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South Africa, info on Drakensberg (repeated)

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Hi Fodorites, I am not used to not receiving any replies from you guys so I am repeating my question in case the title was not clear.

We will be visiting South Africa in April. Over the Easter weekend we will be in the Durban area and we are thinking of combining this with a two - three day trip to and into the (Southern and Central) Drakensberg area (Lesotho). All of this weather permitting of course although we understand that by April the summer rains will probably have subsided and we can expect clear days and cold nights.

Any advice is most welcome, particularly on e.g. weather related clothing, transportation (do we really need a 4X4 or not, suggestions for chauffeur driven guided tours); places to stay overnight, places to eat etc. etc..
We did not realize that the month of April is a holiday month in South Africa; we encountered problems in trying to find accommodation in the Western Cape area and expect the same will be true for the Drakensberg. Therefore again: any advice will be most appreciated. Thanks a lot, Fodorites!

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    I saw your post, Elizabeth, but didn't really have an answer. It's been years since I was in Lesotho. All I can tell you is that we didn't have a 4X4 when we were there, and it was fine.

    I don't remember where we stayed or where we ate, but I will try to look that up when I have some time this afternoon or tomorrow.

    Celia

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    Hi Elizabeth! We visited the Drakensberg in 2005, and I have inserted below a (lengthy!) description of that trip that I sent to family back in Canada. It is almost ten years since that visit (which is why I didn't respond to your post initially), but at least the report will give you an idea of some of the highlights you may wish to visit. We traveled in the opposite direction to which you will be going. We started in Cape Town, drove along a northern route, traveled south through the Drakensberg, and then circled back to Cape Town along a more southerly route. We completed the trip in late April/early May.

    In answer to your questions:
    You will need warm and waterproof clothing - it was chilly and damp in the evenings, and we certainly encountered rain.
    You will not need a 4x4 - we were in a regular sedan/car.
    This is certainly a trip that you could do on your own in a rental vehicle - you would not need a guide - just a good GPS or map.
    We certainly booked all of our accommodation in advance and, as I recall, most of the places we stayed were fully booked.
    CR

    ….After overnighting in Bloemfontein, we left the N1 and headed southeast towards the aptly named “mountain kingdom” of Lesotho, the country which is entirely surrounded by, but completely independent of, South Africa. As we drew closer to Lesotho, we caught glimpses of the life of the local Basotho people. The highway bisected settlements of shacks with their tin roofs weighted down against the wind with large rocks. It was Sunday, and there were streams of people walking barefoot along the highway, heading to church in nearby tiny communities. Near the town of Thaba Nchu, we passed two cow herders, resplendent in their colourful Basotho blankets, which they wore like cloaks. Women and young children, who beamed and waved as we passed, sold sheepskins and apples from flimsy stick booths along the highway. The expanses of corn, sunflowers and hay bales continued, and rows of poplar trees, which were a lovely autumn gold, appeared. We passed huge fields of gorgeous mauve, pink and white cosmos. We drove through the cherry producing area of South Africa, but the cherry season was over and the orchards bare.

    We traveled through Free State on the Highlands Route, which hugs the Lesotho border for 280km, and is one of South Africa’s most scenic drives. Nelson Mandela once described this area as gladdening his heart no matter what his mood, and it didn’t take us long to discover why. This northeastern corner of Free State boasts spectacular mountain scenery and magnificent sandstone formations. We paused in several of the charming villages that are strung along the Lesotho border, the most attractive of which was tree-fringed Clarens, a centre for arts and crafts. We strolled around President Square and purchased several wonderful souvenirs, including two of the conical straw hats which are worn by the Basotho people and unique to this area and Lesotho. We stopped at a large township on the outskirts of Clarens to watch youngsters in colourful clothing play soccer. Spotting us, they called and waved to us enthusiastically, so typical of the way we were received in rural areas, particularly by children.

