Nestled in the tranquil valleys of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg, the remote mountain farms of Wartrail and New England provide the perfect antidote to the stresses of city life. Also known as ‘Wild Mountain Country’ this area offers a safe and relaxing escape in a pristine natural environment, far away from the madding crowds.
All types of farmstay accommodation are available, from camping and self-catering cottages to en-suite fully-catered guest farms. Each establishment is unique and meals range from simple fare to delicious farm style extravaganzas. Enjoy personal attention from your hosts, many of whom are descendants of the early settlers to the area. They have many wonderful stories to tell about the area’s rich history and culture …
Clean and invigorating is the best way to describe the climate in Wild Mountain Country and four well-marked seasons occur. In summer the days are typically hot and sunny, with regular late afternoon thunderstorms to clear the air ready for the next day. Autumn is a time to enjoy magnificent mountain colours, with the grasses and trees decorated in splendid shades of golds and reds. The days are pleasantly warm and sunny – ideal for outdoor activities.
Winter brings snow and visitors flock to nearby Tiffindell to enjoy the unique opportunity to ski in South Africa. The area is stunningly beautiful at this time of year and what could out a better smile on your face than watching your child build their very first snowman. In spring the mountains bloom with fresh green grass and wild flowers. Birding at this time of year is exceptional and the farmlands are bursting with new life in the form of lambs and calves.
Whether you want to unwind in peace, or fill your family’s lungs with fresh mountain air, Wartrail has something for every outdoor enthusiast:
1. Take a Walk on the Wild Side
The peaks of the Wartrail area soar up to 2,800 metres and you can hike to your heart’s content in total wilderness. A new 5 day slackpacking trail, ‘The Wartrail Skywalk’, has now been introduced taking in bushman paintings, caves, rock-formations and wonderful birdlife along the way. The trail is guided by local farmers who can entertain you with local legends, show you the most secret places and will spoil you rotten with wonderful food and hospitality at the end of each day’s hike.
Families and those who simply want to relax may prefer to meander along the many trout-filled rivers, stopping to bathe in rock pools and natural mountain ‘jacuzzis’.
2. Go on the Piste
Tiffindell Ski Resort is nestled at the base of the Cape’s highest peak – Ben McDhui (3,001 metres). Here you can experience skiing or snowboarding on real snow between May and August. The region’s natural snowfalls are supplemented with snow-making machines, to give good conditions for the whole winter. Lessons, clothing and equipment are available, so there’s no excuse not to try this exhilarating sport for the first time.
3. Get Bubbly in a Mountain Jacuzzi
The area’s rivers bubble and wind their way down from the high mountain peaks. Ideal for family walks, you can enjoy swimming in natural pools and discovering waterfalls. To feel revitalised and invigorated, nothing beats a soak in a natural mountain ‘jacuzzi’. In a total mountain wilderness, with no other people around for miles, you can even get right back to nature and skinny dip if the mood takes you!
4. Try Mountain-Climbing on Horseback
If hiking the peaks sounds like too much hard work, then why not let four legs take the strain? Well schooled and sure-footed horses are available for all levels of rider to explore the mountains from the saddle.
5. Watch the Birdie!
Birding in this area of the Southern Drakensberg is superb with over 230 species recorded. Watching the large raptors of the area (e.g. Black Eagle, Bearded Vulture) soar over the cliffs in search for food is an incredible sight. The keen ‘twitcher’ will enjoy seeking out and ticking off several rare specimens endemic to the area.
6. Drive the Highest Pass in South Africa
The area is outstanding for the 4×4 enthusiast and there are suitable trails for all levels of driver. Nearby Naude’s Nek is the highest pass in South Africa and provides challenging driving and stunning views. Other great trails include Joubert’s Pass (the 3rd highest pass in South Africa) and Lundean’s Nek which takes you through the former Transkei to the Lesotho Telebridge Border post.
7. Catch your own Breakfast
The surrounding area has over 200kms of rivers filled with wild trout – a fly-fisherman’s paradise. Why not bring your rod and try to catch breakfast for the family.
8. Learn about San Rock Art
There are many unique and interesting Rock Art sites in the region. We have a local qualified archaeologist who conducts tours and can explain the symbolism of the paintings.
9. Put the Mountain into Mountain Biking
Mountain bike tracks abound in this farming district. Bring your own bikes and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings while cycling at your own pace. Guided tours can also be arranged throughout the surrounding areas. Your guide selects the route according to the clients’ fitness levels and technical riding skills. These tours are suitable for the leisurely family picnic mountain bikers to the adrenaline downhill junkies.
10. Get Down on the Farm
Most of the accommodation in the area is based on working farms. So if you’ve ever wanted to learn to milk a cow, feed baby lambs or take part in a cattle drive on horseback, this is your opportunity.
11. Ride High
Guided motorbike and quad tours at high altitude are available for all levels of rider. Enjoy the stunning scenery and test your technical ability.
12. Go Up The Creek with a Paddle
Jump into a two-man inflatable raft and enjoy a relaxing guided paddle down the scenic River Kraai. Rafting trips vary in length according to your needs and the river flow. You will travel through beautiful sandstone gorges, draped with willow trees and will have the opportunity to stop and admire the bird life, caves and bushman paintings.
13. Do It All!
Wild Mountain Adventures offers a 5 day activity holiday which takes the slackpacking concept to a whole new level as you can experience a different mode of transport each day – hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and finally river rafting on the Kraai. This unique trail includes an optional overnight camp in a cave, visiting rock art sites, staying in farm cottages, rock pool swimming and plenty of bird watching opportunities. Each trip is tailored according to the interests, fitness levels and experience of the group so is suitable for all ages.
Further information regarding Wild Mountain Country can be obtained from Kate Nelson on +27 (0)45 971-9064