For the 2nd time this year we are having a 4 day break within our own Province of KwaZulu-Natal. In August we went down the South Coast to a beautiful little town, Shelley Beach. This time we have travelled inland to a resort within the Drakensberg Mountains, Orion Mont-aux-sources, as it is in the area called Mont-aux-sources, Mountain of the sources of rivers including the Thukela River.
A view from the Orion Mont-aux-sources Hotel and Resort
The last section of road to the resort wound along beside the river and it was so sad to see virrtually no water flowing towards the sea. It was hard to believe that this is the beginning of the 2nd biggest river in the province. Not that we have particularly big rivers and none navigable, but this was particularly disheartening. We could see that all the rain we have experienced at the coast over the past couple of months has not fallen inland and so not in the catchment areas for the dams which supply water to the towns and cities. We still have some restrictions on water use in Durban but Cape Town is in dire straits where households are limited to 12 litres a day!
A portion of the “Migthty” Tukhela River
Our journey from Durban took 3¾hrs instead of just over 3 as it was raining consistently for the first half of the trip added to which there were 5 sections of roadworks where we were limited to a single lane. As this is the main freeway from Durban to Johannesburg and beyond, it carries a large number of heavy vehicles so at each roadblock we were slowed down to less than a crawl. An exhausting drive altogether.
On arrival we were in for a shock. Although we had proof of our booking and even the chalet no. we had been allocated, we were not on the system. Unbelievably the explanation we were given was that the hotel HO had blocked this and one other chalet for reasons unknown to the Reception staff. After about 15mins of searching and thinking we were allocated another chalet.
Our chalet. This is what the view from our chalet looked like as the chalets are all the same.
Another view from our chalet
The following morning we went for a walk and discovered that we would have had a much nicer chalet with beautiful views of the mountains. We looked through the windows and saw that the kitchen was well laid out and the furniture was of a high standard. Unfortunately, the views from the chalet we were given consisted of a neighbouring chalet, the swimming pool and the children’s playground. The dining-room furniture in the alternative chalet is plastic and there is a small gas stove tucked in between the sink and a cupboard. We were very disappointed and both Flexiclub and the resort HO will be hearing from me!
Our kitchen in a chalet supposedly for 6
The chalet we should have been in
What should have been our view!
Outside a lounge window there was the trunk of a very large tree on the ground. It had been split in 2 having been struck by lightning which probably happened a number of years ago as there were already quite a few well developed plants growing from it. Interestingly, no one on staff knew when it had happened.
What we really enjoyed were all the different birds and the sounds that they make. We saw Woodpeckers, Swallows, Weavers, Chats, Robins and a Thrush besides the usual Sparrows and the ubiquitous Pigeons and Hadedas. With the almost complete silence of the countryside the birds made a beautiful background sound, except the Hadedas at 5am! Why is it that a bird will stay quite still in one spot until you want to take a photo?
A Common Stone Chat on the trunk of the fallen tree
Wednesday started very cold and misty with a strong wind but, at 10:30 the mist cleared, the wind dropped and out came the sun. People who come to the mountains are always warned to be ready for sudden changes in the weather and this morning proved the warning is worthwhile. We had planned to walk down to the river and now we could. What a beautiful thing to do. All around wild flowers of different colours were blooming and the grass and other plants were starting to turn green. Hello Summer.
A view of green grasses
On our last full day we decided to drive the 10kms to Royal Natal National Park in which the Thukela Falls and the Amphitheatre are to be found. These falls are the 2nd highest in the world at 2972m so we were very keen to see them. When we arrived at the Park Office we learnt that it takes 5hrs round trip to the Falls and, to make matters worse, the mist was so low we probably would not get to see them or much of the Amphitheatre anyway. We decided to walk for an hour or so and then turn back. It was a spectacular walk in the mountains listening to the birds and the water falling around the rocks. There were so many wild flowers out as well in yellow, pink, blue, white and mauve. (I took lots of photos and will share as a separate article).
As we always do on the last night of our stay we had dinner in the resort restaurant. It was a buffet of average standard but we learnt, through the newly appointed Food and Beverages Manager, that the place had been bought by a business with no hotels in its current stable. All the staff who were in place were fired due to various unacceptable practices and few trained and qualified staff were appointed. In fact, the current Reception staff are all trainees and there is no overall housekeeper. This explained a lot of things of what had happened during our few days here.
Overall it was a lovely quiet place to spend a few days. It is recommended to people of all ages but not suitable if one is physically challenged as there are no ramps to the main hotel section where Reception and the area to access wifi is located.
Even though we were not told in a dream as were the Magi, we returned to the freeway via another route, just to see more beautiful mountains and other scenery.