Finding some mountain love
Why do we all love the majestic Drakensberg so much?? Is it because something so large makes us feel small? Is it because of all the possible mystery it holds from witnessing the stories of mankind through the ages? Perhaps it is because it reminds us of the wild in us all.
I left for the mountains feeling thirsty for something. Thirsty for rest, thirsty for quiet, thirsty for some TLC and some soul time.
Views for days, the sound of nature seeping into my psyche and the crackle of a flame featuring as natures TV.
When life has thrown you around like an empty chip packet in a flea market on a windy day, it sometimes helps to find a place to relax and reflect. A tranquil place of solace as such. A place much like Montusi Mountain Lodge in the Northern Drakensberg which offers their unique form of ‘mountain love’ to help you find your mojo again.
Their hospitality is a warm respite from Winter in the chilly Berg. Warm welcomes and smiles are standard fares here. Walking into the Lodge I am greeted by the lovely Katherine who conversationally explains all the activities and meal times at Montusi; as well as how to get around the property, including the highly recommended hike in the morning with a guide, which I immediately signed up for.
The first thing I notice when I arrive at my Garden Suite is the view. The famed, Drakensberg Amphitheatre is central to the view.
And what an enchanting view that is! Montusi is the only resort in the Northern Drakensberg that has such an expansive view of the escarpment. And boy, have they made sure it is the star of the show.
I settle into the luxurious suite which takes advantage of the different mountain views through large windows in the room and sliding doors in the lounge. As I step through the door, I see the lounge has a Welcome Note and even more welcome Appeltiser to quench my thirst after a dry, wintery drive.
The bedroom is spacious and comfortable with all the gadgets and gizmos that will keep you toasty in Winter. The bathroom has underfloor heating, which is lovely when climbing out of a hot bath or shower. I can personally attest to the comfort of the bed, pillows, snuggly blankets and the couch next to the fire.
Special touches at Montusi include getting a yummy turndown treat alongside your bed and having some Bean There coffee in front of a fire while snuggling up in the lounge.
For those days when the weather doesn’t encourage you to go outside, there is a TV, DSTV and a dvd player to keep you occupied.
Once putting my gear down, I ease onto the patio to sit on the porch and appreciate the indigenous trees and bushes which Montusi have reintroduced to an area that was once spotted in wattle trees. This nurturing landscaping attention over the years has done much for the resort in terms of wildlife; seeing the returning of buck species such as Mountain Reedbuck, Vaal Rhebuck, Bushbuck and the large Eland as well a variety of bird species.
There are Garden, Mountain and Family Suite strategically placed to take advantage of the panoramic vistas of the resort and provide ample space to relax without being interrupted. Montusi has managed to create a comfortable place where you can choose either to interact with people easily or enjoy nature in peace and quiet.
This, along with the warm hospitality, according to Trip Advisor, is what brings people back time and again.
I discovered a lovely porch where I could lounge on the couches and watch the sunset while sipping a drink from the bar which is ambiently cosy. This would be an ideal place to relax and enjoy a lunch, surrounded by the red poker plants and shrubbery.
The swimming pool has an unusual setting reminiscent of a lush African oasis. The rocks in and around the pool reflect the surrounding landscape and the thatch umbrellas provide a shady spot for reclining on loungers while life continues around you. The pool area is slightly secluded being screened by lush trees and bushes, providing privacy for anyone enjoying their time around the pool.
I head off to join one of the gatherings at the Dam. A bonfire at dusk is scheduled for roasting marshmallows, meeting other guests and enjoying the end of daylight show that is sunset in the Berg.
Wrapped up in anticipation of the cool mountain evening air, I stride across the path to the copse of trees and jumping flames. On the hillside behind the gathering, I see some black shapes ‘hobbling’ along. I focus my gaze more purposefully on arrival at the fire to discover that what I am seeing is three Ground Hornbill walking along the grass hill, stopping occasionally to pick some delicious morsel from the earth.