    Arguably the highlight of the Highlands Route was Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State’s only national park, designated as such for the outstanding beauty of the Maluti Mountains rather than its wildlife, although we did see zebra, eland, springbok, and black wildebeest roaming the grassy plateaus. The red and yellow striped sandstone cliffs and overhangs glowed in the afternoon sun. Qwa Qwa National Park was another highlight of the route, with its massive and very impressive sandstone formations and wide open spaces. The San, who lived in the park’s many caves and overhangs, called the sandstone cliffs qwa-qwa, meaning “whiter than white”, as the sandstone, when exposed to the elements, is at first a whitish colour but assumes beautiful red and yellow hues as it weathers. We stopped at the Basotho Cultural Village, which offered a glimpse of the traditional lives of the Basotho people. The village consisted of a courtyard of beautiful Basotho huts, which progressed from organic, circular 16th century constructions to modern square huts with tin roofs and bright interior decor. Although activities were winding down for the day, people in traditional dress still wandered about, and two men were busy skinning a sheep. We admired the litema, the external decoration on the huts, which are applied by the Basotho women and still visible today in rural Lesotho and Free State. The decorations varied from intricate patterns that were scratched into the exterior red clay walls, to vivid, modern, brightly painted motifs. They were simple, but very beautiful.

    The view from the village across Qwa Qwa Park was amazing and we watched the sandstone change colour in the fading light - so reminiscent of sunset at Uluru in Australia. From Qwa Qwa, we headed to Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg Mountains, where we were to spend the night. We negotiated roughly one hundred kilometres of winding roads, steep inclines and soaring mountain passes. We left Free State, drove over Oliviershoek Pass, and into the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

    The 50-km route to the park on a secondary highway was poorly marked, the road was winding and uneven, and pedestrians in dark clothing returning home at the end of the day streamed along both sides of the narrow, shoulderless highway. It was thus with great relief that we reached the gate of Royal Natal Park. Once in the park, we faced a 9-km drive to Tendele Camp, where we were to overnight. In darkness, we wound our way up and up a rough dirt road to the camp. We arrived to find reception closed and our name absent from the blackboard which listed the occupants of each cabin. Unperturbed, we wandered about in the dark, remarkably quiet camp (it was only 6:30pm, but you’d have thought it was midnight) until we were discovered by a patrolling security guard, who directed us to the camp manager. After perusing our reservation confirmation slip and apologizing profusely for the mix up on the blackboard, the manager directed us to a lovely log cabin. We settled in, ate dinner and went to bed.

    The Drakensberg Mountains, designated a World Mixed Heritage Site (natural and cultural) in 2000 for their beauty and the 35,000 San rock art paintings which are found there, are the second largest range in Africa. Known as uKhahlamba or “barrier of spears” to the Zulu, they were renamed Drakensberg or “Dragon Mountains” by early Dutch settlers for their resemblance to the ridges of a dragon’s back. Both are apt descriptions of this spectacular mountain range. We had read that the northern and central sections of the Drakensberg are the most spectacular, and this is where we were to spend the next couple of days.

    When we awoke in Royal Natal Park the following morning, the sight which greeted us from the cabin windows was breathtaking. Tendele, we discovered in the light of day, is an enchanting mountain retreat. Located at the base of Dooley’s Cliffs, the camp offered spectacular views of the Amphitheatre, a dramatic 500m high, crescent-shaped rock face that stretches for 5km and is framed by the Sentinel (3165m) and Eastern Buttress (3121m). It was spectacular! We enjoyed the splendor from the cabin windows as we ate breakfast. A small antelope grazed outside one window. We decided to enjoy the mountains by hiking 3-km to Tiger Falls, a lovely waterfall surrounded by indigenous forest. As we made our way along the trail, we could hear baboons barking on the cliffs overhead. After a leisurely tea at the base of the falls, we had great fun scrambling on the rocks behind and above the falls, enjoying the refreshing spray. We were lucky to spy a rare (only 204 pairs remain) lammergeier or “bearded vulture”, which occur only in the Drakensberg and the Himalayan foothills.

