Eric Loizeau, mountaineer and sailor, tells us about his getaway in the Drakensberg, organized by the XO Events team:
At the end of our trip, contemplating the magnificent spectacle of the vast desert expanses that we viewed through the window of our vehicle taking us back to Johannesburg, I thought that I definitely love Africa. I do not get tired of these sublime landscapes that we are likely to see, its authentic peoples, whether in the heart of the Maghreb, Central Africa from Senegal to Kilimanjaro, or in the southern part between Namibia and South Africa.
This time, our goal was to go for few days, in almost complete autonomy, to the extraordinary natural cross border separating the Drakensberg and Lesotho, a tiny independent state in the middle of the huge South Africa.
For Franck Addison and myself, it was a kind of homecoming, since we had both participated in the Gauloises Raid organized here in 1998. It was the desire to see this magnificent country peacefully for 10 or 11 days of racing, that we had decided to convince our fellow travelers to join us.
Our team was made up of 4 women and 4 men, who are strong walkers and we were accompanied by two South African guides and 4 holders. Our journey was divided into two sections of four days allowing us to have the most complete overview of the landscapes and reach the highest point of the Drakensberg, the large flat top, on the border of Lesotho.
Exploring the Drakensberg in April is probably the best time to do it. This is during beautiful autumn, which is much drier than summer, and it is true that during these ten days, we had amazing weather, much better that I had expected, and that was good. Although the nights, with the high altitude (we slept two nights over 3000 meters) were cold, as soon as the sun rose in the morning above the horizon, temperatures became much more reasonable. So we kept our raincoats at the bottom of our bags.
We walked about fifteen miles a day, covering between 800 and 1,200 vertical meters in both directions on roads sometimes barely drawn. Starting at 8:30 in the morning after a healthy breakfast, we had a picnic lunch stop around noon. We spent each day in dream locations, to arrive, in the late afternoon, to the site of the camp where we set up our tents for the traditional aperitif, followed by dinner served in our largest tent.
Another uniqueness, unlike treks in Nepal or in many touristic countries, we encountered no other hikers, or natives, except for a few shepherds in the highlands of Lesotho. This all obviously depends on what you are looking for!