Dear Minister of Tourism

Dear Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom

Greetings from the Drakensberg! I have been incredibly privileged to grow up in this remote part of South Africa and since I was a young girl my dream was always to come back and be involved in the family business. Fortunately, this was possible and we have spent the past 17 years working hard to keep relevant in today’s market.

Our Resort is situated in the Northern KZN Drakensberg, adjacent to the Royal Natal National Park, home of the iconic Amphitheatre. This mountain is the most accessible in the Drakensberg and after just 2 hours of climbing one can ascend to the very top of the escarpment. It is truly magnificent.

It took me some time to appreciate its grandeur. When I was 10 years old I climbed the chain ladders in tears. I did it again at 17 because I was a teen and it was totally uncool to not join the gang. And, then my fear of heights seem to overwhelm me and it was only when I hit 40 and challenged myself to 40 consecutive days of hiking did I attempt it once more. The weather came in and in the sleet, at the bottom of the ladders, we abandoned the mission. I was relieved but disappointed and so the following year we decided to make it happen once more. We hiked from our home to Witsieshoek, the following day up the ladders… My 3 children and parents in tow… And I wept like a child but, I did it! And after we’d had our packed lunch, overlooking the Tugela Falls, the weather chased us down again! It’s high up there and there are many stories of adventure. Then, last year, for my father’s 70th, we did a traverse across the escarpment for 4 days and again I made it up the ladders!

This mountain is an incredible asset to SA and its tourism industry. Over the past 4 years and my 3 hikes I have watched improvements made to the pathways. It is impressive to see men and women creating an excellent walkway, taking into account the hikers and the terrain. And, I have been pleased with the paving of the road but this has sadly become a disappointment. Smaller vehicles can no longer reach the Sentinel Car Park where the hike starts. And while we believe funds are available, no progress seems to be made.

We heard, incidentally through social media, that the chain ladders are being replaced. This is good news. But, why is it that this iconic mountain is the poorer and seemingly irrelevant cousin to Table Mountain?

I would love to invite you for a visit. The toilet facilities at the Car Park are horrendous, and while the guards are pleasant and the views incredible, we are sitting on an asset which could be our Drakensberg flagship and yet, nothing seems to be happening terribly fast to see the benefit?

We would welcome a new dawn in the Drakensberg. A dawn which sees the people benefitting from their World Heritage Park through careful and committed planning and implementation. Tourism to this area would benefit the poorer communities and it would dazzle the tourists.

Fix the road, upgrade the parking, improve the ablutions, sell coffee and place a few benches at the view sites. Not only does this piece of mountain boast magnificent views, it is also home to endemic alpine plants, birds and wildlife which tourists would flock to see.

Here’s to a new Drakensberg dawn.

Yours in tourism,

Megan Bedingham

13 thoughts on “Dear Minister of Tourism”

  1. Thanks very much for replying Megan.
    I appreciate the advise. I have managed to sort with WitsiesHoek Resort. Looking forward to our trip!

  2. Hi Megan
    I will be bringing 2 groups to theCavern in March.
    Do you know how much progress has been made at the Amphitheatre?
    Best wishes

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hi Peter
      Apologies for the delay in responding. There has been work on the paths and an upgrade to the facilities at the Car Park but there is a section of road which is very rough. It would be best to have a vehicle with high clearance to get to the Car Park. Also, no actual work has been done on the ladders and we have had no further updates. I believe that many people are still using them even though they are “closed”.
      Do hope this helps a little.
      Best wishes,

      1. Hi Megan.
        I want to ask you if you know what the condition of the chain ladders is at this point in time?

        We are planning on doing this incredible hike on Saturday the 22nd February 2020.
        But I would like to know what we can expect when we get to the chain ladders.
        We do have a 4×4 vehicle.. But have to leave a corrola at a safe spot while we travel up to sentinel peak.
        Would you have any suggestions as to a resort or B n B that would happily car sit for us while we hike?

        Thank you for raising this vital issue of awareness of this incredible natural beauty.

        1. Megan Carte Bedingham

          Hi Mark
          The one ladder is closed and officially hikers are recommended to use the gulley but most choose to use the other ladder that has not altered/broken in any way.
          A 4×4 is recommended becaue the road has deteriorated terribly. I am sure if you contacted Witsieshoek Mountain Resort they would possibly allow you to park a vehicle in their car park for the day. They do assist with transfers if you need any additional help.
          Have a wonderful day out. It remains a magnificent area and well worth the effort!
          Best wishes,

  3. Thanks Megan for raising this issue, we all hope our road can be fixed soon.It’s even difficult for staff transport to travell cause they have to try to avoid driving on potholes & accident might happen when trying to avoid potholes.

  4. I regularly bring walking groups from Britain and guide them in the Drakensberg Mountains. We love coming here, staying in great hotels like the Cavernberg, and walking in your wonderful mountains. but the thing that most impresses my clients is the ascent of the Amphitheatre. Its a wonderful, atmospheric and challenging day out.
    Unfortunately, one of the toughest challenges is driving to the car park! It is unbelievably bad, particularly when we have to pay a toll to drive up it and then a have to pay another fee to park and walk. Please improve it.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Many thanks, Peter. So true. It is the highlight of many tourists’ travels to SA. Such an incredible hike with the most magnificent of views. The road does need urgent attention and we hope it may happen sooner than later! Our best wishes, Megan

  5. Chantal Sargent

    Megan- an outstanding representation of what the beautiful Drakensberg, and particularly, The Amphitheatre in all its splendour, has to offer. I was afforded the opportunity of those chain ladders and the view when I was fifteen. I have every intention of conquering the master again next year. I fully support a campaign to recognise, restore and maintain any facilities to allow this to happen, but also to maintain it’s magic, serenity and keep it slightly elusive, far from the madding crowd.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Thanks Chantal. It is a beautiful part of the berg but it does need an increase in visitors to ensure that it is carefully maintained and forever preserved. Fortunately the Drakensberg is extensive and not everyone can do the big climbs so I don’t think it would become overcrowded… We certainly do need a little bit of development to sustain the communities. Best wishes, Megan

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