    Leaving Tendele mid-morning, we switch-backed our way down the park’s steep road which we had staggered up in darkness the night before. As we admired the vistas far below us, we hoped that our brakes were functioning properly. Just outside the park gate, we encountered a group of six Zulu women who were weaving baskets by the side of the road. We stopped to watch, asking questions of the youngest woman who spoke a little English. Nearby, spread out on the ground, were dozens of beautiful baskets, woven in a variety of intricate patterns from a combination of grass and colourful plastic cabbage/onion/potato bags. After much debate over colour and pattern, we purchased three lovely baskets for the ridiculously low price of R65 (~$12) each. The young woman helped us to record in my journal the name of the artist who had crafted each basket, painstakingly spelling the names for us. It was a memorable encounter.

    The province of KwaZulu-Natal derives its name from kwa meaning “place of”, amaZulu meaning “people of heaven” and Natal meaning “nativity”. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gamma anchored off the coast in the area in 1497, and named it “Natal”, not knowing that the region was already populated by the amaZulu. During the apartheid years, the province was known only as Natal, but it was renamed after the 1994 elections. KwaZulu-Natal is often described as the country’s most “African” province and, as we traveled south from Royal Natal Park through the northern part of the province, we understood why. That beautiful, mountainous area was like nothing we had seen in our travels until then. Instead of fenced-off, private farms and towns edged by squatter camps, as is found in most of rural Africa, the land is unfenced and communally owned. It is a desperately poor region known as “Zululand” which, under apartheid, was the bantustan or “homeland” to which the Zulu were forcibly relocated. Traditional Zulu homes - thatched, single-room, igloo-like huts, called “rondavels” - dotted the landscape for as far as we could see. From the highway, we caught glimpses of the everyday life of the Zulu. There were people everywhere. When we stopped to take photographs along even the remotest sections of the highway, children would invariably pop up from the long grass at the side of the road and beg for handouts. It was impossible to stop the car for any longer than the time needed to take a quick photograph, otherwise we would be swarmed. Woman and young children carried water on their heads in an assortment of amazingly large containers, often for great distances from a single community pump. Women wore brightly coloured, long skirts and blouses, and covered their heads with neatly tied scarves. Most were barefoot. Some congregated at the pump to do laundry, which they draped over nearby bushes to dry. Pre-school children laughed and played nearby. Other women used roughly tied bunches of grass to rake the dirt around their homes. Still others scavenged for firewood for cooking and heating, carrying the wood in huge bundles on their heads. Women harvested grass for thatch and baskets. Children of all ages, dressed in an assortment of colourful uniforms and often carrying their books on their heads, walked barefoot along the narrow highway to school. The only men we saw, apart from the taxi drivers, were elderly. They walked barefoot and bent over along the highway.

    The highway bisected numerous tiny “villages” which consisted of nothing more than a minibus taxi stop, a shack selling cabbages, maize and a few, very basic provisions, occasionally a small, well-fenced clinic, and one or more schools. The well maintained schools were large and numerous to accommodate the huge population of children. All bore large signs which indicated that they were “Clover Schools” built and sponsored by Clover Dairies. We swerved to avoid goats, chickens, dogs, cows, donkeys, and sheep, which also occupied the highway.

    Occasionally, we encountered a dangerously overcrowded minibus taxi crawling along the highway, carrying women and their pre-school children several kilometres to the nearest town. The women carried their babies on their backs, securely held in place with blankets tied about the women’s waists. Few whites live in the rural areas in the northern and central Drakensberg and, when we stopped in Bergville, an unattractive, chaotic town, with tatty department stores, noisy markets, and streets strewn with people, animals, bakkies, and litter, the locals looked at us as though we had beamed down from another planet. With rare exception, the people smiled and waved as we passed. In town, they seemed particularly pleased when we greeted them in Zulu. It would certainly be understandable if the Zulu bore some resentment towards visitors like us who fly past their homes in our air conditioned vehicles, while they struggle to survive. If they do, it wasn’t evident to us. We found them hospitable and friendly, and the tales of crime, hostile locals, and shocking roads, which are often associated with the rural areas around the northern and central Drakensberg, greatly exaggerated (well, except perhaps for the roads!). We had the feeling that we were experiencing one of the most unaffected cultural experiences available to visitors in South Africa and we were all the richer for it.