I am delighted by the confirmation that my observation is right by Lindsay from Montusi Lodge. Any which way I look there are scenic view to photograph as the sun goes down. The most arresting of these is the lilies on the dam stretching toward the Amphitheatre cloaked in the last warm, rose hues of the day.
I hug my scarf close in the cool air as I relish roasting my marshmallows perfectly over the fire – toasted on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside.
Once the rose light turns to stygian night, the moon stretches into the sky lazily casting its handsome reflection across the dam.
Montusi Lodge restaurant is an absolute food haven.
Here they craft fantastic morsels to keep your eyes, brain and tummy satisfied. I enjoyed dinners and breakfasts here and found that it was a creative and nutritional joy.
The food is absolutely beautiful and so, so delicious.
Dinner is a three-course affair in which you can linger. I couldn’t get through all the courses at dinners but managed two each night I was there. The flavours are packed in tight to delight! You will leave smiling and full.
Breakfast has Cold Pressed juices, a spread of cereals, nuts and yoghurt as well as a hot menu to order from. This ensures a good start to your day, whatever activities you have planned.
Montusi has plenty to keep you occupied and the area offers various activities too.
You can play tennis on the court, fly fish on the dam, ride horses with The Northern Horse, go walking or hiking, take a mountain bike trail, swim, run or relax with a massage.
You can also pop down the road for a bit of an adrenalin rush at All Out Adventures.
I decided to hike to the top of Montusi Peak with the guide. Although when I agreed, I didn’t know that was where we were going.
It is a moderate hike with breathatking views. Literally. Although, for me, as spectacular as the views are, I needed to stop and catch my breath a few times. A combination of my current fitness level and the thinner air the higher you get necessitated that my stops were punctuated by meditative deep breathing. I mostly thought about my need for oxygen and more regular exercise.
We stopped off at the Bushman Cave on the way up which is really a spoil and a bit of education at the same time. Victor, our guide, explains the history behind the cave, how the Bushman lived here and how they were chased from the area by the Zulu people who had arrived. The Bushmen had taken to hunting the Zulu peoples sheep, mistakenly thinking it was a new kind of antelope. Confusing discussions ensued when the Zulu’s came across the Bushmen and also due to the language barrier. Ultimately, the Zulu’s drove the Bushmen from the area. Despite this, the Cave is a peaceful spot with all sorts of rocks to explore, some Bushmen paintings on areas of the caves and a pretty waterfall.
Snaking our way up and around Montusi peak, I stopped to catch different viewpoints along the path and caught the Eland down the valley by surprise, leaving them frozen for a few moments while they tried to decide whether I was a threat or not. In the distance, Mountain Zebra grazed with other Eland nonchalantly, realising I posed no immediate danger.
The last bit of the peak was a climb between scrub and rocks, bursting out onto the plateau at the top with 360-degree views.
Standing alongside a cairn I silently take in the mountains in whichever direction I look. It is something I don’t often experience and I want to absorb every second of this exceptional experience.
Our small group sit and talk with Victor as he offers us tea, coffee and snacks including a wedge of buttery crunchie that is sure to put a spring into my step on the way down. We chat about how crazy it is to be sitting on this peak with this incredible view and how nearby the Drakensberg it is, but how few people even realise or take the opportunity to see some of the views on spectacular hikes like this.
I am so very grateful to Victor for this chance to experience some local sights and take in its uniquely South African beauty.
So what can you find in the mountains?
Whether it be sitting outside at night trying to take pictures of the stars to somehow express their beauty, waking up in the early hours of the morning to find the fat moon grinning outside the window, hiking up to Montusi Peak, basking in front of a bonfire, chatting over spectacular meals with guests and staff, lazing in the sun in the afternoon; you will find that Montusi Lodge has something unique and beautiful to experience. You can find that special bit of mountain love to hold and take with you.
Here at Montusi they move the moon and stars for you 🙂 As well as sharing their rare mountain love with their guests.