7 Explorers and an Antbear Travel the Berg

by | Nov 15, 2016 | Carmen Barends, Travel Stories

When I put 7 creative explorers together, (most of which I have only met online) and planned a weekend out in the Berg, you had better know there is an adventure on hand.  One that will have a great story to tell and new friendships to bear.

Friday afternoon was unseasonably warm for the tail end of Winter. But since I am a Summer kind of gal, that made me pretty happy. My photographer friend and I (Kirsten Hughes Photography) headed out towards Mooi River and the green rolling farmlands for the weekend. There is something about those beautiful fields dotted with cattle and the towering storm clouds backed by the Drakensberg that makes my heart sing. There is the kind of peace to it that is only nature can provide.

After a couple of stops for photographs, we took the turn to Antbear Lodge all the while identifying birds along the way.

Antbear Lodge, Central Drakensberg

On arrival, the spirited London greets us and welcomes us heartily to the Lodge while we walk in. Here we meet the ever-smiling Dom and are acquainted with some of the Bloggers, Inge Loker (Snap, Sizzle & Cook) and Nicola Meyer (Run on Coffee); where we decide to gather later at the honesty bar before supper. Yes, you heard me right. To explain – it is a casual room with comfy couches, a TV and fireplace with a great big wooden bar where you can select your drinks, write them down in the book and pay at the end of your stay. Do things like this still exist? Here, they do!

We are led out by London on a whirlwind tour of the premises and to go greet the horses. I look for Spot who I rode last time I was out, but all the horses seem to want to come and greet, which is a heartwarming sight for me (I grew up on a farm and still enjoy interacting with these beautiful creatures).

Antbear Lodge door

I am led in the direction of the Luxury Cave. It has a magnificent view of the fields and mountains that begs for a deck chair and a cup of coffee – which is exactly the first thing I did after putting down my luggage.  There is something inside of me that longs for the quiet of nature. It is a hustling, busy and peaceful thing. Birds chattering, crickets chirping, bushes rustling. But all without the industrial noise and sounds we are so accustomed to. It is this that I have come for.

To slow down and enjoy the peace in the tranquil surroundings that are Antbear Lodge.

Antbear Vista

After indulging in a hot cuppa joe and watching the sun sink into the clouds we head up to the Lodge to go meet and greet. The moon is out and some German guests warn us smilingly about the lions they saw last night, much to our amusement. I hear laughter coming from up ahead and see a group of ladies nattering jovially. I walk over just knowing that this is my group of creative friends.

We settle in at the long dining table (that harkens back to Viking times in my imagination) with all the guests including the German contingency. It is always a treat seeing who will be at dinner with you at Antbear, the guests coming from far and wide to enjoy their hospitality. I see some new wooden additions at the table in the form of the side plates hand made in the carpentry workshop on the Lodge grounds. Most of the intricate woodwork designs are made right here from left over wood on the farm or cut offs, giving the sustainability ethos of the Lodge more impetus. These side plates are made from eucalyptus whose sweet smell fragrances the air and compliments desserts while lending an earthy and warm feeling to the plating of the meals.

These meals are a particular highlight for me because…well….I do so enjoy food and I find that during my time here there is always a delicious surprise in wait for me. The food is not only creative and tasty, but beautifully presented and farm fresh. Once again local produce is used and as far as possible grown or sourced on the farm with the likes of veggies, milk, eggs, cheese and the ever-moreish, home-made bread.

Antbear dining

Sitting around the fire with Verushka (Spice Goddess), Cee (Ceeces Travel) and Megan Deane (Stuffed Feeling) I begin to chat about what the plans are for the next day. We have some very heavy weather predicted to move in overnight but decide to get a fairly early start to see whether we take a microlight flip, go horse riding, hiking or learn some more about carpentry before it really sets in. With some options decided on we all drift off to our various rooms to rest and relax.

The Cave is something truly different. A room with a difference including a jacuzzi with a view and a bathroom with a shower you could swing a cat in (just an expression I assure you). Although I did meet a very camouflaged eight-legged fellow who was quite keen on watching himself preen and enjoy the vapor from the shower on the mirror (nature – it gets in everywhere) in the adjoining room. You literally feel like you are standing under a waterfall with the stone in varying shades echoing the water as it splashes on the ground. Back inside the cave, the Nguni and leather strap chairs are something you would expect from colonial Africa back in the day but in saying this, ironically, they add a modern touch to the room. They sit alongside a table in front of a big window with a wooden tree emblem dividing the view.

The decidedly different use of wood is also reflected in the large cupboard with an intricate closing mechanism that could have any carpenter grinning if he saw it, while the fireplace in the corner is a testament to the weather that changes so rapidly in the Berg (as it was currently doing).  As I climb into the warm bed I look at the patterning of the suede curtains and marvel how the little zigzag pattern goes so well with the ochre colour of the stone walls and before I know it… I have wandered off to sleep.

Carentry dreams

 

Antbear cave decor

I awake to a foreboding, clouded horizon. It looks like all the wishing has not changed the forecast (surprise!). But I am eager to find some adventure. While some of the ladies head off to ride horses in a gap in the drizzle, I head with others for a quick tour of the sustainable gardens. The veggies are growing well and the apple flowers are a pretty pink. Much time and effort is put into planting and composting here to get the best results and in doing so keep the Lodge living as much as possible off the land. I am pleased to hear that Andrew, the Lodge owner, has offered to give us a carpentry lesson and we head off to the workshop to see how it is all done.

Who thought a bunch of ladies could have so much fun in a workshop. We all ended up making serving plates under Andrew’s tuition and grinning while sanding down the wood edges to add the finishing touch. What a novel experience to be having, just like this very special Lodge. Talk about making sawdust while it rains (hay while the sun shines…except the sun wasn’t out).

I discover while we are eating some hearty soup that we are unable to head to our second leg of the journey at Zingela Lodge due to very poor road conditions with all the rain. Andrew kindly offers to host our group for another day, which we gladly accept.

I am in need to another piece of adventure and head out in a rain break to go for a walk. My bestie and I decide to climb halfway up the hill and are rewarded with a beautiful view over the trees out beyond into the valley and out to the mountains. Tiny little wild flowers are buffeted by the breeze as I sit and appreciate the view and the spectacular clouds. Kirsten, who has the ability to find hearts in anything (and almost everything), finds a beautiful little rock heart while we are sitting taking a quick breather before returning down the hill.

 

Mountain view

We return to hear that the Sharks have swum to victory in their game and that the ladies took up a bit of comedic commentary in the process. They are all comfortable by the fire on the couches, having snacked on slap chips that the kitchen whipped up for them. Hospitality at its best 🙂

After another evening at the dining table, enthusing about the gastronomic treats, I head back to the room. I feel quite touched that we have been treated so well on my first media educational trip that I have organised. Even if the weather hasn’t quite played along. The idea was to show off some of what we have in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands area and boy were we spoilt.

Great hospitality, idyllic views and out of the ordinary experiences.

That is what one can expect to experience in KwaZulu-Natal and definitely at Antbear Lodge. I hope that this will be one of many trips with this group, but I also hope that people are brave enough to step out of the everyday establishments and experience what it is this great Province has to offer.

You can find more information on this Lodge at their website (http://antbear.co.za/) or book online for a visit (Click here for online bookings).

Also find them on the following social media channels:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

In addition to this, if you type in ‘#TravetheBerg’ into your Browser, you can view some of the antics we all got up to.

In the meantime, I am off to source another adventure.

Until then…..see you on the road.

Recent Tweets