The Underberg is just what you need if you feeling under the weather. It lies in the Southern foothills of the Drakensberg range of mountains in the Southwest of KwaZula Natal. It is more of a farming area and a great place to go if you enjoy trout fishing or bird-watching otherwise if you just want to read a book and relax, this is the place to be. But if you want the real Drakensberg feel and being on top of the mountains then you will need to travel further up to the Central Drakensberg area, another 3 hrs drive.
During the South African winter it is very dry in the Underberg area and icy cold at night. Warm days can be enjoyed, but then there is also the possibility of snow. So you can never plan what type of weather you going to experience. Just 3 weeks before we arrived it had snowed and was freezing cold. We were hoping that when we arrived we would enjoy some snow, as the pictures we had seen of the snow capped mountains was what inspired us to book accommodation at the Underberg. When we arrived and felt the cold chill we were very thankful it was not snowing! As soon as the sun sets which is around 5pm as well as in the early mornings it is bitterly cold!! Beanies and gloves, lots of blankets and fire going is what you will need to keep warm. We were very grateful for the warm sunny days we did had.
We stayed at Bushmans Nek, but you can read more about that resort under here 🙂 There is plenty to do and explore in the Underberg region, and really worth a visit. We booked for only 4 nights, and it was way too short, considering it takes 3 hrs from Durban central one way and the road is long. Some streets had no street lights and we travelled on a few dirt roads, which slows you down. For a real relaxed holiday you will need at least 7- 10 days especially if you love trout fishing or bird watching. We never had time for either, but we did enjoy and explore some attractions. You will also need time off to just relax and read a book or do some walks.
In the town itself is the local Spar that provides everything you need for self catering and even serves ready made hot meals to decadent cakes, the food is freshly made. A bottle store, retail shops, banks, bookshops and everything else you might need is next door to the Spar.
We spend one day doing the Sani Day Pass tour which was amazing and was a full day trip going into Lesotho, you can read all about it here…..and if you feel that you would love to tick this off your bucket list, you can book it through http://www.booktotravel.co.za
Another day we spent at the lodge relaxing and having spa treatments, here is the blog on that….
We visited the Underberg Cheesery, a quaint little farm with warm welcoming signs about their cows -” the girls” Apart from the many varieties of delicious cheeses they make, you can also buy freshly made yoghurt. They only had strawberry flavour when we were there, and it tasted smooth and creamy and rich in flavour, it did not last. They offer 16 different types of cheeses to taste from, from feta to Italiano to Underberger. What caught my attention apart from all the different variety of cheeses was a cheese called the Mistak9. How they came about calling this cheese mistak9 and making it, is quite interesting. They were making Parmesan cheese and the electricity went off, they had a power failure which interrupted the cheese making process. So as not to throw the Parmesan cheese away and waste it, they continued with the cheese making process and called it Mistak9. It really tasted like there was no mistake made in making this cheese! Was delicious and creamy. So if you a cheese lover, do not miss out on visiting this cheese farm and stock up for your trip.
We had heard alot about the Olde Duck, renowned for making the best cappuccino in town, our arms did not need to be twisted to go and pay a visit. There is a lovely large grassed area with outdoor tables and a big play area for children. Inside there is also some tables and goodies that you can buy. It is situated on a large piece of land with some donkeys, chickens, roosters and ducks. I don’t know if you remember our experience with the rooster a while back, so we choose a table where their was no chickens or rooster hiding under the table. We ordered the infamous cappuccino and sat outside in the warm sun. I am a lover of coffee, but my absolute favourite is the frothy milk on top, I could order just a jug of that. We received our drinks with a small complimentary homemade biscuit on the saucer. The designs they put on top is really a craft on it’s own. One cup had a teddy bear and the other a flower. It always fascinates me how they do this while pouring the hot milk in the cup, and always looks so easy. But from experience the things that look the easiest to do, is normally the hardest to master. Our capuchhinno did not disappoint, strong and robust with flavours, the only downside is the cups are way too small. A few sips and your experience has abruptly come to an end.
Also at the Olde Duck is the Sani Spoors – heaven for mountain bikers with various trails offered, from single track through to pine forests and riverbanks. Trail running tracks and thrilling biking trails. Routes offered from 3km to 15km for the avid biker, trail runner to the adventure photographer, there is no short supply of challenging tracks and breathtaking landscapes, with only dust being left behind as you progress to the end. These routes are not for the novice as there are no medical or evacuation facilities on site. Routes are dangerous with lots of technical sections to maneuver through, but the scenery will be rewarding enough. Bikes and helmets are to be in tip top condition. Showers are available to freshen up afterwards for free!!
There is also a 5 day hiking trail called the Giants Cup Hiking trail that you can do situated in the Southern Region of the Maloti Drakensberg Park. The trails begins just pass the Sani Pass hotel at the foot of the Sani Pass and ends 2.5km from Bushman’s Nek. The hike is over 60km and above 2000m in altitude, and traverses breathtaking scenary through the mountains. The longest day hike on this trail is 13km and the shortest 9km. There are numerous Rock Art sites to visit along the way, still in it’s raw state, left by the San people. As this is very much part of our history and can not be replicated, any marks or grafitti or tampering of the rocks and art is illegal. If you into Flora, you will pass indigenous Ntshisshi bushes, yellowwoods as well as many other indigenous varieties. Lots of grasslands and watsonias and proteas. You may also encounter a range of wildlife from baboons and different species of antelope. Reptiles, snakes and jackals might also be seen. Rare birds to look out for are the Bearded Vulture and the Black Eagle, but Cape Vultures are also commonly seen. Make sure you have trained and have the correct clothes, as the evenings can get very cold, and there are not hot water showers to reward you after a day’s hike. (these are not my photos, taken from internet)
Don’t leave to late from Durban to travel to the Underberg in the winter months, as you want to arrive by 5pm the latest, anytime arriving after that will cause unnecessary stress and you will need an extra day to relax. You pass many open fields and farming areas where cattle and sheep will cross over at no notice given. The highway from Durban also has lots of trucks travelling which can slow down your travelling time. A must en route is a stop at Peel’s honey to stock up on Sesame Honey Brittle , they are delicious!!
After spending a few nights in the Underberg we decided to visit Cathedral Peak Hotel in the Central Drakensberg. It seemed a waste to come to the Drakensberg area and not do a little bit of both sides. The drive to the Central Drakensberg takes about 3 hrs one way. We left just before lunch and did a stop at Howick Falls.
If you have been to the Victoria Falls, this will be a huge let down, but at the same time a good stop, so enjoy it as it doesn’t take too much time. The Falls is in the little historic town of Howick, which is lost in time. The Waterfall is approximately 95m in height and lies on the Umgeni River. There is a Gorge Walk that you can do which takes you through gorgeous riverine forests and steams. The whole area around the falls is surrounded by the green of the Natal Midlands and the smell of the vegetation, mosses and dampness is refreshing. Once you reach the bottom the sounds of the waterfall cascades is deafening, yet full of life and excitement. A few African curios for sale in the parking lots.
From there we continued our journey to the Cathedral Peak Hotel in the Drakensberg.