From the entrance hallway window, the view looks south at the mountain peaks of the central berg. From the kitchen widows we look straight across and then more northerly. And once through the bi-folding glass doors there, beyond the foothills in the foreground and Royal Natal National Park, is the most wonderful, thrilling and breath-taking view. A perfect picture postcard, the amphitheatre, seemingly held up by its magnificent buttresses. A sheer basalt cliff face measuring over five kilometres in width and more than a kilometre in height. The scene from the veranda is of one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth.

The Berghouse and Cottages

On my drive I had the mighty Drakensberg Mountain range on my left all the way from my departure point, the town of, Estcourt. Giants Castle, Kathkin, then Cathedral Peak. Through the town of Winterton and beyond the appropriately named Bergville. It was a case of following the Northern Drakensberg Road all the way until my turn off to The Berghouse and Cottages. This truly is mountain country and a gateway to the Maloti-Drakensberg Park UNESCO World Heritage Site. The barrier of spears separating South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The Berghouse and Cottages

On arrival there was a very warm welcome from the owners Vaughn and Chantal Piccione making me feel very much at home. After a quick guided stroll to the pool and look out points I made my way to my cottage. It was a wow moment from the time I opened the door. Open plan, modern, simple yet very stylish, with bedroom, comfy seating, kitchen diner, bathroom, fire place and covered veranda also with a fire place. I must also mention one of the best outdoor showers with a mountain view.

The Berghouse and Cottages

I took a late afternoon hike. Hike, maybe best described as a slow walk, a trudge even a slog. The summer heat and the altitude took their toll on me. But being totally honest my fitness took a hike from me some years ago. At least the regular stops, sit downs and water breaks gave my many opportunities to enjoy the views. My mind occasionally wandered as I was walking ‘Leopard Trail’ and I would be easy prey and a ample, if slightly fatty, meal for any leopard in the area. There are several trails on the property, and I did check out others but felt it more appropriate to enjoy and absorb the magical mountain views. The trails on offer are all suitable for walkers of moderate fitness.

Rather than self-cater I had pre-ordered my meals. This was simple and easy to do and all that was required of me was to answer a few dietary requirement questions. As planned, all meals were delivered to my cottage. I had no idea what to expect but what I got was divine and, in my opinion, prepared and cooked to a high standard. Evening meals included stuffed chicken breast, perfectly cooked and moist, wrapped in bacon served with seasonal vegetable and home baked bread. I am not a dessert person, but I could not resist the home made cheese cake. Breakfast should be entitled break-feast. Cereals, freshly squeezed juice, fruit skewer, yogurt, no less than three varieties of home baked bread, plus, sausages, scrambled eggs and the most delicious tangy tomato relish.

The Berghouse and Cottages

At night, unfit, tired and thoroughly relaxed I sat on the veranda and watched the sunset and the moon rise. As the sky turns pink the mountains become a deep shape of purple before being absorbed by the darkness. Just before the blanket of darkness fell there was an incredible light show. The sun, from a golden base behind the peaks, provided reflections and distinctive shadows and patterns radiating from behind the mountains. It was a special end to a special day at a very special place. Along with the Moon, and a raft of stars, Venus, Saturn and Mars were all clearly visible in the night sky. A screenwriter could have not written a better ending. The swifts, martins and swallows had now been replaced by bats. I caught glimpses of them in the veranda lights. I heard a distant jackal calling in the valley below. The last noise I heard, could it have been, I doubt it. I think I was already dreaming before my head hit the crisp white pillow. It must have been ‘leopard trail’ in subconscious.  Surely that was not the rasping, sawing call of a leopard in the darkness?


About Author

People say that Africa has an effect on your soul and Mark Henson the ‘author’ of this site is no exception. He first travelled to South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1993 and has been coming and going every year since. Twice now most years!

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