These self-catering chalets are the closest you will get (without carrying your accommodation on your back) to staying IN the berg, not looking AT the berg. The location is stunning: from every chalet you can see the Drakensberg Amphitheatre. It is a magnificent site. The chalets are situated in the uKHAHLAMBA DRAKENSBERG PARK otherwise known as Royal Natal Park. The chalets sleep 2 or 4 people. Those in the "upper camp" are newer and set a little further apart than those in the "lower camp". Each chalet has a bathroom and a tiny kitchenette. There are couches to sit near a fireplace inside and a small dining table. Each chalet also has a braai outside, and some outdoor furniture. There is also a stunning "Lodge" that sleeps 6 people, and comes with its own private cook (you bring the food though). They are normally quite booked up, so it is recommended to book in advance, and take what you can get. I have also often got lucky just by phoning regularly and getting a cancellation.
The shop at Thendele has some bare essentials (canned food, some frozen meat, wine, beer) but not fresh food. They also sell items of clothing and curios. The shop at the troutfishing dams and the visitors' centre has a bigger selection of the same stuff, as well as a great 3D construction that shows the mountains surrounding you.
Walks from the camp are quite well signposted, and the people in the camp can give you some ideas of difficulty and distance. The mountain register which you are advised to sign before you go on ANY walk is found at the Thendele shop.
Bookings are made through Ezemvulo KZN Wildlife. The camp gets its name from the river that runs below it.
The view is stunning, and you can choose from hectice walks, to calm flat walks as your mood dictates. Within the camp, there are a few strategically placed benches which allow you to soak up the atmosphere. I love the mountain cabbage trees that are 18-20 metres in height, but walking through protea thickets or tall grasses is also beautiful. We have been delighted to see grey rhebuck and some mountain reedbuck. Beware the brave baboons who will steal your food if they have half a chance.
The original thought had been to push a road up over the Escarpment into Lesotho from Phuthaditjhabab on the Free State side. That road ends at the Sentinel Car Park with the last chance for cold beer some 6-7 rough miles lower down at the Witzieschoek Mountain Resort. The road was never finished, but the Chain Ladders were built by the same man who was responsible for the Witzieschoek Mountain Resort, the Caterpillar and Catfish Cookhouse atop Oliviershoek on highway N74 and the Drakensberg Inn in Bergville - Otto Zunckel. Otto was also responsible for building this stone hut near the top of Thukela Falls. The original cabin had tables, chairs, beds with mattresses, a stove and a fireplace. The cabin had been open to all mountaineers. With time, the cabin had been ransacked and fell into disrepair. Lately, the cabin has been repaired - albeit minus the chairs, tables, beds and mattresses, but it was repaired to make room for rangers of the EZKZN (KZN Park rangers) as their home atop the rim. Luckily for most of us - I guess - the Park rangers are rarely out and about so there is usually no problem laying you sleeping bag out on one of the floors and keeping your tent folded away. It is much easier to endure that thunderstorm with pelting rain from inside these stone walls and metal roof, than from outside in a tent. Here, I speak from personal experience.
Nice enough place, with staff a little eager to help.
Dorms: R75 per night
Doubles: R200 per night
They have a nice bar area, and offer a broad range of foods. The dinner (a bit pricey at R60) was good, and the R10 eggs and toast breakfast was fine.
Great views of the northern Drakensberg. They run tours to the top of the Drakensberg for R250, which seemed a bit steep considering we drove up there ourselves, paying only the R25 admission, but perhaps their guide would have shown us the "cool" stuff.
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