    We continued south through rural KwaZulu-Natal to Cathedral Peak in the central Drakensberg, one of a 4-km line of impressive peaks, with some rising over 3000m. It was a clear morning, and the mountains seemed to go on forever. The central Drakensberg boasts some of the highest peaks in South Africa, and the area around Cathedral Peak was stunning. The chalets in Didima Camp, where we spent the night, were constructed to resemble caves or the transient dwellings of the San people, who lived in these mountains for thousands of years. Our chalet, with its fully-equipped kitchen, satellite TV, and cozy fireplace, offered a shocking contrast to the poverty-stricken rural areas that we had just traveled through to reach it. After a most enjoyable evening spent around a crackling fire, we retired early, waking just before dawn to the sound of baboons barking not far from our cabin. Before leaving, we visited the park’s San Art Interpretive Centre, which provided fascinating insights into the art and culture of the San people.

    From Cathedral Peak, we traveled another 150-km south, past craggy peaks and grassy plateaus dotted with rondavels, enduring what must have been one of the worst potholed roads in the country. Our destination was Giant’s Castle, a mountain reserve that was once a favourite hunting ground of the San hunter-gatherers, as eland were plentiful. After settling into our cabin named “Christmas Bells”, in keeping with the camp’s izimbali (“flowers” in Zulu) theme, we hiked 3-km along the Bushman’s River through open grassland and patches of indigenous forest to Main Caves, a large sandstone overhang which shelters one of the most impressive and best preserved rock-art sites in the country. It was raining and cold, and I suspect that the interpreter was rather surprised to see us when we emerged from the forest. For the next hour or so, the young Xhosa student pointed out some of the more beautiful and better preserved paintings from amongst the over 500 which cover the rock face. The detail in the paintings was amazing, particularly in the paintings of the kudu and other animals, and we could not help but be awed by this legacy left by the San.

    We spent a chilly, damp evening huddled around the fireplace in our cabin, and were eventually lulled to sleep by the sound of the Bushman’s River, which passed nearby. In the morning, we awoke to bright, clear skies, and stunning mountain scenery, which had been obscured by cloud the previous day. Dominating the scene was Giant’s Castle, an impressive 3316m free-standing basalt block. Nearby was the giant, lying on his back, with arms neatly folded across his chest. After a brief hike to admire the vistas, we left the park, amused by a sign which warned guests to be wary of crows with a rubber fetish; they like to peck the rubber off windshield wipers. Fortunately, ours were still intact.

    We proceeded east and then south from Giant’s Castle, falling victim yet again to the poor rural signage, and traveling several kilometres out of our way before realizing we were on the wrong track. We were looking forward to lunch with a friend in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa’s largest port and just over 200-km to the south, on the Indian Ocean. It was Freedom Day, a national holiday, so the roads through the rural area around the park were thankfully much quieter without the schoolchildren streaming along both sides. However, cows, chickens, goats and donkeys were not observing the holiday, and twice we had to stop and wait patiently for cows to move out of the way. When we reached the town of Mooi Rivier, some 150-km north of Durban, near the southern border of Zululand, we were struck by a sudden change in the landscape. The over-grazed communal land and rondavels of the Zulu disappeared, and the prosperous, fenced, privately-owned farms returned. We saw fewer dilapidated bakkies, and SUVs with white drivers began to fly past us.

    As we drew nearer Durban, we were appalled by the smog and brown haze which hung over the city. However, we actually found it a much prettier city than we expected, having noted that adjectives such as “dirty”, “noisy”, “crowded”, and “crime-ridden” are used frequently in written descriptions…

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    Hi Elisabeth

    I think you challenge is going to be finding accommodation at such short notice.

