Report by Sally and Paul Bartho
17 to 19 November 2017
The decision to go to the Drak Gardens was made the day before we left. I had never been there and Sally always wanted to go back. We chose a great weekend to go. It had just snowed – and the mountains were well capped. The weather was beautiful, sunny and clear for our whole stay – icy cold when windy and at night but T-shirt weather during the day.
The campsite is just before entering the Drak Gardens boom gate. It was wonderfully grassy and green with loads of shade if you wanted it. The ablutions were very good with really hot water.
There is another campsite in the Park itself – Hermit’s Campsite – near the Garden Castle Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park office – but it is not electrified. It’s advantage is that it is right at the start of all the walks in the park.
Our intention was to walk in the Berg and bird along the way. Birding was quiet but what we did see and hear was different from the usual birds we normally see. Some of the specials included Bokmakierie, Buff-streaked Chats, Cape Rock-Thrushes, Malachite Sunbirds, Yellow Bishops and Ground Woodpeckers. Sally kept her ears open for any chance of hearing Rockjumpers to no avail and we did not see nor hear any Gurney’s Sugarbirds. Our bird list can be seen by clicking here – some 50 species.
Map of walks: We wanted to head for Pillar Cave but started heading towards the Three Pools.
On our first morning we got lost trying to find where we wanted to go. A riverside walk. However we headed in the wrong direction towards the Three Pools – a steep climb. Very quickly we realised our mistake and trundled back down and followed the river until we found a path which we correctly assumed was the Mlambonia river walk.
On and on we climbed thinking that at some stage we would get near the river – but although that was the river walk it was some way higher than the river itself with steep slopes down towards it.
We got as far as the first river crossing after about 2 hours and decided not to go any further. The crossing looked quite interesting and mildly challenging but we had had enough and took a break there watching other parties of Germans trying to cross – ever hopeful of a photo of someone losing their footing.
One group thought they new best and decided to take an alternative route but we did not stay to see their probable outcome – floating down the river.
We headed back.
The Watsonias were out in full everywhere.
Before we left the next day we took a drive around the area and went back to the start of the walk we did the day before to explore an area by the river. Here we saw virtually all the specials we had seen the day before as well as about 6 Horus Swifts flying overhead and occasionally darting into one or other of the holes in the river bank.
This was a most enjoyable few days with fantastic weather.
Paul and Sally