The Drakensberg Mountains tower over Kwazulu Natal with dramatic sandstone cliffs, craggy peaks and tumbling waterfalls. The Drakensberg Mountains are one of the most important conservation areas in southern Africa. The 230 000-hectare uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park was declared a World Heritage Site at the turn of the century because of its outstanding natural beauty, biological diversity and cultural artefacts. The Drakensberg Mountains host the world’s greatest collection of rock art as well as an astounding diversity of plants and animals, including the lammergeyer (bearded vulture), with the cascading Tugela Falls the highest waterfall in southern Africa.
The Drakensberg encompasses the spectacular Royal Natal National Park in the Northern Drakensberg with its distinctive ‘amphitheatre’, the beautiful Giant’s Castle and Injasuti reserves in the Central Drakensberg, and numerous smaller parks and wilderness areas. Cultural highlights in the Drakensberg include the celebrated Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School in the Champagne Valley as well as the annual Splashy Fen Music Festival near Underberg and the White Mountain Music Festival near to Giants Castle.
THE NORTHERN DRAKENSBERG
The Northern Drakensberg forms the watershed for the Tugela River. Royal Natal National Park is the most spectacular part of the Northern Drakensberg. The peak Mont-aux-Sources is the highest peak in this part of the Drakensbergerg and stretches as far as Cathedral Peak. Bergville is a small village on the road that leads to the Northern Drakensberg. The Northern Drakensberg consists of an area reaching from The Royal Natal National Park in the North through Mweni to Cathedrak Peak in the south. The Amphitheatre is the most famous of all the Northern Drakensberg features. This massive Northern Drakensberg wall stretches 4 kilometres between the Sentinel (3165m) and the Eastern Buttress (3047m). Other famous peaks in the area are: Mont-aux-Sources, the Inner Tower and the Devils Tooth, to name but a few. The Thukela Falls plummets 948m in five clear leaps, making it the highest waterfall series in the world. The Northern Drakensberg is accessed via the historic towns of Bergville and Winterton and also Harrismith in the North.
THE CENTRAL DRAKENSBERG is the most popular part of the Drakensberg and has a higher population due to its easy access right into the mountains with breathtaking scenery. Here you feel truly humbled by the sheer beauty and magnificence of the awesome peaks. No matter how often you return, the mountains take on a different beauty depending on the weather and the light. The highest peak in the Central Drakensberg is Champagne Castle (990m).
THE SOUTHERN DRAKENSBERG stretches from Champagne Castle to Bushman’s Nek further south. Giant’s Castle (1010m) and Wilson’s Peak (1019m) are the highest points in the Southern Drakensberg. All three areas of the KZN Drakensberg offer a variety of accommodation from hotels, guest houses and self-catering cottages. Each area also has an array of tourist attractions including historical sites, guided hiking trails and other activities like golf and biking trails. The Drakensberg is a must-see in South Africa.
The Southern Drakensberg allows the freedom to define the boundaries of this area to the people who live and operate there as no lineated boundries constrain this area. The Southern Berg is generally accepted as being the part of the Drakensberg mountain range and surrounds that extends along the South Eastern and Southern border of Lesotho with South Africa. The most internationally renowned landmark feature of the area is the Sani Pass, crested by the Hodgson’s Peaks forming the Giants’ Cup. The main towns in the area include Himeville, Underberg and Bulwer, but the area is generally accepted as extending from where it adjoins the southern side of the KZN Midlands, all the way to Swartberg, Cedarville and beyond (East Griqualand).
