With December 23rd marking the official start of “summer break” in South Africa, we commenced our 4-week hiatus from the lifesaver that is childhood daycare, by embarking on a 3-part journey around the nation the world officially now refers to as the “birthplace of canceled travel plans”:
Even though our 8-person itinerary would now only be partaken by a group of 4 (thanks Omicron), we set off on what would be an epic 1-week, road-filled adventure, spent predominantly attempting to find different ways of answering the age-old question of “are we there yet?” (NOTE – Sarcastically saying “yes” halfway through your drive is almost impossible to rationalize to a now-franticly-confused 4-year-old).
And what better way to start off our journey, then by partaking in a 12-hour travel day, inclusive of the following highlights:
After carefully navigating 177 of 178 speedbumps (#83 re-enactment), we finally arrived at our first destination – Thendele Camp at Royal Natal National Park in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park (gold star to anyone that manages a 60% pronunciation accuracy) – A site previously visited on our honeymoon, 83 years ago (in dog/marriage years).
In order to provide a proper depiction of the wonder that is Thendele Camp, I need those of you who have yet to skip to the photo section (insert polite golf clap), to envision one of the most stunning landscapes you have ever witnessed. Whether be the towering snow-capped mountains of Yosemite Valley captured by Ansel Adams, or even any of the palm-tree laden beaches visited by the genetic lottery winners now known as Instagram Influencers. Now, maintain that visual image, and proceed to drop a Motel 6 right smack dab in the middle of it. And that would be the closest equivalent to Thendele Camp - A collection of self-catering chalets, unmaintained since their construction back in the 1950s, sitting at the foot of the crown jewel of the Drakensberg Mountains – A 10,000 foot, 3.1 mile long curved wall known as The Amphitheater.
With each chalet having an obstruction-free view of The Amphitheater (as well as the 2nd tallest waterfall in the world which it happens to host), it is easy to forget that in order to be awed by the view from your back porch, you first must walk across a carpet that is comprised of more stains & cigarette burns than actual carpet, and then carefully avoid the shallow lake of water that is coming from the fireplace, which thoroughly diverts rain water into the living room. All while attempting to open the sliding glass door, which has been cracked since 1983, and doesn’t fully close, similar to most every window in the entire unit. But, that view. Oh, that view.
And while we would have loved to have spent as much time as possible in the confines of our glamp-free glamp-pad, we instead decided to explore one of the most picturesque parks in all of South Africa, taking in the following summary-heavy hikes:
Hike #1 – Thukela Gorge Trail
Hike #2 – Lookout Rock via Cascades
After two days of fairly-taxing hikes at almost 5,000 feet in altitude, any semblance of comfort was more than welcome for our weary legs (even if said comfort had a musky smell from time-to-time). And despite the sad state of affairs of Thendele Camp, it is still one of the most amazing places we have ever stayed. And to be perfectly honest, for a family of two young children, it was quite a relief to give, as they say, “two shits” about spills, accidents or general raucousness that accompanies those of a toddler age. As any damage only adds to the “allure” of the accommodation, which for $165/night, is an absolute steal for the location in which it resides - One of our favorite places in all the world (sorry Plugerville, you just missed the cut).
We will be back.
Onto the pics:
PRIOR BLOG POSTS:
Year Abroad Intro:
• Welcome to our Newest Blog! Again!
• The Move - Dissected, Probed and Then Probed Some More
• The Voyage (Part 1) - If At First You Don't Succeed, Trying Again Won't Work Either
• The Voyage (Part 2) - The Layover to Rule All Other Layovers
• A Personal Life Update - Establishing Our Shallow Roots
A Guide to South Africa:
• How to be an Expat When You Aren't Technically an Expat
(Part 1 - Bank Accounts)
• How to be an Expat, When You Aren't Technically an Expat (Part 2 - Health Insurance)
• Load Shedding - Keeping the Lights Off in South Africa Since 2007
• 195 Ways to Fight a Pandemic - The South Africa Edition
• Halloween in South Africa - Playing Catch-Up Since 2016
• SnapScan - South Africa's Glimpse into America's Future
• Thanksgiving in South Africa - Where My Turkeys Be At?
• Life at the Epicenter of Omicron - A Different Type of Cancel Culture
• Playgrounds - The Starbucks of South Africa
• Cost of Living in South Africa - An Exploratory Journey of Everyday Expenses
• Namibia Roadtrip (1 of 3) - Driving a Shake Weight to Sossusvlei
• Namibia Roadtrip (2 of 3) - Searching for Souls in Swakopmund
• Namibia Roadtrip (3 of 3) - Getting our Safari on at Etosha National Park
• Weekend Getaway in Robertson - A Trip Down Pleasantville Lane
• Summer Holiday Trip (1 of 3) - Glamping Without the Glam in the Drakensberg Mountains
• Summer Holiday Trip (2 of 3) - The Historical Chronicles of Kruger National Park
• Summer Holiday Trip (3 of 3) - Searching for Whales and Spare Tires in the Overberg
• Visitors Round 1 - The Woodmans - An Expedited Exploration of Everything
• The Great Wildebeest Migration - 15 Years of Waiting Decided in 15 Minutes
• Ngorongoro Crater - A Pre-Migration Layover Inside an Inverted Volcano
• Ndutu - The Safari to Rule All Other Safaris
• Serengeti National Park - Seeking Out Simba at an Abandoned Pride Rock
• Zanzibar - The Island of Sugar, Spice and Most Things Nice
• Visitors Round 2 - Let's Ignore Our Sanity & Do All The Things
• Wild Coast - A Little Tatse of the O.G. South Africa
• Spring Break in September - Just as Strange as it Sounds
• A Day in the Life of a South African Expat - The Visual Edition
• A Wrinkle in Our Spare Time
• Our Final Week in South Africa - A Bittersweet Symphony of Bucket Lists
The Other Stuff:
• This is 40: The South Africa Version