My trip to Drakensberg was one of the craziest trips I have ever taken. One night I saw a picture of Drakensberg and the next day I was on the road driving nine hours to the national park. The drive, although long, was beautiful. It was awesome to see traditional homes, wide open grasslands, and baboons. When I arrived just outside of Drakensberg, the real adventure began. As I stopped to get gas, in a place I thought was close to Drakensberg, I decided to ask the gas attendant where I could stay. He told me that I was still over an hour away from the park. It was late by the time I arrived in the secluded area near Drakensberg. With no street lights and poorly marked roads, I struggled to find a place to stay. By some miracle I eventually found a hostel nestled 100 yards off the main road. I was grateful that the stress of trying to find a place to stay was over.
The next day, I was excited to hike to the foot of the Amphitheater. Even though I was there during the dry season, the surrounding area was beautiful. As Macrae and I hiked, it was weird that almost the entire surrounding vegetation was a golden brown color except patches of thick green forests that overran the mountainside. After three hours of hiking, we thought we had made it to the end of the trail, however, there was a ladder that led down to the rocky, dried up river. Macrae decided to chill by the river while I continued on. Thirty minutes later, I arrived at a lookout point over the Amphitheater. The mountain range was incredible. It looked like a set of wavy curtains, the kind you would see at a play. I spent a long time enjoying the highest mountain range in Southern Africa.
When we finally made it back to the car it was late in the afternoon. As we drove out of the park, Macrae and I decided to drive to Lesotho (it’s a country completely surrounded by South Africa). The reason we decided to make the hour and a half car ride was because my grandma and I have a contest to see who can go to the most countries. Currently she is in the lead, but Lesotho was going to make 36 countries for me, putting me eight countries away from her. The hour and a half drive to Lesotho provided us with sights of lakes, mountains, and an amazing orange sunset.
When we arrived at the border, I excitedly handed the customs agent my passport. That’s when things went downhill. I forgot to bring my visa extension paperwork and the agent told me he was going to have to detain me until the morning so that he could confirm that I had the necessary paperwork. When he repeated the threat three times I began to get nervous. After twenty minutes of talking with him, he decided to let me go.
We were so close. All I wanted to do was stick my foot across the border. Since I almost got detained, but we decided it was best to cut our losses and head back to the hostel. Disappointment quickly turned into fear as we drove back. While driving up a canyon pass, I came around a corner and hit a huge pothole. The frame of the tire bent and caused the tire to deflate. The great thing about South Africa is that they spend money to put up signs that say “Beware of Potholes” instead of using that money to repair the potholes. Changing the flat tire was an adventure on the canyon pass. Since we were on a hill, the car kept rolling back as I jacked it up. It took three tries to finally jack the car up and change the tire.
After an exhausting trip of getting lost, trying to find a place to stay, hiking, almost getting detained, and having a flat tire Macrae and I were ready to go to our room and get some sleep. Even this simple desire did not work out. When we got to our room we found our stuff on the floor and people in our beds. All I could do was laugh (as a small tear rolled down my cheek). The front desk apologized and moved us to a new room.
Everything that could go wrong did. To most people this trip would appear to be a an expensively disastrous trip, but to me, this is what traveling is all about. Every moment provided a new and challenging experience. I learned. I grew. And I got to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in Southern Africa. Success!
Why do you travel?