A Roadtrip to Central Drakensberg


This post is a few weeks late all thanks to a little holiday procrastination and laziness that seemed to have overcome me! K and I, along with a few friends had been wanting to go away for a long weekend in the middle of December. I managed to find a nice pet-friendly farm, ideally located in the Champagne Valley, just 4.5 hours from Joburg. Surrounded by the Drakensberg mountains and its lush green valleys, the weekend promised to be one full of hikes, adventure activities, lots of food and late-night chats.

Sterkfontein dam enroute to Champagne valley
Sterkfontein dam enroute to Champagne valley

Our accommodation at the Shiriba Farm consisted of two cottages – one which could accommodate four adults and two children, and another for us and the dog. The farm was just as described – tranquil and quaint, with a nice dam in the middle. The smaller cottage was really adorable. Completely built of out of stone, the two storeyed dwelling  with its thatched roof looked like a gnome’s house just out of a fairytale! Overlooking the dam, this cottage also had a lookout built for two which was ideal for nice evening drinks and bird watching.

The stone-ridge cottage
The stone-ridge cottage

We reached the place sometime in the late afternoon with expectations of great weather. It was in the Drakensberg after all – meaning Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans. However, what we did not know was that this entire region had been facing severe drought conditions over the past several months. This meant that during the day, it was hot and dry with little or no rain at all, water levels in the area’s dams (small water bodies and reservoirs) were at all time lows and water restrictions had been implemented. We were lucky that Shiriba farm had its own dam and although the water level was low, it was still enough. The cottage had a nice small pool, but given the water restrictions, the pool could not be filled. For this the owner was profusely apologetic.

However, the weather did not dampen our spirits; especially Mia’s who immediately dived into the dam, swimming and chasing ducks. And this is where she spent most of the weekend which was just as well! We, on the other hand, were thankful for our cooler boxes full of chilled beer and braai meats and spent the first day just chilling at the farm.

The cute look-out
The cute look-out

Summertime in the mountains means that it is daylight pretty early and the next day we were up at 4:30am, all charged up for a good hike. Four of us, with Mia in tow went about exploring the surrounding areas. Our hike took us through the other farms, up a small koppie (hill), and across a dry stream. We headed back just as the sun started beating down on us – and it was not even 7:30am! The hike left us refreshed and hungry and we headed to a small local bakery aptly named the Valley bakery, which seemed to be popular with the locals and tourists alike.

We arrived back at the farm in a comatose state and headed straight for our beds. The severe afternoon heat kept us indoors most of the day and we decided to venture out only around 4pm when some eagerly awaited storm clouds made their appearance. We drove down to the Bell Park Dam, located just 10mins from Shiriba but it had scant water. Disheartened, we headed to the Champagne Castle Adventure Centre where we just grabbed a small bite and walked around until the resident zebra took a dislike to Mia and decided to chase her out!

The view from our window
The view from our window

Back at the farm, we lazed around just enjoying the peace and quiet under a starry sky. It is relaxing to just do nothing at times. Soon it was time to braai and having had a really early start, most of us were ready to retire almost immediately after.

A much awaited storm hit the area that night, and it continued to rain until the early hours of the morning. This adversely affected our hiking plans but no one was complaining! We were to head back to Joburg that day so we all just slept in late, enjoying the cool weather. After a late breakfast, it was time for us to bid the place adieu bringing an end to a hot weekend but a cool holiday!

For more pictures, please click below:





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