Getting up close and personal

Last full day in the mountains today. We were up early, and the sun was glorious – hardly a cloud to be seen. We hadn’t planned much past breakfast, after which we retired to the room to sit and read for a bit. It was clouding over quite a lot, and we heard the thunder starting, so were glad we hadn’t set out on another walk. We read a bit more, then went for tea, and while trying to decide what to do, we had the idea to get on one of the local helicopter flights if they were available.

I rang the helicopter place (a technical term), and booked a flight for two of us to do a round trip to see the area and get right up to the big mountains. As we were about to set off we got a text from the pilot to say that drizzle would interfere with the flight, so we postponed, and were told to wait patiently. We read, had lunch, and waited (almost) patiently, and at about 1350, got a message to get down to the airfield, which is only 5 minutes drive away.

Flying up Wonder Valley
Flying up Wonder Valley
Waterfall from the air
Waterfall from the air
Gatberg up close
Gatberg up close
Cathkin and Monks Cowl - map of Africa
Cathkin and Monks Cowl – map of Africa
Aerial view of waterfall
Aerial view of waterfall
We stopped on a plateau at about 2000m to have a glass of champagne
We stopped on a plateau at about 2000m to have a glass of champagne
Side view of Cathkin Peak
Side view of Cathkin Peak
Cathedral Peak range
Cathedral Peak range
Coming back in to land
Coming back in to land

We arrived, signed up, and crossed the field to find a tiny helicopter that seats 4 (including the pilot) waiting for us. We had a quick briefing, climbed in, and then went on a magical flight. We crossed two of the valleys that lead down from the main mountains, then flew up into the main range. We passed fabulous waterfalls, and had all-round views for miles along the Drakensberg range. We rose above the small berg (the foothills), and then flew in and around the main mountains that I know and love so well. Sterkhorn, Monks Cowl, Cathkin Peak, Champagne Castle, – we could have touched them all.

We also had really great views along the Southern and Northern ranges, and hugged the great mountains for a while, before landing on top of the small berg once more. Our pilot gave us each a glass of champagne, and we had a few minutes to take pictures and marvel before climbing in to take off again and fly back along the small berg range, again flying very close to the sandstone in places, before getting back to the airflied and landing safely.

It was a really incredible experience, and for once Lena was not scared of the flying (she normally gets very nervous on a flight). I would recommend this to anyone who knows or loves the berg.

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