BERGVILLE is also known as the gateway to the Northern Drakensberg and lies on Route 74 – the more scenic alternative to the Toll Road. This route takes you via the Oliviershoek Pass, traditionally used to access the Berg from Johannesburg and through Winterton from Durban. The pretty town of Bergville is equidistant from Johannesburg and Durban. Essentially an agricultural and trading centre, it is the main town in the Northern Drakensberg and still holds local cattle sales on the third Friday of every month. The town lies on the banks of the Thukela River, with the dramatic peaks of the Drakensberg in the near distance, and is a place to stock up for those heading off into the berg. Bergville has a fair share of supermarkets, butcheries, banks and petrol stations for this part of the world. The towering amphitheatre of the Royal Natal National Park is just 40 kilometres away and the only surviving British blockhouse in KwaZulu-Natal, now a monument and museum, lies within the grounds of the local court house in Bergville. The Spioenkop Dam, Rugged Glen Nature Reserve, Cathkin’s Peak State Forest and Monk’s Cowl are close by.
CATHEDRAL PEAK with its spire-like peak is magnificent and is one of the most instantly-recognisable summits in a line of free-standing peaks that have been separated from the main escarpment by erosion. Cathedral Peak is surrounded by wilderness and some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in existence. The peak is bordered by two wilderness areas – the Mdedeleo and Mlambonja and is a retreat for hikers, nature lovers, mountain bikers and rock climbers. The selection of winding trails through mountain scenery, streams, waterfalls, pools and overgrown trees make wandering this terrain an addictive experience. A steep but convenient access to the crest of the Little Berg, is Mike’s Pass, south of Cathedral Peak. This pass allows for one the most breathtaking views of the central Drakensberg. It is an alternative to peak-viewing for those who don’t hike. There is also a day walk to Rainbow Gorge, named after the kaleidoscope of colours that appears in the spray from the stream. This walk is an easier alternative, and certainly a flatter one, to the summit of Cathedral Peak.
CEDARVILLE is a little hamlet bordering the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and lies just south east of the little village of Matatiele on the R56, north west of Mount Currie Nature Reserve, and on the very southern edge of the Drakensberg Mountains. The little village of Cedarville is in East Griqualand and what makes it so very beautiful is its access to the mountains. It is the gateway to three mountain passes into Lesotho. Also towering above the village is the Cedarberg Mountain, (2 000 metres) from which the town derives its name. From here one also easily reaches the Katse Dam and the incredible Maletsunyane waterfall, while Lesotho is only an hour from Cedarville. The Umzimvubu River nearby provides an ample supply of carp for fishing whilst it and other water-filled depressions that are in abundance around Cedarville serve as the source of hours of canoeing pleasure. The Mount Currie Nature Reserve, which provides still further fishing opportunities, also offers sightings of the bearded vulture and no shortage of eagles, such as the African Fish Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle and the Martial Eagle.
CHAMPAGNE VALLEY with the Champagne peak is one of the highest peaks in this mountain range, although the prominent peak from here is Cathkin. Champagne Valley lies in the central Drakensberg. Winterton marks the entrance to Champagne Valley, which is said to have received its name from the first climber’s need to celebrate at the peak with a bottle of champagne, only to drop it before he could toast his victory.
A wonderful way to experience the Berg from a bird’s eye view is from a hot-air balloon. The valley, which is easily accessible from the N3 – the major route between Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal, is home to more than 150 species of bird making it popular with birders. Champagne Valley is renowned for the number of activities available to visitors. One can hike, horse ride, river raft, quad bike, mountain bike, abseil, glide, fish, and there are a number of golf courses from which to choose.
There are a few areas of local interest too, including the Anglo/Boer War battlefield sites of Spioenkop, and Winston Churchill’s capture and ambush site – all this only two hours from Durban and three-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg. Geluksburg in the midst of the northern Drakensberg is nothing larger than a hamlet and can be described as tiny with an interesting history. The town has very few houses, a couple of shops, and a mountain. It also has a crossroads and a sign indicating how far it is to Bergville and Ladysmith. A group of people who lived in complete isolation from the rest of cilvilsation at the turn of the century lived here. The nearest town is quite far from here and it is understood that once, the valley that is closest to the town of Geluksburg was known as the ‘lost valley’. Just inside KwaZulu-Natal, the little town is closest to the Free State border, sandwiched between the Oliviershoek and Van Reenen mountain passes, virtually in the middle of nowhere.
