Drakensberg Diaries: Need Redemption? Drakensberg, Dude, Drakensberg

Overwhelmed by the moral decadence you see in others? Perhaps in yourself? Then you’re going to need more from a holiday than just a break: you don’t want escape, you want redemption.

Well don’t feel too badly about it. A couple of hundred years ago some rather talented people felt pretty much the same way. Like Rousseau. Byron. Wordsworth. Turner. And a whole raft of others. Exhausted by the squalor and brutality of a rapidly industrializing Europe, they found their redemption in the Alps.

This was a new one. For 2000 years mountains had been considered nothing more than a nuisance. Unproductive, obstacles to communication and the refuge of bandits and heretics.

Not any more. “Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry”, says Thomas Gray.

Well two hundred years down the track, that seems a bit excessive. But even those of us with no religion like to claim that we are spiritual, at least. And from time-to-time, one needs to remind oneself that one is part of a greater whole.

So if it’s redemption you’re after, head for the mountains.

Drakensberg, Dude, Drakensberg. It’s an ancient place, with ancient resonances. The ancestral home of the Bushman hunter-gatherers. One of those peaceful and harmonious societies that Rousseau et al would have said proved their belief in the divinity of nature and the superiority of natural man.

Peaceful and harmonious, certainly. But fragile too. “No more do we Bushmen hunt in these hills. The fire is cold. Our songs are quiet. But listen carefully. You will hear us in the water. Look carefully, you will see us in the rock”.

Are you listening, carefully? Are you looking, carefully?

A starting point? The Royal Natal National Park in the north. With its Amphitheatre – a work of art nature has been patiently honing for millions of years. To the south, you’ll find nature reserves, rivers and lakes. With these, to continue the artistic reference, we have the composition.

To animate it, we need color and movement. Here are the broad brushstrokes: lush valleys, flushed dawn mists, implacable rugged peaks in dynamic harmony. Volatile afternoon skies. Tall biscuit-colored grass glowing orange in the fading light. You may cross paths with an oribi, or an eland on a hiking trail. Feed the soul.

But hey, you can’t plumb the depths on an empty stomach. More brushstrokes: freshly caught subtly flavored fish, farm stalls with homemade fruit tarts and pickles, jam, unique cheeses and organic vegetables, garden herbs. Cozy fireside pubs, delightful out of the way gourmet restaurants. Feed the body.

Even the retail therapy has a spiritual edge to it. For a shopping mall with a difference there’s an art and craft trail called the Midlands Meander. Wonderful crisp fragrant linen, rainbow beadwork, stylish ethnic basketry, tooled leather, woodcarvings. Hand-tuned wind chimes to harmonize your soul. No bling, I regret. Not.

Can’t you hear it calling you? Even the names, Mont-Aux Sources, Cathedral Peak, Giant’s Castle, Champagne Valley, are evocative.

Think the Holy Grail of getaway destinations. Where astonishing natural beauty seems to be able to just blot out your sins.

Need redemption? Drakensberg Dude, Drakensberg.

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