criteria, which flank me.
Kwazulu-Natal is known for its greenery. However, it is dry during winter, and brags with late afternoon pink sunsets instead. But the Northern Drakensberg’s Champagne Valley is not known for its bubbly wine. It is a hub of activity. Quite literally.
Champagne Castle Adventure Centre is a one-stop-shop adventure playground for adults and kids. After spiking your Adrenalin, do a pitstop at the nearby craft Drakensberg Brewery for a tasting board of beers, then pop over for some sugar and go taste artisan chocolate at the Chocolate Bar (they also have a lot of sugar-free options), and finally, shop for preserves and other delicacies at the Farm Friends farm stall.
Choose All Out Adventures in Bergville if you’re staying closer, like at Alpine Heath Resort. Zipline amongst the high-rising trees offering needed shade, or brave the King Swing. You can also embrace your inner circus animal and try the trapeze swing. I did this one, and it is all about trust issues, as you are at the very mercy of the instructor.
But the ‘berg’ is also a popular resort destination. Unlike a beach resort, here it is all about the views. Two prime resorts in this valley is The Cavern Drakensberg Resort & Spa, in the Northern Drakensberg and the Drakensberg Sun Resort in Winterton.
The Cavern is one of the country’s oldest resorts, and oozes old-school charm. Whereas the Sun has a similar appeal, yet on a grander scale.
While away some time wining at Winterton’s Cathedral Peak Wine Estate or keep it close to home and relax at the resorts’ outdoor pools and shaded verandas with exceptional mountain views at the day’s warmest hours. And opt for horse-riding and hiking, which take precedent during cooler early mornings and afternoons.
The ‘berg’ is the ideal place to throw some shade on miserable winter weather – especially for Capetonians wanting a mid-year break to a SA destination that is awkwardly similar to the Mother City (mountains, wine, craft beer, hiking) – only in the 'berg' it’s much drier and warmer from sun-up to sun-down.
*Marisa Crous was hosted by SA Tourism for the duration of this trip.