There are three parts to the Drakensberg – the Southern Drakensberg, the Central Drakensberg and the Northern Drakensberg. They are vast areas with lots of resorts, B & B’s, activities and beautiful scenery and I have been blessed to stay in all three parts. On a recent trip I was able to experience a bit more of the Southern Drakensberg with the N3 Gateway team.
It was a fascinating trip. Not only because of the activities, accommodation and scenery but because I was with people I had just met on the Friday afternoon that we all left for the trip. This group of people are also different to me in that they are Photographers and Instagrammers NOT bloggers. Yes Bloggers can and are all 3 but we are a different “breed” and it was great to see them at work. Their names and links are at the bottom of this post so please give them a follow on social media.
The one thing I love when going on planned media trip is that I don’t have to worry about transport and it gives me a chance to chat and take photos. It was a very smooth drive up on a warm afternoon and we reached Underberg in the early evening.
The group was split into 2 and the women went to stay at Cedar Garden B&B and the men at Malachite Manor. We had just enough time to unpack and freshen up before getting fetched for the drive into Himeville to have supper at Moorcroft Manor.
Moorcroft Manor is a Boutique Country Hotel that is owned by Goolu and Mario Kropf, who between the 2 of them speak 7 languages. The hotel was converted from a farmhouse and it offers 12 rooms. There is a magnificent avenue of trees that lead from the road to the hotel and I would have loved to have taken a photo, but we were only there in the evening. The restaurant is open daily between 7:30am – 9pm, and the menu created by Jason Black with ingredients sourced, where possible, from farmers and small businesses in Underberg and surrounding areas. Wines are personally chosen by the owners from award winning wine farms. The menu does not overwhelm with choices and everyone is sure to find a dish that tickles their taste buds.
We did not dine off the main menu as a special 5 course tasting menu had been created for us. A tasting menu that thrilled us from start to finish, from plating to flavour. The 1st course was an Amuse-bouche of crispy grilled local halloumi, hummus, eggplant & tomato jam followed by a Biltong & grilled pear salad with blue cheese dressing. The 3rd course was a wonderful surprise to the taste buds – Pea & potato soup with spiced yoghurt & curry oil. The main course was a perfectly prepared Pepper-crusted fillet of East Griqualand Beef with mushroom duxelle, slow roasted garlic & red wine sauce. A melt in the mouth fillet and I loved the sweetness that is created in garlic when it is roasted. Our 5th course was the dessert platter which we divided up so that we could all taste the various options. I love a chocolate dessert and Moorcroft did not disappoint with their oozy fondant and a delicious mousse cake. The other 2 desserts were an orange polenta cake and a sticky toffee pudding. What a fabulous way to start a weekend adventure with the N3 Gateway team.
Cedar Garden Bed & Breakfast and Self-catering is a very spacious property with main house and other units set in an incredible garden. We were given the Polo House for the weekend. It is a very large self-catering garden cottage with lounge, dining room, kitchen, main room with en-suite bathroom, a 2nd bedroom with a bathroom and another 2 rooms that can sleep 6. There is also another bathroom. It is a perfect place for a large family or group to stay whilst they adventure around the Southern Drakensberg. There is a TV in the lounge (we didn’t even switch it on) and they have WIFI. My room had an electric blanket on the bed (so needed for Drakensberg Winters) and it also had a fan. Tea, coffee, milk and sugar are in the kitchen.
Breakfast was in the main house dining room and a small buffet of cereal, fresh fruit and yoghurt was set out on both morning’s. Fresh warm muffins and orange juice were on the tables. There was also a tea and coffee station alongside the buffet where guests could help themselves. Guests could also order a hot breakfast and I enjoyed poached eggs, bacon, pork sausage and grilled tomato. Languages spoken at Cedar Garden include English, Afrikaans, German, Zulu and Xhosa. We couldn’t stay away from the amazing garden and numerous photos were taken of the abundant flowers. There are also so many birds and I have yet to identify one that I heard on Saturday and Sunday morning.
