Now you can rent an Airbnb caravan in the Drakensberg
Helen Smith enjoys all the perks of the outdoors with none of the hassle, thanks to Campworld's fully kitted caravan
"So where are the dragons, Mom?"
We'd arrived at Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort under cover of darkness, and the dragons had already turned in for the night.
I told the 8-year-old they'd be hiding in their caves until morning, by which time we would awake in our comfy beds in the fully equipped Campworld Airbnb caravan that was to be our home for the weekend.
The following morning, as we rubbed the sleep from our eyes on the short walk to the ablution block, the views around us came into focus.
There they were, the dragons - already lounging in the early sun across the top of the 'Berg, keeping an eye on the Tugela Valley below from the comfort of their Amphitheatre.
Due to wedding preparations taking place at The Oakandale, Hlalanathi's restaurant, we headed out to find somewhere else to eat.
All Out Adventures was closed for the day while its staff attended a prayer event in Bloemfontein, so we took a drive to Bergville to buy some meat for our evening braai, bypassing several dams linked to the Drakensberg pumped storage scheme.
We had trouble identifying several of the birds we spotted along the road among the sunflowers and grasses turning autumn shades of golden.
By the time we returned from Bergville, we were famished and the signposts to The Tower of Pizza were a welcome sight. Some sherry warmed the adults while we waited for what turned out to be among the top two pizzas I've ever tasted.
Happily satiated, we continued our drive of discovery along the Tugela Valley towards the Royal Natal National Park and the majestic backdrop of the Amphitheatre at closer range.
We made our way slowly through villages, avoiding goats and cows which make sure you know they have right of way on the roads.
Children on their way to the closest water pump to fill containers returned our waves cheerily. Our own young one commented how beautiful it must be to pump water with such an amazing view.
The sun threw an otherworldly glow across the fields and mountains before plunging us into shadow as it dropped out of sight, bringing the silhouettes of snoozing dragons into sharp relief. It was time to head back to our luxury van to start the fire.
After another night of country-air sleep, we breakfasted at Oakandale while the remnants of the wedding were cleared away. Had we been golfers, we could have teed off at the nine-hole course on the premises, but our sights were set on the national park.
Hiking and birding are big drawcards for the park but we settled on a picnic beside a small dam and tried our hand at fly casting. We'd acquired our permits from reception and it wasn't long before the first and only trout of the day was caught and safely released.
Too soon, it was time to pack up and head home. We wanted to go in daylight to benefit from the most scenic part of the drive.
As we wended our way back through the Tugela Valley, we agreed that, next time, we'd stay for longer to visit more sites and try out some of the area's adventure activities.
Passing through a village, our son spotted some children at a water pump and I offered to stop and accompany him to test his theory about pumping water.
The local kids seemed quite surprised to have our company and soon understood that the visiting child would like to help them. So they stood back and giggled, allowing him to pump the crystal-clear water out the depths of Mother Earth, with the dragons as an audience.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
WHERE IT IS: The Campworld Jurgens Penta caravan is in Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort in the Northern Drakensberg foothills in the Tugela River Valley. It is about 60km from Harrismith on the R74 towards Bergville, then right towards the Royal Natal National Park from where it is signposted.
WHAT IT HAS: Two comfortable double beds and two single stretchers in the rally tent. The tent doubles as a living area with all the paraphernalia for comfort without having to bring it yourself.
THE FOOD: The van has all the necessary mod-cons for self-catering in style, including braai equipment, and there are several restaurants in the area.
RATE: From R718 per night for the unit.
CONTACT: Book via airbnb.com.
• Smith was a guest of Campworld Airbnb