Drakensberg Travels – Chapter one of three – Ikhaya la Mafu

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.

Road to Ikhaya la Mafu - Monks Cowl Reserve Drakensberg

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.

View of the mountains from our cosy cottage

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.

Peace and serenity - just add water.

A study in green - on one of the knee-friendly walks

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.

Fire, choccies, good books and nippy, overcast day - perfect!

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.

About Freud Fission Chips

Despite the banality of the name, FFC has led an intensely varied life. Grateful for surviving almost three years as a 'troepie' (soldier for non-South African Readers) in the Angolan war, he determined to wring as much out of life as possible. Currently providing Business Analysis services, trading on the stock market and developing web pages to pay the bills, FFC also dabbles in wildlife, landscape and people photography, writing, and far too many interests for his own good. He has also travelled extensively in southern Africa (working on the sound theory that a moving target is more dificult to hit). These peregrinations also include over 1500kms on foot through some of the worlds most spectacular scenery. It hasn't all been plain sailing, beer and skittles, and endless beds of roses... Chief amongst the prerequisites for surviving Africa, with its mind-bending characteristics, is an appropriate sense of humour.... So, for now, he will be recounting the amusing among the annoying, the frustrating wrapped in the funny and extracting the mirth from the melancholy... Oh yes, there might be some alliteration too.
This entry was posted in Humour - or humor, Photography, Travel - South Africa. Bookmark the permalink.

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