    We did Drakensburg as part of a larger SA trip in 2008/9, in a regular sedan. Here is an extract of our trip report:

    THE ROAD TRIP: JOHANNESBURG TO DRAKENSBERG
    We had been warned by well meaning souls to be very careful driving in South Africa – very bad roads and even worse drivers. After locking all our car doors, we cautiously headed down the N3 freeway to Harrismith before going over the Oliviershoek Pass to the mountains (The trip took us about 4.5 hours driving time). Coming from Australia, driving on the left hand side of the road was no problems. (Remembering to always lock our car doors was much more difficult!) We found the freeway to be in excellent condition, but kept a wary eye for animals that sometimes graze on the verges of the road and pedestrians that cross the freeway at will. We found the locals often exceeded the speed limits (sometimes at alarming paces), although there was a lot of evidence of speed trapping. We noticed a reasonable number of cars without number plates – we understand that is because it is considerably cheaper to be fined for not having a number plate than it is for speeding, and without a number plate speed cameras cannot catch you! (Oh, such logic!) We also found we had to be especially careful of the minibus taxis. They seem to stop absolutely anywhere to pick up passengers – they simply put on their emergency flashers and screech to a halt anywhere (and I don’t mean anywhere suitable). Then, once passengers are loaded / unloaded, they take off again, often without a backward glance to check oncoming traffic (remember – we are talking freeways here!). We also saw many instances of minbus taxis driving in the emergency lane, passing cars in the slow lane doing 120km/h). When we collected our hire car I was reading a newspaper article pasted up at the Budget depot. It said that in a 3 month period 40000 unlicensed drivers had been stopped in Cape Town and 20000 unlicensed cars. The article said that the problem was much worse in Johannesburg, and some of the worst offenders were the minibus taxis. So, all said and done, driving was not bad, but we definitely kept our wits about us at all times!
    At Harrismith we stopped at a Shop-Rite to stock up on supplies as we were staying in self catering accommodation at Didima. Stopping at Harrismith we had our first exposure to car park security attendants. I don’t know that we ever fully got the “etiquette” of how the system works, but almost all car parks in South Africa have security “guards” who wear fluorescent vests to identify them. I understand they are not paid to work there, but survive entirely off tips from drivers. They watch your car while you shop, and you rest easy that everything will still be there when you get back. We tended to pay them when we arrived (pre-payment), but we noticed other people paying them after the event (I guess if their car was still there undamaged). We tended to pay them R2 at a time (someone suggested 50c – R1), although one day we had a Toyota Avanza which had no boot cover, and we had ALL our luggage on display in the car. That day we paid the fellow R10 – and all was well. Any South Africans reading this - please tell us how much is the expected payment to car park attendants. I must confess, I never got used to paying the car park security – it just never felt right (probably because I was never sure what was appropriate).
    At Harrismith we left the Freeway and travelled over the Oliviershoek Pass to Bergville and then on to Didima. This section of the road had a fair amount of potholes, and while a lot of work was being done to repair them, sadly in places they seemed to be breaking out as fast as they were being repaired. The potholes are random and could do your car a fair bit of damage if you hit them at speed, so vigilance is important. (A friend of ours had hired a car in Durban and wrote off an entire wheel on his first day when he hit a pothole, so we were warned). We managed this risk by having the front seat passenger also scanning the road for potholes – a kind of second pair of eyes for the driver. (I felt a bit like Hyacinth Bucket on the old BBC series Keeping Up Appearances, saying “Mind the cow dear!”, “Mind the pothole dear!”). The scenery when we left Harrismith became very interesting. It became more mountainous and little huts and villages dotted the route. The closer we came to our destination, the more beautiful the views!

