Drakensberg Mts Day 3 – Royal Natal, Cathedral Peak, Monk’s Cowl

By the second morning a general haze has filtered into the valley. The majestic Amphitheater is still visible but not as clear as the morning before.

Royal Natal Rock Art

On our way out of the park we stop at the little rock art place just inside the main entrance. A young Zulu woman greets us at the gate and explains that because of past vandalism a private organization runs tours up to the cave painting, 20 Rand per person (about $3US). It’s a 20 minute walk up the hill to the site with views of the surrounding valley.

The ceremonial site was painted by the nomadic San people approximately 200 to 400 years ago. While not the most spectacular rock art, images of eland, buffalo, cobra, etc. are clearly discernible. Some of the more interesting figures such as the half-man/half-beast are much fainter and difficult to distinguish.

Driving through the Drakensbergs

There is no direct road connecting the various national park camps along the Drakensberg range. Generally, to get to one from another you must first drive out to the main road, down to the next town or so, and back in towards the mountains. Along the way we pass colorfully dressed locals working their small plots of land, children playing in the fields near their mother, and cattle roaming the roads.

Cathedral Peak

We next stop at Cathedral Peak and walk around the park’s hutted camp and the resort hotel. The impressive peaks are visible through a light haze. The hutted camp has a pleasant location on a grassy hill with peak views.

In contrast, the hotel, albeit closer to the peaks, does not maximize the setting with only obscured views from the dining room and outdoor seating area.

The peaks would be dramatic on a clear day, but it takes a hike into the mountains to really appreciate them.

Monk’s Cowl

Further south along the Drakensberg range, our home base for the next two nights is Champagne Castle just outside of Monk’s Cowl. This colonial style resort has lovely views from the dining room, outdoor seating area, bar and the deluxe rooms. Except for the larger self-catered chalets, the rooms include three buffet meals a day in the hotel dining room.

We splurged on a deluxe room. Huge by comparison to anything we’ve stayed in lately with great views of the peaks at sunset. The room is simply decorated in an old colonial style with dark wood and a neutral palette accented with large florals.

Sunset Trail

After lunch we head up to the hotel’s private peak on the Sunset Trail. A relatively steep hike up, the walk along up the bluff is on unstable ground in places making it difficult to climb but offers magnificent views when the air is clear.

We reached the top, a grassy plateau, in about an hour and a quarter. Straw flowers seem to be the wild flower of note in this area, ranging in color from all intensities of pink to whites and yellows. Also plenty of the red/orange bottle brush I love. From the top you can continue around to complete the loop but short on time we head back down the same way we came up.

September 27, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.

2 thoughts

    1. Thanks Rory. It really is all about the views. I’ve read that the best time to vist the Drakensberg is in April or May when the mountains are green and the air clear.

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