GELUKSBURG lies at the base of the Ntintwa Mountain and it is here that you come to get lost in the true sense of the word. The term to ‘get away from it all’ usually means as long as it is close enough to shop somewhere, but in Geluksburg, you really do get away from everything commercial, even if you are only 30 kilometres from the N3.
GIANT’S CASTLE lies at the southern end of the central Drakensberg and gets its name from the outline of the peaks and escarpment that resembles the profile of a sleeping giant. It is essentially a grassy plateau that nestles among the deep valleys of this part of the Drakensberg, offering some of the most breathtaking scenery.
The Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve is home to the eland and bearded vulture, also known as bone eaters of the Berg. An isolated population in the highlands of Lesotho and adjacent areas is all that remains of the bird as their numbers have dwindled. Birders try to visit during the vulture hide feeding season, from May to September. The Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve is a haven of wonderful walks and offers the chance to view San Rock art in caves dotted around the reserve. The Kamberg Nature Reserve offers a fairly strenuous walk to the top of the mountain to see San Rock Art. The walk takes roughly an hour and a half and is well worth the effort. Whilst the Highmoor Nature Reserve, also close by, is one of the few reserves that allows you to travel by road to the top of what is known as the ‘little berg’ or the Drakensberg’s foothills, dotted with yellow sandstone cliffs and incredible views of the ‘high berg’. The wetlands, clear mountain streams, bush-lined banks, steep grassy slopes, sandstone cliffs and towering precipices and buttresses that have lured many a climber to ‘Giant’s’, as it is locally known makes this a beautiful part of the world. There are a number of hikes to choose from and they range from the rather severe hike to Bannerman Hut, to the more sedate Champagne Pools circular walk from Giant’s Castle main gate, which takes you to secluded pools for swimming and fishing. The unpredictable weather here makes it important to bring warm clothes at any time of the year. There is good access to Giant’s Castle along gravel roads from Mooi River or from Escourt – both towns are on the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg.
HIMEVILLE lies nestled at the foot of the Southern Drakensberg, its high altitude, heavy snowfalls and climatic extremes could possibly be the initial reason for its relative neglect, but the breathtaking scenery, abundance of water and the district’s reputation as a fly fishing mecca now make it an attractive alternative to the busier parts of the Berg. The Splashy Fen Music Festival, on the farm of the same name, has also been responsible, in part, for placing Himeville on the map. An abundance of water means that water sports like swimming, rafting, canoeing and tubing are the order of the day. The Underberg-Himeville Trout Fishing Club has access to over 160 kilometres of river and 60 dams. Add to that a number of private dams in the area, and any fly fishing fundi would be fascinated. Golfers can choose from three golf courses in and around Himeville. The Himeville Museum, located in some of the original stone buildings erected in 1900, has a valued collection of San artefacts and is worth a visit.
THE HLATIKULU VALLEY is a particularly beautiful and bountiful valley that lies between Giant’s Castle and Kamberg Nature Reserve in the central Drakensberg, approximately 30 kilometres or so from the town of Mooi River. Towering over the valley are Giant’s Castle, Hlatikulu Mountain, Mount Lebanon and other peaks of the range that form an incredible backdrop to the valley. This part of the Drakensberg is enchanting. The fertile soil is rich in minerals and is traversed by the waters of a number of rivers, studded with grasslands and thorn trees and home to a wetland that harbours the few remaining wattled cranes in a rescue and rehabilitation refuge known as the Hlatikulu Crane and Wetland Sanctuary.
