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Bergville is the Gateway to the Northern Drakensberg
Bergville is a small town of South Africa and is know as the gateway to the Northern Drakensberg. Bergville hosts an office of the Drakensberg Publicity Association. The third Friday of each month sees the local cattle sales. Less than 50km from the towering Amphitheatre of Royal Natal, this ideally-situated agricultural and trading centre of Bergville was laid out in 1897 by a retired sea captain. British forces built a blockhouse in the settlement two years later at the onset of the Anglo-Boer War - that building is now a Monument and Museum within the grounds of the Bergville Court House.
Between Bergville and the Royal Natal National Park is the Zulu handicraft center of Thandanani that sells a variety of traditional beadwork, woodwork and baskets.
Not far from Bergville is the Spioenkop Battlefield and Dam resort and the Rangeworthy Cemetery that holds the graves of those killed in the battles of Spioenkop and Bastion Hill.
Less than 50 km from the towering heights of the Drakensberg, the village of Bergville is perfectly positioned for those journeying to resorts and reserves in the Northern Drakensberg. An agricultural and trading centre, the town was laid out in 1897 by a retired mariner, the town was laid out in 1897 by a retired mariner, Captain Wales. The Actor Homes settlement 16 km from the town preceded the development of present day Bergville. The offices of the Drakensberg Publicity Association are in the centre of the town.
How to get there - Harrismith 76 km, Ladysmith 50 km.
Banks - Absa, Fnb
Community - Breakdown Services, Car Hire, Churches 3, Police Station
Health - Pharmacy, Provincial Hospital
Rivers - Ebusingatha
Contains graves of soldiers killed in the Anglo Boer War Battles of Spioenkop and Bastion Hill
San Rock Art and Cave Museum
Upper Tugela Blockhouse
A National Monument built by the British during the Anglo Boer War, this unique structure is now a Moth Shellhole. In the court house grounds.
Flora and fauna
Royal Natal National Park
Royal Natal was proclaimed in 1916, and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. The main feature of the area is the Amphitheatre, a rock wall about 5 km in length, and approximately 500 m in height.
What to do on arrival
An entrance fee is payable at the park’s entrance gate. Visitors to Rugged Glen Campsite and Mahai Campsite must therefore arrange to arrive before sunset. Visitors to Tendele must report directly to the Tendele office, whilst Mahai and Rugged Glen Campsite visitors must report to the Visitor Centre.
Tendele Hutted Camp is situated in one of the most picturesque settings in the country, with a view of the world famousAmphitheatre from every bungalow. The camp can accommodate up to 114 people in eight two bed bungalows, five four bed bungalows, six two bed chalets, seven four bed chalets and two six bed cottages. (Extra pull out bed available on request for bungalows and chalets). A cot can be booked for children under two years. A central lounge for visitors is situated adjacent to the reception office. In addition there is the Tendele Lodge, which offers accommodation for six people. This fully equipped, luxurious lodge has three en suite bedrooms, each with two single beds, a kitchen, large living area with fireplace and an outdoor braai. In the bungalows, cottages and lodge, food is prepared by cooks, but the new chalet accommodation is self catering. Visitors wash their own dishes. In both cases visitors must bring their own food and beverage. Food will be accepted for cooking until 18:00 from April to September, and until 18:30 from October to March. The kitchens close and staff depart by 19:30. kettles, toasters and fridges are provided in each bungalow. Plug points for electric razors are available only in the chalets.
Caters for up to 400 campers and caravanners. There are ablution blocks with hot and cold water and a number of electrical plug points are available. The camp ground is set amidst trees, with a large central open space where children may play in perfect safety.
Rugged Glen Campsite
Which caters for 45 visitors, has hot and cold water, and a number of electrical plug points.
At the visitors centre and at Tendele cater for visitors who wish to buy souvenirs. Soft drinks, trout and a limited range of food stuffs are available at the main Visitor Centre. Soft drinks, sweets, chips, and biscuits are available at Tendele.
Royal Natal National Park Hotel
A licensed hotel, run by a lessee, is situated in the park. As in the case of Tendele, advance reservations are necessary. Meals may be obtained by arrangement with the hotel. There is a small shop at the hotel, which stocks basic supplies such as bread and milk, some frozen meat and tinned food, as well as sweets, tobacco, cold drinks and ice cream. The hotel has an off sales service in Bergville
The average rainfall varies from about 1040 mm, to over 1780 mm a year, 85 % of which falls between October and March. Thunderstorms, usually of short duration, provide about 50 % of the total rainfall.
The most popular activity enjoyed by visitors is hiking. A comprehensive contour map and a brochure, describing the various hiking routes, are on sale at the Visitors Centre, Tendele office and the entrance gate. The brochure contains a map of the park and the network of paths. Visitors who go hiking must be aware of the hazards, particularly those associated with weather, such as slippery conditions when it is wet, rockfalls and cold. When it is hot, hikers are advised to wear a hat and to take along plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration. Care should be exercised. It is always advisable to plan walks, so as to return in good time before sunset.
Is a pursuit which should only be attempted by experienced climbers.
In the park has limited appeal. Because of the nature of the river, fishing is better in the dam. A fishing license and a permit must be obtained before fishing. Provincial licence and park permits are obtainable at the Visitors Centre. Only trout fishing equipment is permitted. There is trout fishing available at Rugged Glen dam as well.
Is also available. All riding is conducted from Rugged Glen, and bookings must be made in advance at the stables.
