The Drakensberg

We wrapped around the coast to Cape Vidal in the Kwazulu-Natal before heading inland to intersect with the spine of the Drakensberg Mountains. Cape Vidal was green and tropical with bananas and many flowers and large vine-laden trees. Blond, fine sandy beaches interrupted the rocky shore and if our eyes were good enough and the world was flat instead of round, or if we were politically persuaded, we might have seen Madagascar or even Indonesia or the Indian subcontinent off to the northeast.
There were definitely more animals than people in the campground at Cape Vidal. We watched Red Dukiers and Klipspringers graze at the edge of our site. Baboons trooped by and Vervet monkeys kept a close eye out for any unsecured edibles. When our neighbor came over to greet us a monkey quickly darted through his camp and grabbed a piece of chicken while it was cooking on his brai. Mongoose, Guinea Hens, tortoise, millipedes, an array of colorful birds, and other critters kept us constantly occupied. We were a bit on guard because we heard the story of the guy who left his tent open and was dragged out and killed by two hyenas in this campground. Actually it turns out he didn’t get killed, he just got his face chewed up a bit. Our hamburgers weren’t done until after dark and thankfully the Baboons and Vervet’s aren’t active at night so we could relax a bit. I did escort Robbie to the ablutions though, just to save face. At one point, looking up into the trees I saw a pair of small orange eyes reflected in my headlamp. I thought it must be a Bushbaby but it turned out to be a Genet cat. What a beautiful creature! It wasn’t any bigger then a healthy house cat, but longer and more sleek. He had round markings on his face and body and the stripped tail was at least as long as it’s body. He stayed in the tree a long while and I think I got a good flash picture of him that I’ll look at when I get home and post if it’s any good. One thing the picture won’t be able to convey is the feeling of this cat’s presence and the way it looked at us.
I was awakened several times that night by the crash of the heavy garbage can lids (mounted on supposedly animal proof posts) banging. Looking out the side screen of the tent I watched a very big hyena use his two front legs to lift the lid up. He went through the camp lifting every lid but couldn’t get any garbage out unless the can was full. Some of the lids didn’t fall all the way down and then the Honey Badgers came through and were able to crawl in and pull stuff out. Then the Hyena came back and got into it with a pair of honey badgers under the truck of our neighbor who got ripped off by the Vervet so I guess it was kind of a symbiotic relationship.
The next morning I heard a little scuffle and a note of alarm in Robbie’s voice. Robbie usually gets up before dawn and makes coffee while I keep the tent secure and ensure I’ve had my beauty sleep. I know, some people think I should sleep forever but looks aren’t everything. This morning though even though it was quite light I figured I best get up.
We have gotten used to the Vervet monkeys darting off when we make a move toward them but Robbie encountered an aggressive male that came after her granola and wasn’t keen on leaving empty handed. She threw an empty milk carton at him which he tore up, still unsatisfied. I figured I’d put a stop to that behavior and grabbed my walking stick/fire poker I found in the Rhino Reserve in Botswana to show him who the boss was. Well after a couple pokes at him when he dashed into a tree, and seeing a lot of pink gums drawn back from a formidable set of sharp teeth, and the way he wasn’t retreating, but seemed to be ramping into a hyper, meth-like induced state, lunging from branch to branch toward me like he wanted to rip my throat out, I decided I would probably end up on the short end of the stick. I retreated and we made sure all edibles were packed away. We noticed the night before, fishermen left a Marlin carcass on the fish cleaning table (supposedly to draw a leopard in) and as we drove off the next morning there were only a couple bits of fin left.

Leaving the coast we drove northwest through gentle undulating hills with lots of dairy cows, maize, and other crops, gradually gaining elevation until we started climbing
In earnest entering Lesotho and the Drakensberg mountains via Sani Pass after many sharp swithbacks. We passed 2 ambitious older guys on mountain bikes and later I bought them a beer in Africa’s highest pub at over 3000 meters.
It was remarkable how much of the steep slopes were cultivated in Lesotho. Mostly corn, but also squash and root crops. Peaches, apricots, and rose hips were being picked.
There was some livestock, mostly goats and sheep. Horses and donkeys were used for transportation of people and goods along with a small number of little Toyota and VW vans that ferried people between villages.
Some of the recently Chinese built main roads were in excellent conditions but most of the steep, winding passes are rock and dirt, offering plenty of opportunity to die. Names like Suicide Bend, Hemorrhoid Hill, and God Help Me Pass give you an idea of the terrain. Often you could see the road winding far off on a distant mountain among the terraced slopes and it was quite a beautiful sight!image

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