THE KAMBERG VALLEY lies in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains just beyond the Nottingham Road turnoff from Durban and is best described by its people as ‘the valley which God created once he had practised on the rest of the world’. The Kamberg Nature Reserve lies within the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park in the foothills of the mountains, surrounded by trout dams, streams and open grassland – perfect for hiking and fishing. The park offers sightings of Southern Reedbuck, Oribi, Duiker and Eland and the Trout hatchery is an opportunity to see how trout are reared. Essentially a farming community where the people regard themselves as ‘salt of the earth’ and play host to various activities like the Annual Kamberg Trout Festival, the Annual Miss Fertilizer Bag and the Kamberg Karma – three days of mountain bike riding – Kamberg is not only beautiful but alive with opportunities to explore the surrounding area. The Kamberg San Rock Art Trail and the Interpretive Centre will help visitors understand and interpret the more than 40 000 San Bushman images found in the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. At first, ‘Bushmen paintings’ were regarded as crude, but today’s scholars have a healthy respect for these two dimensional rock paintings and a guided tour is particularly popular. Other activities in Kamberg include beer, wine and cheese tasting, hot air ballooning, horse riding and golf.
KOKSTAD is on the boundary of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, in East Griqualand. It lies in the shadow of Mount Currie on the outer slopes of the Drakensberg and was, until recently, best known for its cheese until Oprah Winfrey started a school for Kokstad’s Shayamoya township through her charitable foundation.
Adam Kok was responsible for establishing Kokstad. Today it’s a bustling little town, its history encased in its Museum, a national monument on Main Street, which focuses on the Griqua people. The town’s namesake was to die an unpretentious death after falling off a cart only a few years after the town’s establishment, but a monument, right next to the police station, commemorates his leadership. Kokstad is predominantly a stock farming area. This wild and beautiful part of the country was settled by the Griqua – a hardy group of frontiersmen who, after clashing with Boers and the British in the interior, turned east and settled in what was known as ‘No Mans Land’ – in the 1860s.
The area is popular for its many rivers and dams that provide ample opportunity for trout fishing, and there are no fewer than three reserves, Mount Currie, Wilfred Bauer, with lovely picnic spots, and the Mountain Lake Nature Reserve, a small reserve peppered with cattle tracks and little paths that provide wonderful walks, as well as over 220 species of bird for bird lovers. Crystal Dam provides boating and angling opportunities. The Crystal Spring Dam is fed by the pure water of Crystal Spring, the main source of Kokstad’s water supply.
MATATIELE is a quaint little town lying 70 kilometres from Kokstad and situated in the lesser explored southern Drakensberg, at the junction of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and southern Lesotho. The village is situated in the shadow of the Matatiele Mountain and forms part of the former ‘no man’s land’ that during the latter part of the 19th century was the home of horse thieves, gun runners and smugglers. The name Matatiele comes from the Sotho words ‘matata’, meaning wild ducks, and ‘ile’, meaning gone together conveying a message that the ducks have flown – not hard to believe as once this was a place where pools, marshes, vleis, pans, lions and elephant roamed freely alongside a host of waterfowl. Some 40 to 60 bird species are still there, but most of these are high altitude birds on top of the Matatiele Mountain. The town is now mainly a farming community. The museum is located in what was initially a garage, an auction room, a Dutch Reformed Church and finally a telephone exchange, before becoming a national monument. Local communities, in an effort to develop tourism as a source of income, accommodate travellers in traditional African guest houses, and include cultural village tours and hiking trails as part of the package. Two nature reserves in the area include the Wilfred Bauer Nature Reserve where the Zedonk (a cross between a donkey and zebra) is in residence and the Mountain Lake Reserve where a beautiful lake covers a surface area of about 30 hectares when full.
MONK’S COWL in the central Drakensberg gets its name from the distinctive mountain in the shape of a monk’s hood that lies between Champagne Castle and Cathedral Peak. The peak marks the access point to the Mlambonja and Mdedeleo Mountain wilderness areas – some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in South Africa. Lying between Cathkin Peak and the escarpment, Monk’s Cowl is one of the most difficult climbs in the Berg and popular amongst avid climbers. According to climbers Monk’s Cowl is apparently visible only south and north of the Champagne Valley, but not from the valley itself. The Ship’s Prow pass is in this area, the southern fork of which is the highest summit in the Drakensberg at 3 300 metres. Monk’s Cowl Nature Conservancy is found at the end of the Champagne Valley.
