I’ve never heard a pilot call a city by it’s nickname before. During the one hour flight from Johannesburg, I think he came on the intercom 3 or 4 times to tell us something about “Durbs”. It was excellent.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t really in our favour during our two days in Durban. The beach promenade was beautiful, but the high winds and heavy rains made it pretty unbearable. We decided to focus on Indian food instead. It helps that Durban has the largest Indian diaspora in the world outside of India. Our first meal came recommended from a place called House of Curries. The chicken and white bean roti was the length of two full hands and absolutely delicious. Ben had the bunny chow, which is basically a hallowed out loaf of bread filled with curry.
We did stay at a pretty neat hostel called Curiocity that operates out of a historic 1930 British-Colonial Style building called Ambassador House. I tried to get some photos but they don’t really do it justice.
The drive from Durban to Underberg was fairly eventful for only being a couple of hours. We left early to give ourselves lots of time and it’s a good thing we did because once we were out of Durban we were hit with a ton of fog. If we didn’t have a transfer to catch at 11am we would have pulled off for a few hours to allow it to clear as the roads were pretty windy and visibility was low. Along the way, while dodging cows / goats / sheep, we also saw a dead horse with no face (inexplicable really) as well as a terrible accident involving a pick-up truck and an 18-wheeler along the mountain. Hungry and mildly stressed, we pulled off the highway to grab some breakfast at the first (only?) place that came up on Google maps. It turned out to be an adorable little place called Picklepot Cafe, where they made their own fruit preserves and spreads. A beautiful black great dane greeted us upon arrival and we ate breakfast by the fireplace. This was key because at this point we noticed that it was really cold (maybe 5 degrees) and that we were very undressed. Luckily, they also had one toque to sell for $2 and I happily added it to my wardrobe.
After we finished our coffee we set off on the last hour of our route to an Inn in Underberg where we were scheduled to meet our transfer for the trip up the mountain pass. We wisely decided to organize this through our accommodation in Lesotho and I’m SO glad we did because there was no way that our little rental car would have stood a chance. After a couple of border posts and 1.5 hours of rocky, windy, mountain road, we reached the top of the Sani Pass and arrived at our backpackers on top of the mountain. For most of the way up, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us. It was pretty wild (and bumpy).
We dropped our bags and set out to explore the perimeters of the lodge, though we didn’t go too far due to the persistent fog that kept drifting in and out over the mouth of the cliffs where we were located. When the clouds drifted in we couldn’t see anything. For some reason my instinct was to get low to the ground when this happened. It was such a weird feeling.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of the fire at the lodge, which is also home to the highest pub in Africa (situated on the edge of the pass at 2,874 m)! This was obviously the key selling feature (besides the Drakensberg mountains) when planning this stop on our road trip. It did not disappoint. The music was comically loud and top-40-ish but the beer was cold and we were happy. I can’t really describe our accommodation so I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves.
Once the sun went down, it got really dark. You actually couldn’t see anything. The backpackers was powered by a generator and only offered electricity between 5-10pm, so around 8pm we set off from the main building to find our dorm. Our dorm was a 6 minute walk from the pub across a small village of local huts. Thankfully I brought my headlamp with me to dinner (#alwaysprepared) because otherwise we would have not found our way back. A single orange beacon was blinking from the porch of the building to help guide us home once we got closer. But the stars. The stars were absolute magic.
The next morning we set off on a 5hr hike to something called Hodson’s peak. It took about 2 hours to get over to the base. We passed about a million sheep and a few shepherds. One of whom was casually knitting a scarf whilst minding his herd of 200 sheep. We scaled the side of the peak for a solid 20 minutes before I looked down and realized how steep it was / how high we were. At this point, my heart went into my throat and my legs stopped working, so Ben and our guide, Joseph, went on without me to the summit.
It took me a solid 15 minutes to calm myself down before I could start making my way down the side of the peak. After this, we tackled a smaller, more manageable peak (I think it was just called the South Peak?) before heading back along the cliffs to the lodge. All in all, it was an incredibly rewarding day.
The mountains did not disappoint (do they ever?). With sunburns and another stamp in our passports, we head towards the Wild Coast, where we’ll be staying in Coffee Bay for two nights. Once we get back to our rental car at the bottom of the mountain pass the drive will take us approximately five hours throughout KwaZulu-Natal into the Eastern Cape province. Next stop: surf town!