If you have a temper tantrum because you have to leave your lodge, it’s got to be pretty good right? To be fair, my sulks on leaving Montusi were between me, the grasses and the birds, but I couldn’t help resenting the long drive and the perfectly blameless hire car that were to break me and Montusi apart. Why couldn’t the irritatingly efficient machine break down and leave me stranded, just for a day or two?
Starlight at Montusi Mountain Lodge
My most recent trip to South Africa had got off to something of a rocky start, with unseasonal storms in almost every place I visited. After a long drive through rural KwaZulu Natal Montusi welcomed me with a cosy fire and vast windows that framed the lightening crackling along the top of the Drakensberg.
Wildflowers near Montusi Mountain Lodge
Hiking at Montusi Mountain Lodge
Opening my eyes the next morning to glorious sunshine and the sort of view you have to photograph (just so you can show off about it later) I headed for the peak of Mount Montusi. Hiking through meadows that smelled of wild mint and listening to the clanking cowbells only cemented my love for Montusi. Sadly, it seemed as if I had just a few brief stolen moments to admire the view and the bushman rock art (in the UK it’d be behind glass and a velvet rope, here it’s on an open cave wall), and then I had to leave.
Au Revoir Montusi, I’ll be back!
We love visiting Africa, especially on a self drive trip- it’s the best way to experience a country as locals do, rather than flying into remote luxury resorts and never seeing a local village or experiencing an elephant firmly blocking the road. Sometimes it can be exhausting, at others frustrating (a huge thank you to our wonderful client Calynne for putting up with crackly phone calls from deep in the bush), but generally, it’s just wonderful. Most recently we took a road trip around Kwa Zulu Natal and felt as if we’d finally discovered the soul of South Africa (as someone else said- “KZN is where Africa starts…”) Rather than droning on ourselves, just click to let the signs of modern South African speak for themselves…
Road trip around some of South Africa’s wildest areas? No problem, but you need to look out for unexpected hazards! This picture was taken in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.
7th May- Would you vote ANC? Kwa Zulu Natal is a stronghold for Jacob Zuma and the ANC. While the party still has a strong following from the anti-apartheid struggle, as South Africa celebrates 20 years of free elections, there’s growing resentment against public funding of “security upgrades” to Zuma’s personal home and frustration at perceived corruption.
And you thought magpies were annoying… the monkeys that frequent the upmarket beachside town of Umhlanga are utterly adorable, but love sparkly things, and even better food- keep doors shut and a close eye on your morning pancakes. We saw some swiped from the plate underneath the hovering fork of our breakfast companion.
Poaching is a sad and growing problem across Africa. Rhinos in particular are under attack. There are staggering sums of money involved, and huge demand for rhino horn in the far east, especially Vietnam. Prevention of poaching is a constant source debate around campfires in the bush and a serious concern to wildlife-lovers with many viewing it as an all out war. Some lodges we visited spend their entire annual profit on funding rhino protection.
While the culinary offerings in South Africa can leave even the most reluctant of gourmets wishing they had a booked a slightly larger airline seat on the way home, it’s the meat that really steals the show. During our visit we had steak that would’ve sold for hundreds in central London, and developed a love of Biltong. This is no mere snack, it’s the sort of thing that whole aisles of supermarkets are devoted to. Try ostrich or chilli flavoured. Eat it as crisps or sausages. Just don’t leave South Africa without trying some.
One of the things we loved about our visit was how wonderfully straightforwards the South Africans were. There was none of the unnecessary euphemisms we encounter with British officialdom- this sign says it all!