Durban - Most locals, tourists and more especially, those travelling between KZN and the hinterland know the Drakensberg Mountain range.
Most know that the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is one of South Africa’s most spectacular World Heritage Sites, established to conserve globally significant biodiversity and to safeguard precious water resources.
Many even know that these mountains hold historically significant rock paintings made by the San people thousands of years ago.
Nevertheless, not enough people get to head into the mountains to visit these world-class sites with beautiful waterfalls to swim in, yellowwood forests to wander in, grassy, wild flower hillsides, stunning birds of prey, eland and other small game to enjoy.
There are outstanding places to stay at, both state-run, within the the park, as well as privately owned in the border region – from campsites to five-star hotels and everything in-between. There is plenty in and around the region for one to enjoy.
Take Estcourt for instance. This is a place I normally associate with pork sausages and bacon, and certainly not with ancient fossils and dinosaur footprints dating back to when this region was still a part of Gondwanaland before it broke up into different continents.
Who knows that prehistoric fossils abound in this region, and at eight-metres, there is a fossilised tree purported to be one of the biggest in Southern Africa.
Easy to find, with the help of Hamish Skead of Lowlands Hunting Safaris, were fossilised bones of lystrosaurus, a mammal-like reptile which lived when this area consisted of marshy reed beds and massive forests.
Fort Durnford Museum
While this sandstone building was erected in 1847 to protect the Voortrekkers from Bushmen rustlers, today it houses the Estcourt Museum. The displays include artefacts, fossils, relics from the Iron Age and Stone Age, old wagons and models of historic battles. One of its more charming displays is a large collection of bird’s eggs donated by a local farming family.
The fort was rebuilt in 1875 in the wake of the Langalibalele Rebellion and a notice on the wall states that it was later used as a reform school for “naughty girls”.
Lazy Water and the Cabbage Express
Weenen, the small town in the Drakensberg foothills is known for its excellent game reserve run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The town itself, while a little sleepy, is nice if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.
One of its notable features is the grid of pretty water furrows, locally known in Afrikaans as lui water (lazy water), which still function.
Another is the remnants of the 47-kilometre narrow gauge railway called the “Cabbage Express” which between 1907 and 1983 connected Weenen to Estcourt and provided an outlet for agricultural produce. There is also a defunct mill and some Voortrekker homes. The little town museum is very sweet.
Willowgrange Country Hotel
I was all ears when I heard there was a prison cell inside the bar at “the Willowgrange”. It crossed my mind that perhaps all pubs should have their own cells. - Sunday Tribune