The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School, founded in 1967, is also found in the central Berg. The school has developed their own unique style and manages to interpret Bach and Beethoven together with Queen and African jazz and has kept abreast of world-wide shifts in choral music.
MONT-AUX-SOURCES is one of the highest parts of the Drakensberg Mountain range, and lies on the north eastern edge of the Drakensberg almost on the border of Lesotho. Mont-aux-Sources is regularly described as a mountain block. This rather irregular and block-like bulge received its interesting name from French missionaries to the region during the 1830s because it serves as the source for both the Thukela and the Orange Rivers. This bulging rock situated on the ridge of the Drakensberg, includes the Sentinel and the Mont-aux-Sources Mountain. The amphitheatre which is part of Mont-aux-Sources is a five kilometre wall of rock that is intimidating and spectacular at the same time, and forms part of the Royal Natal National Park.
This area is understandably all about hiking and the surrounding mountain peaks. The most challenging hikes, such as those up the Crack and down the Mudslide, and the more gentle paths, such as the amble to Fairy Glen are all incorporated in available maps and guides. A 50 kilometre challenge takes place annually to the top of the Sentinel. Climbing Mont-aux-Sources is not for the faint-hearted and includes a challenging encounter with chain ladders (one going up and one coming down) and a staggering view of the second highest waterfall in the world that falls about 3000 metres in five cascades. But the view from the top is breath-takingly spectacular!
MOUNT CURRIE NATURE RESERVE is one of the smaller but beautiful reserves and is the only protected area in East Griqualand. It is just outside Kokstad and about 250 kilometres from Durban and just off the Richmond-Umzimkulu Road from Pietermaritzburg or on the Franklin-Swartberg Road between Port Shepstone and Harding/Kokstad. Mount Currie is dominated by its mountain, with a collection of grassy slopes scattered intermittently with Protea bushes and the odd patch of montane forest. Crystal Dam, fed by the Crystal Spring – the main source of Kokstad’s water – provides some wonderful fishing and boating prospects. Over 220 bird species have been recorded here, and the wetter areas boast Striped Flufftail sitings, whilst the bearded vulture makes itself known to those hiking the slopes of Mount Currie. There is a lot of history in this area. An historic laager site surrounded by graves of early pioneers and a monument paying homage to boy scouts who died during the First World War in East Africa can be found on the Reserve. Cattle tracks and paths are seen scattered around the reserve and make for wonderful walks. Beautiful scenic settings and superb birdwatching opportunities draw nature lovers to this area.
PUTTERILL VALLEY is one of the most beautiful parts of the Berg but the remoteness and location in the far reaches of the Northern Drakensberg Mountains make this the perfect hideaway. This part of the world promises incredible views of the mountains and the unspoilt natural surrounds that include huge tracts of indigenous forest, mountain gorges and pretty streams lend peace and tranquillity to the visitor. Two popular resorts ‘The Cavern’ and ‘Alpine Heath’ can be found just below Putterill Valley. The location of the Valley is almost exactly halfway between the two major cities of Johannesburg and Durban and is close to the border of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. Visitors, particularly from the northern parts of the country, head here, as it is within easy reach.
Many hikes abound here and one can easily reach the Thonsela Cave, Cannibal Cavern, Echo Cave and Sungubala. The Thukela River flows not far from here and an energetic walk will bring you to its gorge. Incredible views and a sighting of the Thukela Falls can be found at the Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park.
