An (un)Planned KZN Weekend

An (un)Planned KZN Weekend

This was one of those weekend where a planed getaway to the lower Drakensberg quickly morphed into a series of unfortunate events. Sometimes even a seasoned traveller needs to be reminded that sometimes nothing goes according to plan and you have to let go of all expectations in order to enjoy the moment. The weekend ended up being exactly what I needed and had I not been so miffed that nothing seemed to be working out, I could have started enjoying my weekend getaway a lot earlier. Originally conceived as a simple one night getaway at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse in the Drakensberg mountains, on Tuesday before my departure I decided to complicate things by adding a Friday night in Durban which is relatively close to my final destination. Flights had to be changed, a rental car was cancelled after transfers were deemed less expensive, and the iconic Oyster Box Hotel was booked for a night.

On the day of my departure, I arrived at the airport to be told I did not have a confirmed seat despite having a seat assignment. The agent disappeared for 15 minutes and returned confirming what she had just told me. There was an awkward silence as I stared at her waiting for her to offer an explanation, apologize, or list alternative options. Finally, I had to ask whether I could be booked on the next flight. She disappeared again and several minutes reappeared with a confirmed seat assignment. To boot the toilet at the airport overflowed on my shoes. An inauspicious start and I may have spent the hour-long flight arms crossed, scowling while I scripted out my tirade/complaint to South African Airways.

I had a few things to do in Durban and didn’t check into the Oyster Box Hotel until the late afternoon only to find out that I had a reservation for the following night. For the record, I am fairly organized and have never made such a stupid mistake. Another room was quickly secured and I tried not to let it bother me focusing on the phenomenal beach view from the balcony. Unfortunately, perennially sunny Durban was experiencing a cold snap and that horrible misty rain that just makes my hair frizz in all directions. My hopes of capturing some nice sunset photos of the Umhlanga Lighthouse were dashed, although I did manage a few dramatic cloud shots before retiring to Oyster Bar for a much needed class of wine and some food.

Believing Saturday to be another day and whatnot, I went to bed extremely early hoping maybe there would me some nice sunrise photos. I woke up to more clouds and my walk along the beach was cut short by more rain. My bad luck streak seemed to be continuing and frankly, I was getting grumpy. I had arranged a transfer to the Kamberg Valley in the mountains and my plan was to stop at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick and squeeze in a quick walk on the Highmoor Nature Reserve before watching some rugby World Cup and gorging on a delicious five course meal at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, but (of course) the driver missed the turnoff to the capture site and we proceeded straight to the guesthouse.

Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse is charming – a place where every corner displays a collection or other, dogs and cats mill about, and hospitality reigns supreme. Upon arrival, I was shown to the bar where there was cake, scones, muffins, an elaborate cheese platter, and a cup of tea.  With walking on the neighboring Highmoor made moot by the rain, I was relegated to reading my book and feeding logs onto the roaring fire. I couldnt help myself from thinking that I could be doing this all at home for free. It wasn’t until later that evening as I sat down to an incredible candlelit meal in the extremely romantic dining room, that everything fell into place. I let go. Maybe it was the elaborate and nourishing food, but I was content. I plotted my return when the weather would be better. I stopped dwelling on all the relatively little things that had gone wrong. I savored the food. Everything had worked out in the end and while nothing unfolded they way it had been planned, it was exactly the lazy day in the country I needed. Finally able to properly enjoy myself, the weekend took a turn for the better.

I woke up to cloudy skies and while the mountains were still obscured by the cloud cover, I was able to walk around the property before breakfast was served. Miraculously the clouds lifted just in time for my planned horse riding excursion. We rode Western (opposed to English) and I throughly enjoyed the scenery and the animals we encountered – reedbucks, baboons, and as we rode through the neighboring farmlands Nguni cattle and sheep. It was the perfect way to spend a morning which was made even more lovely by the fact we found a dwarf chameleon.

I had arranged my transfer to collect me at the horse farm and while he was only supposed to take me to the airport in typical South African hospitality he decided that we had enough time before my flight for a mini tour. Instead of taking the highway we drove the Midlands Meander – a backroad that goes past a number of restaurants and art galleries. He stopped at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site which is where Nelson Mandela was captured on August 5, 1962 after 17 months underground eluding the apartheid government. He spent the next 27 years in jail. While I was a bit rushed, there was a moment when I was the only person standing in front of the sculpture reflecting on the significance of the site. Then on to the Howick Fall for quick photo. He certainly didn’t have to add an additional hour to the transfer, but he enjoyed sharing his home with a visitor.

It was truly an (un)planned weekend in KZN and an important lesson for this perennial planner. Let go. Enjoy. Good things will happen.