Luck? Bad Luck?
Luck? Bad Luck? Who is to say……the thing is that we are now at this moment waiting in Port Elizabeth to get our steering fixed. During the last week and even before we embarked on our journey Inge and I felt that there was something wrong with the steering, but we couldn’t find out why and our main objective was to hit the road as we were eager to see South Africa. So, we used Port Elizabeth, a big city in the Eastern Cape, as our stop to look for a suitable company that could help us.
We were in luck that we were unlucky with finding a campsite and eventually ended up at a lodge (we already forgot the name) where Kenny was the manager. Kenny, a former cricket player of South Africa, didn’t per se had a spot for us, but we could stay on the parking lot which was secured. After hearing our story, he even told us we could stay in one of the vacant rooms. Marty would be too scared late at night by himself so we stayed with him. Kenny was also helpful with finding us a decent car mechanic that could help us with our steering problem. And did they found something….
The steering rod on the right side was all warn out. Who would know how many km we could still drive with it. The only thing we thought about was that it could have happened in the Baviaanskloof.
With three men strong they helped us with a new steering rod only to be later finding out that it wasn’t fitting well. When driving the car, it would shake at a speed of around 50 km an hour. Back at the garage they figured it out that the new steering rod was a problem. We had to order a new one, now from Toyota. In the meanwhile, we had some time at our campsite to do some maintenance on the car. And for the first time in these couple of months we really could slow done a bit, which felt amazing.
Drakensberg is well known for its Sani Pass, an 8 km off-road track which leads you straight into the mountains to Lesotho. The road isn’t for the feign hearted as you ascend to a height of 2750 meters from a starting point of 1544m, making the climb 1332m horizontally. It’s a slow climb, but some parts are very steep (gradient 1:4 which means a 25% climb) while driving on a gravel road full of potholes, cracks and stones that make the road slippery. With the many hairpins and switchbacks with angles up to 180 degrees it is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. The large number of cars which went down the ravines bear mute testimony to the dangers.
With that in mind and the fact that even the weather conditions are very unpredictable with possible snow, cloudy and sometimes sun, we took on this challenge. Brave as we where we drove our car up until normal gear wasn’t an option anymore and we needed to shift to low gear (low gear simply means that the car is making more torque and that you are able to drive at very low speed while the car keeps moving forward slowly).
Cars passed by as tour operators brought tourist all the way up. Some locals where on the road who were planning to have lunch at the top at the highest pub of Africa. While we moved higher up the mountain people stopped and asked how we were faring, a bit scared we said, but the excitement and the beautiful scenery made up for it. With some uplifting words they said goodbye, but their words gave us the courage to move on. When we finally met the top, it was time for a small celebration with a hot cup of chocolate and lunch. Because the descent was even more difficult, we waited an hour as thick clouds weren’t giving us a lot of visibility. After an hour we made our move, because the clouds would be there all-day long. With our harts pounding in our throat we slowly turned around and started with the hardest part of the descent, which is at the top of the mountain. The hardest thing about it, is the steepness, while bits of snow and small rocks make the road very slippery. Marty on the other hand didn’t budge at all and slowly brought us down, like a walk in the park.
Our plan was to move on to the next campsite, but the lodge we were staying was too nice and comfortable. If we had more time Inge would have loved to stay here for a couple of weeks, especially do to the fact you can do some amazing horseback rides here, even a 7 day ride all the way up to Lesotho. The people that were staying here also made it a place to remember. Everybody was sharing their stories in the lounge while heating up at the campfire which was making overtime these cold days.
Drakensberg isn’t only famous for its Sani Pass, it has many more sights to be hold and it’s an ideal weekend away for locals that like hiking, biking, horse riding or just want to drive through this beautiful mountain range. We too wanted to do some more exploring and had our eyes set on a hike to the famous Amphitheatre with one of the most impressive cliff faces in the world with a total length of 5km. As we entered the park and told them what our plan was, a day hike to the Amphitheatre, they didn’t immediately laugh, but almost. The main reason was that we where at the wrong entrance point. The hike to the theatre would take up to two days from where we were. “Uhh….well good sir, we will then just go for a smaller hike….what do you have on offer?” With some view direction we just went for a small hike, which we like to call the Monkey trail.
While ascended on one of the many green lush mountain trails this 1000km mountain range has, we were following the river up to which they call the lookout rock. A couple of meters before the rock we moved away from the original trail and got into a small path that had been made a long time ago. Noise of water coming down became louder and louder and when we passed a few bushes we stumbled upon multiple small waterfalls. In the distance we heard screams of monkeys which peaked our interest. Climbing over a few rocks we where suddenly surrounded by dozens of them. Parents where taking a stroll with their little ones. As we moved on a small trail we figured that this trail wasn’t made by humans, but by these monkeys.
We took a pause on one of the rocks as the monkeys crossed us while going down. Another monkey was sitting on a rock just a couple of meters away, minding his own business. Like we where not around. Rummaging between his…..legs?! What the hell was he doing. He is touching his dingdong in full vision and putting it in his mouth? “Hello monkey we are here too!” The monkey just didn’t care that Inge and I would have this obscure image in our head for the next couple of days. So, we moved on as quickly as possible to find the normal trail back to the exit.
Best, Chris & Inge