Countryside travellers need to carefully balance planning with the near certainty of serendipity. Leave to much to chance, and it can all fall apart. Over-plan, and you’ll miss out on unexpected gems. Here’s my (hopefully balanced) plan for the Drakensberg this weekend
The ever-troublesome departure time is 6am on Friday morning. Travelling alone, this should be possible. It’s with each additional soul that this time seems to get pushed out exponentially. I’ll also be pretty excited to test the Ford EcoSport on the open road, which will help with the waking up process.
I should hit Harrismith at mid-morning and then reach the Green Lantern Inn (about 30km past the town) in time for breakfast. Owners have promised me a tasty meal, a chat and a donkey or two inside their Rendezvous pub. Whether or not the latter is a metaphor remains to be seen.
Then it’s onward towards the heart of the Northern Drakensberg. I haven’t yet decided which route to take, though. The traditional R74 option is problematic these days. Following an apparent dispute between municipalities, it has been left in a terrible state of disrepair for some time. I’m warned that there’s a stretch of 17km alongside the Sterkfontein Dam where one can’t do more than 20km/h. The longer, smoother route is to continue on the N3 to Bergville. I may need to flip a coin.
My first stop in the mountains will be All Out Adventures. This is the hub for Run the Berg, and sounds like an outdoor adventurer’s haven. Everything from mountain biking to a canopy cable tour is on offer. I’ll be limited to registering for the race and taking a few photos (this time).
Next it’s off to the Tower of Pizza. Yep, ‘PIZZA’! Situated on a working grain farm and operating in a converted silo, I’ve heard good things about their Italian food. Something tells me I’ll be using a broad understanding of the term ‘carbo-loading’ during dinner.
Nutrition taken care of, it’s off to my lodgings. I’ll spend two nights at the Greenfire Lodge (formerly Drifters). Accommodation here is based on the Canadian-style log cabin, with a central lodge where guests meet for meals and chats. The dirt road en route should be perfect to see what the EcoSport can do.
Greenfire has arranged a hearty early morning breakfast for guests taking part in the run. Start time is 7am, so we’ll all be up in the dark for some porridge and hot coffee. And we’ll need it! Whether we’re doing the 25km option or the easier 15km route, it’s set to be a challenging day in the mountains.
Lunch on Saturday will be at The Cavern. This is actually the starting point for stage one. It has long struck me as the archetypal family resort in the Berg (the resident dogs appear to have a prime spot in most of their photos on Facebook), and I look forward to one of their trademark spreads.
After the second stage of trail running I head out of the Berg and to the highly recommended Three Trees Lodge. About 25km from Bergville, this is famed as a gateway to the local battlefield sites. It also looks like quite the most picturesque spot. The farmhouse looks exquisite and I’m told the food is just the same. I’ve cleared the whole of Monday to take in as much of the place as I can, hopefully including a battlefield tour, some birding and, if my pins are up to it, a mountain bike ride.
That leaves just a few gaps for unplanned discoveries. Perhaps coffee at a padstal, lunch at some unheralded cafe or some other amusement will emerge when needed.
Of course, if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Shoot me a mail at [email protected] or catch us on Facebook and Twitter.