Saturday morning dawned bright but partly cloudy and it was set to be a rather warm day. Myself and 2 of the ladies were ready for an adventure. An adventure that we all had never experienced before – a trip up Sani Pass.We were collected from Cedar Garden by Sani Pass Tours and then taken to their shop at Trout Walk Centre so that we could fill out the required paperwork. It took a while for us to start the tour proper as we had to collect fellow adventurers on the way. The vehicle contained 4 South African’s (including the driver) and 6 German’s. The Sani Pass summit is 2874 metres above sea level and it takes approximately 2 hours of travelling. The road up to the South African border post is not too bad. Vehicles have to take care that they do not have a close encounter with vehicles coming down the road or with the machinery and people working on the road. We did have a few stops on the way to the border post so that we could take photos of the scenery. No problems encountered at the border as we handed over our passports for stamping. There are very good toilet facilities at the border post, so if you have been drinking a lot of water ……
After the border crossing the road changed. Rock, rocks, rocks, loose rocks, rough road, very rough road, extremely rough road and steep inclines. Plus the scary S-bends where the driver had to stop, reverse slightly and then continue up. After lots of shaking and rattling we finally reached the top. We didn’t have to show our passports personally at the Lesotho border post as our driver Martin Nyawdse collected them and took them to be stamped. He then drove us into Lesotho and to visit a traditional Basotho village. We were welcomed into one of the huts and Martin explained to us a bit about the Sotho people’s way of life and we tried some delicious pot bread freshly made by the lady of the house. Then we drove back to the Lesotho border and parked at the site of the Highest Pub in Africa – Sani Mountain Lodge. I had a delicious Wrap with a filling of roast beef, sweet chilli mayo and salad greens for lunch. After lunch we had a little bit of time to take some photos of the glorious scenery before we needed to get back to the vehicle for the descent. It was much faster to get down the mountain pass and we soon found ourselves back at Cedar Garden B&B. Thank you Martin and Sani Pass Tours for the wonderful memories.
After the dust and heat it was wonderful to be able to refresh ourselves and sit and relax before supper that Saturday night. I made myself a cup of coffee in my AeroPress and then sat on the comfortable couch on the verandah of Polo House to do a bit of social media. A beautiful garden and sunset was a perfect way to end a busy day.
Premier Resort Sani Pass
Saturday night dinner was a buffet at the newly renovated Premier Resort Sani Pass. I have stayed here twice, before Premier Hotels & Resorts bought the property, and I am very impressed with the resorts makeover and renovations. I would have loved to have seen it during daylight hours. The buffet was just as I remembered it – a vast array of amazing dishes to choose from and they also have a build your own pizza section. It was a group of very happy people that left the restaurant. We took a few photos after supper before sitting in the lounge and being entertained by the karaoke singer who was not having much luck getting people to come up and sing.
Parish of Drakensberg St Michael & All Angels
Sunday morning was very bright, bright blue sky and no clouds to be seen. Last breakfast at Cedar Garden B&B and then packing up our luggage and having a walk around another part of the gardens to take more photos of flowers. We drove into Himeville so that we could see and photograph the museum and any other attractions. Our first stop was at the Parish of Drakensberg St Michael & All Angels – a stunning stone church whose foundation stone was laid on the 20th May 1950. The stones for the church were taken from a quarry near Underberg. The church service had just ended and so we were very blessed to be able to see inside.
Himeville Fort & Museum
What a surprise to discover that the Himeville Fort & Museum was open on a Sunday! But also very sad that I did not have enough time to look through it properly. My great grandfather Rupert Arthur Williamson was the prison warder here for a few years and he stayed with his family in the prison warder’s house which now contains the museum. My grandfather would ride his horse from Himeville to Underberg so that he could attend school.
“The museum is housed in the old stone fort or laager started in 1896 by the Border Mounted rifles after the LeFleur Rebellion of 1895. Completed in 1899 it was taken over by the Natal Mounted Police and turned into a prison by the addition of the warders house and magistrates court along with a number of cells. Abandoned as a prison in 1972 it became a museum in 1976 and was declared a national monument in 1978. An open air exhibition of settler and agricultural history is surrounded by a number of display rooms housing themed exhibits and displays covering rock art, traditional crafts, natural history, military history amongst many others.”
The Old Hatchery
Our Southern Drakensberg tour came to a close with a delicious lunch at The Old Hatchery in Underberg. They have a large thatched rondavel restaurant but they also offer bed & breakfast and self-catering accommodation. The restaurant is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just make sure that you make a booking. Ingredients are sourced from the neighbouring farms and surrounding areas. They have an extensive menu and it was quite difficult to decide what dish that I wanted for lunch. Deciding on dessert was not a problem as I had already chosen French Chocolate Silk even before I had decided on my main meal. For mains I had Lamb Shank which was served with mash potatoes and vegetables of the day. The Lamb Shank was braised and slow cooked in red wine and the meat fell off the bone. A delicious dish with amazing flavours and the mashed potatoes, butternut and creamed spinach were a perfect accompaniment. The French Chocolate Silk? Amazing! Smooth creamy light chocolate mousse texture with a lovely chocolate biscuit base. I could easily have had another slice.
Rosemary Hall – Social Media & Digital Marketing for N3 Gateway and Southern Drakensberg
Graeme Holliday – Photographer
Gerhard Britz – Video Creator and Drone Wrangler
Menzi Gerald Khoza – Photographer
Alison Johnston – Photographer, Journalist, Content Creator
Jenna De Croes – Photographer