Written at Champagne Castle, Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
September 28, 2011
With the first rays of light I peek out our balcony window to see what kind of day the night has brought us. Two small birds huddle together on the railing with dense fog behind them.
Ugh! “It’s early; maybe it will burn off,” I tell myself. No hurry to get on the trail this morning. We eat a leisurely breakfast in the resort dining room. Up until now I haven’t talked much about the buffet meals at Champagne Castle. One, I’m not a fan of large buffets. And two, I’m not a fan of large buffets. The food, however, is decent (for a buffet) with some healthier choices – different types of salads, veggies and fruit.
After breakfast the air is still thick with fog but despite the weather we head over to the Monk’s Cowl Park entrance to for a hike. The trail up to Blind Man’s Corner is a steady climb, but not too steep. Only the weight of the fog is dragging me down. We climb and climb, hoping for the fog to thin; the air is eerily still.
We take a few shots of flowers – the only thing we can see. The red bottle brush, heavy with droplets of dew, is stunning.
We pass Crystal Falls, a small waterfall in one of the many wooded areas where the trail curves inward to cross a creek. Further ahead is the Sphinx, barely discernible.
As we continue up and up it feels as if we will never escape this endless cloud. Such a pity to be missing the amazing views.
As we start to close in on Blind Man’s Corner – really a junctions of trails – we feel a slight breeze – the first air movement we’ve felt all morning. The slightly brighter sky lifts my mood with a ray of hope. We climb up a few feet more and with a sudden gust the fog lifts to reveal Sterkhorn peak against a backdrop of fluffy white clouds floating in a clear blue sky.
The day is completely transformed from a slog in a white haze to a glorious hike in the sunshine. Shortly past the trail junction, we picnic on a grassy slope with superb views of the peaks. The low clouds continue to swirl around us, completely obscuring the mountains at times only to blow away a moment later exposing once again clear vistas.
By the time we are ready to leave the fog has receded, leaving a clear path down Keartland’s Pass.
It’s a steep grind down, down, down along the valley wall with a long section along an outcropping of mushroom pillars with the characteristic black hard top and worn pink sandstone underneath.
The way down is much steeper than the hike up and would have been a bitch in the fog. But with sunny skies and valley views it makes for a pleasant 13 kilometer loop.
Watch out for snakes!