    DIDIMA
    Our five nights in the Drakensberg were spent at Didima (http://www.places.co.za/html/8903.html). We loved the setting and found the accommodation to be very nice. Certainly we would like to visit there again. We had two inter-leading self catering apartments which essentially meant we had a full bungalow to ourselves. The bungalows were well spaced and private from all others. Ours was near the front facing over a valley to the mountains. We self catered for most of our stay, eating almost all our meals out the front of our bungalow – barbeques several evenings were very relaxing. The tables provided were rather small, but the view more than made up for any shortcomings! My only complaint about the self-catering was that we were supplied with very few utensils suitable for cooking a meal for four. I found it was rather a juggling act, but as the weather was hot we ate lots of salads. On Christmas night we enjoyed a lovely Christmas Buffet in the restaurant, listening to a host of foreign languages at the different dinner tables. Christmas dinner was very cheap – it cost us $800 for the four of us, including drinks.
    The curio shop at Didima also sold some basic supplies like bread and milk, but not too much else in the grocery line, so it was just as well we came well stocked from Harrismith. The closest reasonable size shop was the Spar in Bergville.
    Our plan for the Drakensberg had been twofold – as much rest and sleeping as we wanted, and some nice day hiking. Unfortunately the hiking did not really happen as a couple of weeks before leaving Sydney Daughter #1 tore the cartilage in her left knee. The doctor’s prognosis was that without surgery she was limited to walking on flat, even surfaces – no hiking, no horse riding, and no operation until after all this flying was over! This was especially sad as she had studied the Drakensberg in geography at school a few years back, and this was her special chosen destination. However, having said that, the weather was really quite hot while we were there, and any hiking would have meant some early starts in the cool of the day, which would have been contrary to the objective of as much sleep and rest as we wanted. However, there was no point in crying over spilt milk, so we just planned different activities.
    I must say that we took so many pictures of the stunningly spectacular mountains – many of the best photos taken from just outside our bungalow. We saw them at sunrise, at sunset, in the mist, in fine weather, and perhaps most memorably, in some absolutely awesome thunderstorms! Words cannot describe how beautiful or how scary they can look in a thunderstorm (nor how hard it is to capture this on camera). We were enthralled by the account of a fellow visitor who said they had done a 3 day hike which involved spending a night in a cave up the mountain ...... and spending the night of the awesome thunderstorm up there. He said he had never been so scared in his life and did not manage to get a wink of sleep. I could only imagine!
    As walking up mountains was out of the question, and our car not a 4 wheel drive, we took a guided drive up Mike’s Pass one day – our family and a couple from Germany. Mike’s Pass is situated just behind Didima and gave us some amazing views back down the valley (and some amazing sunburn!) Dad and Daughter #2 did a little walking up there, while Daughter #1 and I relaxed on rocks and benches, feeling somewhat like we could have been in Sound of Music territory. We would have loved to have gone up Sani’s Pass and into Lesotho, but that was just too much further south in the mountains to be viable – perhaps next time.
    One day we drove a little further south in the mountains to the Champagne Castle area. We spent some of our honeymoon at Champagne Castle Hotel many years ago and thought it would be nice to have morning tea back at the hotel. Sadly, the hotel is not accessible to anyone except guests staying there, and the gate guard would not let us past the front gate. However, driving on the road past the resort, I realised it is now a big, modern, international facility, and absolutely nothing like the country hotel we stayed at some 20 years ago. Instead we went back into the valley and had tea at a newly opened roadside tearoom. The proprietor was delightful and was very eager to ring his friend, the General Manager at Champagne Castle, so that we could go back down memory lane, but I decided that memories are sometimes even more beautiful than current reality and we enjoyed his hospitality instead. Unfortunately most of this day saw this part of the mountains under cloud, so the girls were unable to compare this part of the mountain to where we were staying.
    On Christmas Eve we drove up to Royal Natal National Park for the day, further north in the Drakensberg mountains. Daughter #2 was desperate to see the famous photo of the amphitheatre with the Tugela River in the foreground. The weather was beautiful and it was a really lovely day. Dad and Daughter #2 did a bit of walking, while Daughter #1 and I found some comfortable rocks under bushes on the river bank – we dangled our feet in the chilly water, enjoyed the magnificent amphitheatre in the background and had some special mother- daughter time! After a lovely picnic on the banks of a little local dam, we headed back south on a more minor road along the edges of Woodstock Dam. We passed very many little communities all along the way.
