Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Richards Bay - Drakensbergs

Hi everyone,
We spent Sunday and Monday at Didima Resort in the northern part of the Central Drakensbergs.   Previously we had been staying in Dundee so we drove through Ladysmith and Winterton on our way there.

Farming Country SW of Ladysmith
On Sunday morning we drove up to Monk's Cowl in the Central Drakensbergs.  The scenery is idyllic.  Obviously fertile farming country surrounded by tall mountains.  Very green in the valleys, although all the locals say they need lots more rain.

From the foot of the Monk's Cowl road we drove north to the Cathedral Peak road.  This road is quite different.  Just as spectacular but instead of fertile green valleys there is less fertile ground and many Zulu villages along the road.

Zulu village in the Drakensbergs

At the park boundary the villages and farming stop.  It is a short drive from the boundary to the resort.  A few more kilometres up the road is the posh Cathedral Peak Hotel which has been there for 150 years.
Entering the park
Didima Resort
We arrived at the resort in the late afternoon.  I had to "play" with the camera to get a usable shot of the peaks to the west.  Cathedral Peak is over 3000m high.  Beyond it is the "mountain kingdom" of Lesotho.

Late afternoon sun over the mountains
(Bell and Cathedral Peaks at right)
On Monday morning we visited the Rock Art Centre which has a lot of interesting information about the San (aka Bushman) people and their rock art.  We chose Didima in the hope of seeing such ancient rock art, having seen Aboriginal rock art in the NT in Australia previously.

Statue of eland outside the Rock Art Museum
Later on Monday morning, after the rain had decreased to drizzle, we did a 6km walk to Rainbow Gorge.  It was great walking through the hills with the surrounding peaks hidden in cloud.  We saw two springbok along the way, one of which was very well hidden in the bushes.  After first climbing a hill in grassy scrub with scattered Protea trees we descended into a gorge and a temperate rainforest.  Good exercise, very interesting and lots of fun.

Damp but awesome hike on Monday morning
Protea Tree
Rocky creek bed in the gorge
After returning to the resort we asked where we can see rock art.  We learned that we certainly can but a guide is required.  We arranged a guide and duly met Zama, a local Zulu.  Zama led us to Doreen Falls and onward (and upward) to a cave where a set of San rock art is in good condition on the walls.  Apparently anyone found at rock art sites in the park faces a fine of R10,000 if not accompanied by a guide.  Many sites have been damaged recently.

Afternoon walk to view rock art was in sunshine
The rock art was in a fairly large, open cave - very like some of the caves used by Aboriginal rock artists.  Some of the art has been damaged but much remains in good order.  The art is believed to be 3000 to 4000 years old.  The San originally lived in this area before the Ice Age.  They returned about 4000 years ago.  More recently they were displaced by Africans and Europeans, moving to Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana in search of safety.

San rock art depicting eland
San rock art depicting battle with lion/shaman
This morning we woke to a sunny sky.  Didima Resort is a fantastic spot with access to hiking ranging from easy (for the likes of us) to difficult.  One can hike to the top of Cathedral Peak and back in a day if very fit!

Sunny morning over the mountains
We're now back aboard Zen Again in Richards Bay.  We're looking out for a weather window to sail south.  Unfortunately the next week isn't looking promising at this stage.

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