SANI PASS started as a rough mule trail. The donkeys, loaded with wool and mohair, travelled down the pass and carried blankets, clothing and maize meal on the return journey. The pass was opened to vehicle traffic by David Alexander, whose company Mokhotlong Mountain Transport was the first to operate on the pass in 1955. It is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in South Africa and ascends through the sheer cliffs of the Drakensberg, linking KwaZulu-Natal to the independent country of Lesotho. The route is also known as the ‘Roof of Africa’ and the views from the peaks, some 3200 metres above sea level, speak for themselves. A pub famous for being the highest in the world, lies at the top of Sani Pass – 2874 metres above sea level. The tight zig-zagging curves of the pass can be journeyed in a car but a 4X4 vehicle is recommended as the road is both steep and rough. In winter one risks snow on the roads and often ice can be a problem. Passports are essential as you have to pass through an international border at around 1900 metres.
BIRDS of the SANI PASS include those around the small towns of Himeville and Underberg. However, the ultimate is to go beyond these towns and enter the Eastern Highlands of Lesotho, taking a 4×4 vehicle up the famous Sani Pass – a trip to remember, even without the birds! The journey from the villages will take you through the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site.
The local grasslands around the district are home to all three crane species. The Wattled Crane is endangered and only a few pairs are left in the area. The large Denhams Bustard is found displaying in August and September along grassy ridges, puffing out its amazing white breast feathers in order to be seen from as far as possible, much like a plastic bag. The Yellow Breasted Pipit is one of the sought after pipits to be found in short natural grassland in specific localities. Skulking birds such as African Rail; Striped, Red-chested and Buff-spotted Flufftail; Baillons and Black Crake and Purple Swamphen can all be found around the district in suitable habitat.
The Sani Pass has a great number of endemic birds on the list, making it a national birding hotspot. The beginning of the road travels through farmlands providing a look at waterfowl on dams and wetlands. The serious birding starts when one enters the Park. Along the Mkomazana River the dominant vegetation is Ouhout scrub mixed with various small trees and shrubs, perfect for the altitudinal return in spring of Barratt’s Warblers, Fairy Flycatchers, Bush Blackcaps and Dark Capped Yellow Warblers. Once into the lower reaches of the Pass one finds Protea trees growing in boulder-strewn grasslands where one can expect to find Buff-streaked Chat, Ground Woodpecker, Long-billed Pipit, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-winged Francolin, Gurneys Sugarbird, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. Wailing Cisticola is a common species on these grassland slopes, while Bar-throated Apalis and Cape Batis will inhabit the scrub along the rivers.
The South African Border Post does not mark the leaving of South Africa, but does lie close to a habitat change brought about by the rock strata. Just above the Post one enters the Basalt layer, bringing an ever-so-slight change to the vegetation. This change, added to the higher altitude, brings one into a habitat suitable for two of the real endemics of the Drakensberg, both of which carry the name Drakensberg – the Rock Jumper and the Siskin. These two are restricted to the Drakensberg Mountains and mostly at high altitude.
Once over the watershed, at about 2 800 metres above sea level, one enters Lesotho. Here the habitat has changed radically and resembles the Karoo. Due to this change, expected species are Layards Tit-babbler, Yellow Canary, Grey Tit, Large-billed Lark and Sickle-winged Chat. Other good birds are Southern Bald Ibis, Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture, Grey-wing Francolin, Sentinel Rock Thrush and the odd Black Harrier.
A real special is the Mountain Pipit; not much of a looker, but it only breeds in the Lesotho Highlands and odd spots elsewhere in the Drakensberg range. These birds apparently spend winter in the northern parts of Angola.
