Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

South Africa: A Place of Contrasts

Amphitheatre and Tugela River, Drakensberg Mountains, Royal Natal National Park, South Africa

South Africa does seem a world away to be but there was an article on walking in the Drakensberg Mountains in a recent issue of Country Walking so I thought that I would go and add something on here, at least for my own reference.

In fact, the country turns out to be one of many contrasts and its vast size partly explains that. In the north, there are elephants, hippos and other animals that you would associate strongly with the continent and things look ever more temperate the further south that you go. The photo that accompanies this article shows a part of the Drakensberg mountain range that looks so very green that it is reminiscent of a summer day in Britain or Ireland.

What is now officially known as the Republic of South Africa has had a contentious history up to the start of the 1990's when Nelson Mandela finally was released from prison and Apartheid was dispatched to the pages of history. Before that era of racial segregation, there was colonisation by European settlers who overcame the indigenous tribes with their high power weaponry. Even now, economic opportunity has not been distributed evenly and slums like Soweto remain. A lot of progress has happened and there remains a lot more to be done. Let's hope that this important work does not stall.

Open Africa

There is more than this initiative than South Africa with its promotion of community tourism projects to visitors across a few countries in southern Africa. Drakensberg is featured here too along with so much more.

Both of these should make for a good starting point when plotting a visit to South Africa. After, you need a little introduction before you can decide where to go, where to stay and what to do while there.

Lonely Planet is around the forty year mark now so it no longer is the upstart it once was and still felt only twenty years ago. While guidebooks remain the mainstay, web articles now complement these and there are curiosity titles too such as The World or The Cities Book, both with lavish photography that was absent from earlier books in the series. Both of the linked articles are part of a collection about South Africa and are worth sampling along with any others that catch your interest.

In a way, all of these are relevant to the long range of mountains that Dutch settlers called Drakensberg and stretch for much of the width of South Africa itself. They certainly look striking and are over 3000 metres high in places.