his will be the longest we are staying in a single place since we began traveling a year ago,” Nicky says. Wow, that’s amazing. We have on average only stayed at a spot for 3 to 5 days. The fact that we are staying 12 days at Fairways Resort at the Drakensberg Gardens Hotel in the Southern Berg is itself testimony to what we think of this place. It is one of our favourite places in the Berg…South Africa…the world?
It’s not just the majestic mountains that jab awe-inspiringly upward at the sky above, led by Rhino Peak, but it’s the walks, river swims, heated pools, cycles, bowls…and much more and you don’t get into your car once.
Today we decide to do the Beacon walk. The walk lazily meanders along the river before turning past an abandoned house and then making itself known with a short, steep climb. Thankfully with a name like “Beacon walk” this is expected. Soon however we are strolling along the top of the hill enjoying the lovely views of the hotel and timeshare below us.
As we are walking back we notice someone headed towards the animal enclosure with bottles of milk. We join her, knowing it must be time to feed the new lambs that were recently brought here. Over the years the animal enclosure has brought great fun to our family as the kids have held and fed goats, rabbits, guinea pigs etc.
“Here hold this bottle and you can feed Milkshake,” Thobi says. Soon the little lamb is enthusiastically sucking on the warm milk. However the friendly goats in the enclosure are not to be ignored. “Are you coming for some milk too?” Thobi asks the small two-week old goat that has come to investigate what is going on. “His name is Peaches, her mother is Pooey, and that is SpongeBob,” Thobi says pointing at the rather portly dad. We can see Thobi’s obvious affection and bond for all the animals as she talks to them like her children.
With hands wet with milk and shoelaces slightly chewed from friendly goats we head back to our cottage. It's time for one of my best life experiences - a braai outside our cottage enjoying the majestic view. The smell of braaing beef patties and wors mingles with the grassy taste of a Sauvignon Blanc, overlaid with the spectacular vista of the Southern Berg. I might think it a dream if it weren't for the taste of the requisite piece of sample wors in my hand. Delicious!
A thick mist has descended into the valley covering everything in a soft white blanket. “Let's go to the spa,” Hannah suggests. I look outside and think about the inviting warm pools and Jacuzzis at the Wellness Center. Moments later we are off. After a short stroll in a surreal, mist-shrouded world, we find ourselves floating in yet another world. We start off with a swim in the indoor heated hydro pool, luxuriating under the waterfall and powerful jets. “How about we sit in the jacuzzi?” Nicky suggests. So we make a quick dash to the jacuzzi outside from where we can enjoy the misty views of the mountains across the lake.
After several hours of hydrotherapy we finish off our experience with the triple S - Sauna - Steam Room - Shower. I feel squeaky clean and thoroughly relaxed as we stroll sedately back home.
“There really is no other word for this place - Bliss,” I think to myself as I snuggle into my bed after a hearty dinner finished off with a mint cream that was delivered magically by someone who also turned down our beds. This is the best of the berg!
We wake to a bright sun painting the valley in rich shades of green, and decide a run is on the cards. Our route takes us along the bike track that meanders past the mirror-like dam, before we turn and come down the road next to the river. There are few places that offer such incredible places to cycle and run.
Later, as thoughts of lunch hit our radar we decide to go with a picnic option, even though the weather has turned slightly ominous. That’s the Berg – always changing. It’s what makes it so exciting. We stroll to Hippo Pools, one of our favourite river swim spots. There may be no hippos here, but there are full on views and a guaranteed refreshing experience in crystal water.
We enjoy our rolls but are furtively watching the dark clouds being driven across the steely grey sky by the wind. The kids decide that caution is the better part of valor and leap on their bikes and head home. Nicky and I saunter back sucking the marrow out of life. Indeed the promised weather does arrive - and soon tiny balls of ice are being hurled at us from above as be protect ourselves with the chairs we are carrying. This is living! We make it back before the storm really unleashes a volley of rain and hail, temporarily transforming the green valley into a white wonderland.
However, white soon gives way to green once more as the sun reappears and the dramatic colours of a setting sun paint the sky a riot of majestic reds and oranges and pinks. The hotel offers a buffet dinner, and tonight we are going to go and try it. It’s a short stroll on a beautiful evening to the hotel. Inside there is already a buzz of activity as the sounds of diners chatting mingles with tantalizing smells and the visual feast of the buffet.
Hmm, where to start? Soup…muscles…salads…?
Simple, I'll just do them all. And so with carefully honed skills, from years of experience, I navigate my way through a hearty soup, a delicious fish starter and a refreshing salad ensemble. I hope I've calculated right because the roasts and other hot foods look and smell delicious. But with practiced aplomb I am able to sample the succulent chicken, the mint flavored lamb, golden crispy potatoes, and an array of delicious vegetables…and of course being a Durbs boy, I can't resist some beef curry on the side.
The food is delicious and I'm impressed by how friendly the chef and serving staff are. In fact that is something that has really stood out on our stay. We are always greeted by the staff with friendly smiles wherever we encounter them - at a restaurant, walking on the road or in the animal enclosure. After enjoying the “Drakensberg Choir” of local staff singing I have one more pleasant challenge ahead of me - the desert. So many delicious choices, It's not easy, but we manage.
As we stroll back, the road is lit by the dappled light of the moon as it scuttles in and out behind the clouds. It’s the perfect end to a delicious meal. A perfect end to a wonderful day. I'm convinced, Fairways - it is the fairest of them all!
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