    En-route home we remembered that the following day was Christmas. We had pretty much “cancelled” Christmas this year – our family present being our holiday to Africa – so it had not been much in our minds. I decided that since we were in the restaurant for dinner we should find the Spa shop in Bergville and get some supplies for a nice brunch. We drove into Bergville at about 3pm on Christmas Eve ...... definitely not a good move! There were thousands of people everywhere – every foot path, in the road between bumper to bumper cars .... absolutely everywhere. Cars were barely moving as pedestrians were in the road, and minibus taxis were definitely adding to the chaos. I did not really feel scared – there was a large, visible police presence – but I did feel decidedly uncomfortable. We were the only white faces anywhere to be seen, and we were just so scared that we were going to bump someone walking on the road as we tried to crawl out of town. Very quickly any plans for a nice Christmas brunch evaporated as we tried to get out of town. The next minute we saw all pedestrians ducking down low – a swarm of bees chose this moment to come through town. It left as quickly as it came though. When we reached an intersection, my dear husband decided to turn left, whereupon I became a little “volatile” ... “Why turn left when the obvious road out of town is right?” (Of course, “obvious” is not the same to everyone). He drove down the quieter street and pulled over while we all calmed down and tried to work out which was the best way out of town. Almost immediately a pickup truck pulled up alongside and what I believe was probably a very kindly farmer wound down his window offering us help. We explained we had wanted some supplies but now we just wanted to be out of town and back on our way to Didima. He smiled and said “You definitely don’t want to come to town on Christmas Eve!” and gave directions for the easiest route out of town.
    One morning at Didima we were having a slow start to the day. I had made tea for hubby and me to have in bed while our teenagers took their time waking up. I heard what I thought was one of the girls on the little kitchen enclosure – perhaps one of them would bring us a second cup of tea! The next minute Daughter # 1 shouted from her bed in the next room “MOM!! There is a baboon in the house!” Dear husband sat bolt upright in bed, at which a large baboon shot through the girls room and out of a side window – taking our brand new loaf of bread with him. That was meant to be toast for our breakfast! I peeped in next door and Daughter #1 was sitting in bed hugging her legs, with eyes like saucers, while Daughter #2 was still sleeping blissfully! We woke Daughter #2 and all of us went outside in our pyjamas to watch this master burglar rip open the packet and devour our breakfast. We then reluctantly shut our windows – it was really very warm and the breeze was lovely – but left what we thought were very small toilet windows open for a little fresh air. Within 10 minutes another baboon had entered through the toilet window and stole a sealed packet of dried pasta that was earmarked for dinner that night! He jumped on top of a wardrobe when my DH saw him. I opened the large sliding door wide for him to exit, but he raced back into the bathroom. I immediately ran over and slammed the bathroom door shut. While we were wondering whether he was now still in the bathroom or had left, we suddenly hear the toilet flush and some other noise! I gather as he jumped on the toilet to dash through the window his foot must have caught the flush button. Then as he dived through the window he hit his packet of noodles on the edge of the window frame, splitting the packet and sending half its contents onto the bathroom floor! What a mess – he also did some of his own toileting in his haste to get out! When we went outside he was sitting right on the highest point of our roof devouring the rest of the dried noodles. We then saw another baboon going through the open window of a nearby chalet – obviously they were hitting the camp in force! Certainly that was enough excitement for a day! We had one more entry by a baboon some days later – by this time we had all our food secured in cupboards and out of sight. DH found him opening green shopping bags looking for something inside! He took off pretty quickly when DH (who is over 6 ft tall) jumped up. Sadly, I think the future for baboons near Didima does not look good. In many parts of South Africa there are signs saying “If you feed the baboons you sign their death warrant as we will then have to shoot them”. Clearly these baboons had very little fear of humans and did not need to be fed – they just helped themselves. We reported the incident to the resort management, but they seemed very unconcerned. At other places where we encountered baboons, we always saw decisive action being taken to move them along. Certainly, Dear Daughter will always remember when the baboon came into her room!
    Sadly, on Boxing Day our first part of the holiday was over and we left the mountains.

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    SEE NOW???? I knew I could count on you guys! Thank you, thank you, thank you Canadian_robin and PRLCH. I look forward to reading your trip reports.
    Fodorites are marvelous people! :) Best regards,

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