By Garth Johnstone
OK, so it wasn’t THAT Drakensberg Choir that serenaded us as we sat huddled in our tent sipping a warming brew.
Instead, at about 6pm, all at once and all together, a choir of froggy voices let rip and filled the damp air with their beautiful song.
Sadly for us, we’d booked a weekend of camping at Silver Streams at Bushman’s Nek in the southern Berg on the wettest weekend in a long, long while. (Particularly sad because we’d heard such great things about it). But our little friends – and a variety of birds I couldn’t begin to identify – were there for us, and cheered things up with a little Singing in the Rain.
They were parked off nicely in a sort of mini-vlei about 25m from our tent. What a pleasure to reach for a bird of another sort (a bottle of Famous Grouse), sit back and enjoy this special country music.
It was a grim weekend, no question, but we had plenty time to check out the lie of the land, the facilities and activities in the area and get in a hike… and, of course, we are South Africans … there was a braai.
Soul food and Grice
On the first night we lit a fire for warmth and the wife wizarded up a curry … soul food which, along with a few Grice, got us nice and comfortable for bed.
Wild, remote: The central Berg’s sparkling gem
The next morning I got up early, put on my gear and nipped out for a solo walk. I first headed towards Bushman’s Nek, which ended up being a bit of a fail. I hadn’t realised that about two minutes’ walk in this direction was the border crossing into Lesotho. Looking up at the police station and rather serious looking border post I realised I had neither a face mask nor a passport (not so smart).
But then I spotted a sign that said “Waterfall” and “Trail”, which I dutifully followed like a Hobbit on his way to Mordor. I spent a while hopping across rocks and taking pics of the beautiful waterfall and, yonder, serene views of a glassy river and Lesotho. However, signs warning about Covid, that the border was closed and trespassers potentially faced charges, ensured I wasn’t tempted to push through and go round the border post. Bummer, I would have to try another day.
And then it really started bucketing down. So I turned back and went in the direction of our tent, only for the rain to ease off and slow to a drizzle. I kept walking, back out of Silver Streams and a few kilometres down the road, past a joint called the Pig and Pony and Bushman’s Nek Resort. Parents take note, the Pig and Pony looks like a good one for kiddies. There are pony rides, lots of animals to ooh and aah over, including horsey babies, some groovy turkeys and cute goats. And for the adults, a restaurant, where you can recharge while the kiddies do their thing.
Soggy base camp
Back at a soggy base camp I was in for a wee surprise. The growler, aka wife, had decided enough was enough, time to “upgrade” to a chalet. A good man recognises when he’s beaten and with a heavy heart and in a particularly fierce burst of rain, I helped pack up the gear and haul butt for the four-walled security longed-for by my significant other. As I carried the last bag into the chalet I recognised I was starting to resemble an overgrown, drowned rat.
And yes, I must concede that Silver Streams had come through for us. The chalet was well kitted out and came with a roaring FIREPLACE … hello, warm lounge and a chance to dry out soggy jackets, socks and boots. Most important, the wife was happy and I could revel in a dry, covered space to braai (while sipping on some of the amber nectar).
More on the Drakensberg: In the shade of Giants
It cleared up enough on the Sunday morning for us to be able to make out the surrounding hills and, even though the rain returned, we got a good idea of the lie of the land. Silver Streams has plenty space for activities and kids to run around (you could have a full-size soccer match on a few of the lawns). The pristine Bushman’s River flows through the camp, which is dotted with chalets and mini lodges, which sleep up to 10 people. Horse rides, hiking, cycling and tennis are some of the activities on offer.
When it came time to put foot and head for home, we were very happy we were in “The Tank” – our recently acquired 4×4 2.5l diesel Toyota Hilux. The road back to Underberg is good by dirt road standards, but had become muddy in parts due to all the rain.
We passed a few trucks marooned at the roadside and one SUV battling to get past a milk truck. Feeling a little guilty we put the beast into 4×4 mode and ground our way past. In fairness to ourselves, a tractor had already arrived to help out and there were a few people guiding traffic and ready to assist if anyone got into trouble.
All that was left to do was sit back, “Take it Easy” and fly back home.
If you go: Nottingham Road to Silver Streams via Howick – 2hr, 37 min (189.1km).
Nottingham Road to Silver Streams via Lower Lotheni Rd – 2hr, 41 min (137km). – Google
Camping: Two nights for two people – R500.