Drakensberg with roof tent written by Mette Bach
Summer vacation in Drakensberg
The large mountain massifs with yellow grass are getting closer and closer. A wavy, straw-yellow carpet on one side and a black sweaty field on the other. And then the giant granite surfaces that rise like a continuous wall further ahead.
It's hot in the car. We are in South Africa in the month of July, in the Drakensberg, the 'Dragon Mountains', south of Johannesburg and close to the border with the small kingdom of Lesotho.
We drive past villages where life goes slowly. Round, clay-lined houses pass by us, always with signs of life; cows, dogs, goats, schoolchildren in uniform, people on a perpetual walk by the roadside, greeting and laughing with 'perforated' laughs - always with packs, bundles and babies.
We are five on a road trip in a rented Toyota Hilux equipped with two roof tents and necessary sleeping and kitchen equipment. The kids are 11, 14 and 18 and we are on a three week summer vacation.
The holiday started with the hunt for 'the Big Five' in the Krüger National Park, and now the holiday is coming to an end with a trekking trip in the Drakensberg.
We drive towards a campsite, or closer to a camp site, close to the largest mountain range in Drakensberg, Giants Castle. We are late for it, we have to find the place and go on a trekking trip before it gets dark.
It comes down to how early it gets dark in Africa. At 18 pm the daylight is over and you have to fumble with pots, cooking and tent unpacking.
But we have gradually got used to the African rhythm and have started to get up very early, to take advantage of the daylight and not get to the campsites late every day. And we have the headlamps, which this summer will be looked after like the crown jewels.
A rustic campsite
Injisuthi Camp shows up after a long drive on gravel roads that require four-wheel drive to get there. We are later told that very few South Africans take this trip because it is too cumbersome and time consuming, and not many tourists find their way to the place either.
We enjoyed driving towards the stunningly beautiful scenery that Giants Castle is. The campsite fortunately turns out to be 'a rustic camp site', deserted located with only the most necessary and which we almost have for ourselves.
Lots of space to run around, spread out and light up the stone grill - and a sweet camp manager who easily wonders to welcome the dusty, tired and a little busy family here out of season.
The Dragon Mountains, a sleeping giant
Equipped with the place's map of trekking trails in the Dragon Mountains, we hurry out on a three-hour trip to Grindstone Cave, which we believe we can reach before it turns pitch black.
The big attraction here is the cave paintings, 'Bushman Rock Art', but it's a six-hour trip, so we will not reach it before it gets dark. We walk in yellow grass, up and down hills, inside a forest with springs and many small obstacles and branches - and reach the open on the way to the goal, a cave with a shower fountain.
On this piece, the green, wavy mountain surface most of all resembles giant claws on a dragon that could lift off the ground at any moment and haul the mountain with it. A sleeping giant.
Trekking in the mountains
When we get to the cave, we are suddenly not alone anymore. A 7th grader from Durban is on a camping trip and has to spend the night inside the cave. We greet and just manage to rinse ourselves a bit and fill the water bottles with fresh water from the eternal spring that runs like a thick jet from the 'roof' of the cave.
We feel infinitely small as we walk on the small, narrow paths that wind around the mountain massif, in certain places with the danger of falling over the edge. The 18-year-old can not resist the temptation, but has to run up and up the yellow, grassy surfaces - he has decided to reach the top.
We stand and look at him with frightened suspicions. He is slowly getting smaller and smaller, eventually just a small dot that can hardly be seen in all the yellow. He does not reach the big top, but one of the smaller ones and comes back happy.
Everyday life in Drakensberg
We walk the last few kilometers in the dark, the headlights on of course. The closer we get to the campground, the more we wonder that it looks like everything is burning.
The fields have been set on fire, the flames are high in the air, dangerously close to our car, we think, but it appears to be a controlled fire, probably as part of nature conservation. Satisfied, happy and hungry back in camp.
We are used to the trip, lighting up, forwarding with pots and pans, the food coming out of the car fridge. The roof tents pitched and set up for the night. Camp life is wonderful, brings us together as a family, but also requires everyone to take action.
We go to bed early after some of us have reached a small tub of lukewarm water in the spartan toilet building. Tub is something that, unexpectedly, is a part of most South African campsites.
We get up for the most beautiful, clear morning, early in the morning and with a view of rare birds and surrounded by magnificent mountain contours. We agree that we must return once - and reach one of the longer and more strenuous trips.
But a three-week trip is over and we unfortunately have to say goodbye to the breathtaking, beautiful country, where we have enjoyed the wildlife and wildlife up close in the dragon mountains in South Africa.
We hope you have been well dressed to embark on your next road trip. Good trip!