SWARTBERG (black mountain) appears to be little more than a railway siding in the southern parts of the Drakensberg but this little village is actually the centre of agricultural activity of the area. Swartberg is north of Mount Currie Nature Reserve and is on Route 617. Swartberg is hidden away which makes for a genuine ‘getaway’ experience. The town also lies close enough to Durban to make it a perfect part of a planned holiday or a weekend escape. Farms lie nestled in the shadow of the Swartberg Mountain and other mountain peaks like Mount Macdonald and St Bernard’s Peak, a part of the Southern Drakensberg where you will find some of the most beautiful mountain formations in the country. Rivers run tirelessly through this mountain country and fishing particularly is a favourite pastime for visitors and locals. It is also a hiking paradise. The landscape is riddled with incredible landmarks and hikes through clean, crisp mountain air and effortlessly beautiful scenery are well worth the effort. During winter parts of the country around Swartberg, particularly in the foothills, can experience snow making it the perfect time to spend in front of a roaring fire. The luxuriant grasses, wildflowers and rock pools make hiking in the summer, particularly in the early parts of the day, exquisite.
UNDERBERG is the last town in the southern Drakensberg and is situated beneath the majestic mountains of this area which offer many hikes and moments of breathtaking beauty. Underberg forms part of the ‘Sani Saunter’ which may not be as well-known as the Midlands Meander but offers just as many outdoor opportunities and awesome scenery. The greatest attraction to the twin towns of the southern Drakensberg – Himeville and Underberg – is fly-fishing. There is more fishing opportunity here than anywhere else in the country and the Underberg-Himeville Trout Fishing Club hold rights to over 160 kilometres of river as well as 60 dams – that’s a lot of fishing! Despite the fact that this part of the district is predominantly farming country, Underberg is a busy, little town. The Splashy Fen Music Festival sees hundreds of people make their way through Underberg and this part of the southern Drakensberg to attend the Easter weekend filled with local music, arts and crafts, food and drink.
VAN REENEN’S PASS is renowned for its slippery and precarious roads, mainly as a result of the frequent misty conditions and is the main route through the Drakensberg Mountains connecting Jo-burg and Durban with Van Reenen, a little town perched on the high summit of the Pass, between Harrismith and Ladysmith on the N3. Van Reenen has a history steeped in the Anglo-Boer War. There is a lookout point, called Windy Corner, about 3 kilometres out of town which boasts beautiful views over the mountains. Llandaff Oratory is a small chapel with only eight seats built by a father in memory of his son and is supposedly the smallest Roman Catholic church in the world and worth a visit.
WHITE MOUNTAIN lies in the central Drakensberg foothills not far southwest of Estcourt. This pretty valley is obviously named after the White Mountain, a virtually solitary mountain that is situated just outside Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve. White Mountain also gives one easy access to the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site. The White Mountain area is just one of the deep valleys that run down the face of these high mountain peaks providing hours of hiking, climbing and effortless views. There is an annual White Mountain Festival to attend where the acoustic music festival not only provides a host of live acts over five days, but is something of a family affair and offers other activities like a craft market, swimming, boating, fishing and games to keep children amused. It coincides with Heritage Day and is held at White Mountain Lodge, roughly 200 kilometres from Durban. But if you find yourself in the picturesque White Mountain valley at any other time of year, it is almost certain that what you will find is wide open spaces, glorious mountain views, riverine forests, hiking, boating, and plenty of outdoor adventure.
WINTERTON is a typical pioneer settlement and one of the largest villages in this area. It serves, quite literally, as the gateway to the central Drakensberg some 14 kilometres away and lies in the foothills of these towering mountains. This part of the Berg is dominated by the Champagne, Cathedral and Cathkin peaks, with hiking trails, trout and bass fishing, San rock art, horse riding and hang-gliding the main attractions to the area. The village of Winterton hosts an annual street carnival in July, when local artists, crafters, musicians and companies serving the tourist industry congregate on the main street, which is closed for the day, to showcase the town, which up until now has acted as a base for the surrounding farming community but is increasingly becoming involved in tourism. There are a number of museums and monuments worth a visit in and around Winterton, including the Marianne Church ruins. Named after the wife of the Dutch Reformed Minister, Dr Faure, they are located on the farm Doveton, just outside Winterton. The Winterton Museum on Church Street has a display on the history of farming in the area, including a unique gallery of San paintings. The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, based in the central Drakensberg, performs concerts mid-week and over weekends.