In the six months or so since my last travel articles, I’ve received thousands of mails requesting more accounts of our peregrinations (well none in actual fact; but for a few seconds it was nice to feel like one of those big time travel photo-journalists). When I realised it had been so long, I felt honour bound to go somewhere and report back. Mrs Chips felt the further the better, until I reminded her of her status as my Minder-in-Chief and said she needed to accompany me – to keep me in check, sort of.
This profundity saw us arrive in the Drakensberg at an enchanting place called Ikhaya la Mafu. This is an ancient Zulu phrase meaning “The House In The Mist That Hasn’t Been Expropriated Yet”. I made up the last bit about the expropriation, but it’s definitely enchanting, definitely in the mist and most definitely worth a visit.
Nestled in a cosy, sheltered cleft in the mountains of the Monk’s Cowl Reserve, in the Champagne Valley area is this utterly delightful destination. There are just two self-catering cottages accommodating two couples, so there’s none of the hustle and bustle of a busy resort.
The first two of the three days we spent at Ikhaya la Mafu gave us intermittent rain which definitely tested our determination to ‘chill’. We did snatch an opportunity or two to test-drive the mending leg on the more gentle walks, and the ‘chill’ factor was thrice enhanced by the privilege of being able to just sit beside tinkling waterfalls in the green shade of the forest.
The owners, Paul and Ricky Brogan, personally ensure everything is shipshape Bristol fashion; and by gum, wasn’t it just. Our cottage was kept spick and span by Sandile who also made sure we had enough fire wood. And speaking of firewood, the nippy evenings provided the ideal excuse for a cosy, ever-so-romantic wood fire to eat indecent quantities of chocolate, and to read good books by.
Flora and fauna abound here on this private reserve. They’ve even spotted a Leopard on the property. Well, ok, it was pretty much spotted to begin with, but you know what I mean. Paul has a prodigious knowledge of the local plant and birdlife and we soaked up his enthusiastically shared facts.
Drinking water (better than any of the expensive bottled stuff and an infinite improvement on that foreign, chlorinated muck that emerges from our taps) is from the crystal clear, mountain streams – one of the few remaining places on earth where you can actually get a drink the way Nature intended (and in winter you can get it, literally, on the rocks).
When not concealed within a swirling cloak of mist, the nearby mountains (including the well-known Sphinx) are breathtakingly majestic. On the day of our departure, we were treated to brilliant sunshine and cobalt skies. Photographs were taken and goodbyes said, and I was really sorry to be leaving.
- It’s just over a four hour drive from Johannesburg, by travelling on the heinously expensive N3 toll road. At Harrismith, turn off towards Berville, and at Winterton, turn right into the Monk’s Cowl Reserve.
- The tranquil nature of Ikhaya la Mafu precludes pets and children, something we appreciated.
- There are no landlines although there is a weak cell phone signal. Consequently, there are no credit card facilities, so perform all payments beforehand.
- While relaxing or getting better acquainted with nature will probably be your prime activities, there are also heaps of other things to do nearby. The nearby Drakensberg Boys Choir hold frequent concerts, and there are also the captivating Predator Bird shows a few minutes drive from the resort. If you’re feeling flush and the weather’s fine, how about seeing the drama of the Drakensberg from a helicopter?
- For more specific information, check out http://www.ikhayalamafu.com.