Too is popular, and visitors are encouraged to take a pack lunch with them in their walks. The making of fires on these occasions is strictly forbidden. All refuse must be brought back to base for disposal. Swimming is perfectly safe in all the rivers, but is not allowed in the Mahai stream above the domestic water offtake, which is sign posted, or in the Devil’s Hoek stream above the Tendele Camp pumphouse or above the Vemvaan weir. Visitors are urged to leave information with the camp, the hotel or with friends, as to where they are going if they intend to take any of the longer walks. Alternatively, one of the hiking registers, kept at the visitor centre and the hotel, should be filled in. In case of an emergency, notify the visitor centre or the hotel. All persons planning to hike over the 2300 m contour, or to the summit of Mont aux sources, must first sign the mountain register at the office.
No pets are allowed into the park. Visitors are not allowed to sleep in caves, or to camp anywhere other than in designated areas. When hiking keep to designated paths and avoid shortcuts. Entrance gates to the park and campsites open and close at the following times Summer (1 October – 31 March) 05:00 – 19:00, Winter ( 1 April – 30 September) 06:00 – 18:00. Traffic to the Royal Natal National Park Hotel has 24 hour access. Bergville, 46 km away, is the best source for supplies.
How to get there
From the north, turn off just south of Ladysmith and follow the Bergville road for 55 km. the road from Bergville is clearly signposted, and the park is 46 km further along the Bergville / Harrismith road. From the south, turn off the main national road (N 3) at the Winterton / Berg Resorts turn off, and pass through Winterton and Bergville. Turn left at the Drakensberg North signboard. It is approximately 16 km from there to the Royal Natal entrance gate. Both these routes are tarred. The park is also accessible from Harrismith (72 km)via the Oliviershoek Pass. From Harrismith take the Betlehem Road for 6 km, and turn onto the Witsieshoek / Qwa Qwa road. Follow the signs to Oliviershoek Pass. Royal Natal and Bergville. The road is tarred all the way.
Drakensberg Boys Choir
Scenic Self Drives
It is difficult to single out scenic routes in the Drakensberg as the whole area is majestically beautiful. However, there are two which locals say no visitors should miss: Oliviershoek Pass and Mike’s Pass.
Originally known by the early Voortrekker settlers as ‘Sungubala’ (where you overcome a difficulty), the modern road up the Oliviershoek Pass is tarred. Take the R74 from Bergville. The road winds all the way up the pass and there is a viewing point, which yields grand mountain vistas. This road crosses the border into the former Orange Free State and phutaditjhaba
Cathedral Peak Valley
Fittingly named after Mike de Villiers, the forester who pain stakingly and skillfully located and developed the main route, Mike’s Pass offers quite a spectacular panoramic view of the main escarpment as you reach the summit of the Little Berg. From here you can see Cathedral Peak (3004 m), Cleft Peak (3281 m), Indunmeni Dome (3255 m) and Cathkin Peak (3149 m). At the top of the pass is an excellent picnic spot. In good weather the family car will make the climb but in the rainy season you will need a four wheel drive vehicle.
How to get to Mike’s Pass
From Winterton proceed over the railway line onto the R600. After 1 km there is a turn off to Cathedral Peak on the right. Take this turn off and follow the Cathedral Peak signs right up towards the Cathedral Peak Hotel and the KZNNCS gate, where an entrance fee is payable.
Thandanami Handcraft Centre
Baskets, beadwork, woodwork and a range of other traditional handcraft is produced by the local Amazizi people and sold at the Thandanani Handcraft Centre. A traditional Amazizi (Iron Agr Pastoralists) first settled in the Northern Drakensberg in the early 18th century. Steadily driving the Bushmen out of the area. Their dialect with it’s strange clicks and some of their customs are a result of Bushman influence.
How to get to Thandanani
Take the R74 from Bergville to the Northern ‘Berg resorts, 30 km before the entrance to Royal Natal National Park you will find Thandanani situated on the right, just after crossing the Ebusingatha River. The centre is brightly coloured to resemble beadwork and has a thatched roof.
Despite the plethora of information available on the Drakensberg, many would be hikers find themselves intimidates by the soaring pinnacles and massive buttresses. While inexperienced hikers are ill advised to attempt the grueling hikes in the area without thorough preparation and a high level of fitness, there are countless short hikes which can be undertaken by anyone who owns a pair of walking shoes. The nice thing about hiking in the ‘Berg is that there are many spectacular attractions which can be reached mainly with leisurely walking and the minimum of climbing. Each resort can recommend a series of short day hikes, which crisscross pristine mountain streams and indigenous fern forests. So don’t be daunted. Put on those walking boots and inhale some fresh ‘Berg air. If you are going to tackle one of the longer hikes, make sure you sign the hiking register at your resort or at the beginning of the trail. Always make sure you are adequately equipped. Blizzard conditions on the upper ‘ Berg can arrive unexpectedly – even in summer
WHERE TO STAY
Ntenjwa Bush Camp – Bergville
Enjoy the peace and tranquility in the seclusion of your own exclusive bushcamp on the banks of the Spioenkop Dam. Fully equipped, self catering, sleeps eight persons in four A framed bedrooms. Communal boma for cooking. No electricity – gas stoves, lamps, fridge, geysers, etc. provided. Canoes available at no cost. Fishing, game viewing, hiking, bird watching, waterskiing. Bookings essential.