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,