After our very brief visit to Lesotho, we headed to Golden Gate Highlands National Park.  Tucked away in the Maluti mountains bordering Lesotho and just a 30 minute drive from the quaint little town of Clarens.

We knew that the area has moody weather, but we weren’t really prepared of how moody it can get.  We arrived late in the evening and had to set up camp in the rain.  Hungry, cold and wet we settled in for the night in the hope that the new day would bring warm sunshine.

We woke up to a fierce wind.  No amount of sunshine could pierce through it’s icy grip.  Don’t let the pictures fool you.  It was cold and we had a constant sad. Slightly demotivated, we actually didn’t know what to do with ourselves.  You may have realized by now that we love to get out and explore, hike, chase the sunrise, revel in natural beauty and discover everything that a place has to offer.

Instead we spent our first day at the park in the shelter of our camp site, wishing and hoping  that the weather would clear.

We attempted to do a sunrise hike the next day, but again the wind made it’s presence known.  We eventually plucked up the courage to hike up to the iconic Brandwag Rock which towers protectively over the camp.  So despite of the chilly wind we thoroughly enjoyed the 30 minute hike, which gently winds up to the summit of Brandwag. We spent a few moments taking in the sweeping views of park, working really hard to stand up straight.  Did I mention the wind was fierce?

After our short hike we decided to visit Clarens for lunch.  The weather was far better, warm sunshine, no icy wind and a whole host of great places to eat.  Bernie is a craft beer lover so we decided to lunch at the Claren’s brewery, we snacked on a Ploughman’s platter and tasted some of their delicious beer, well worth the visit we think!

We spent a few hours in Clarens visiting the art galleries, craft stores and antique shops before heading back to camp.

It seemed that our bad luck didn’t end at the weather.  Our inflatable mattress decided it had enough, after a rough night with no sleep we were extremely grateful for our very helpful camp neighbour!  He took control of the situation and fixed our mattress.  The lesson there is if you have an inflatable mattress make sure you take a repair kit with you.

We spent the next few days relaxing and exploring the park by car, the weather didn’t really allow for much more.

I know for certain that we will have to go back so that we can hike a little more.

Here are a few things you can do if you are in the area:

  1. Golden Gate Park offers 8 hiking trails of varying difficulty.  The Brandwag Rock Hike is easy, and is can be accessed from the Van Reenen Camp Site
  2. The park also boasts a ‘Vulture Restuarant’.  Not to be confused with an actual restaurant.  A vulture hide has been set up by the park so that bird lovers can watch the majestic Bearded Vulture feed on carcasses.  We weren’t lucky enough to see any, apparently the high winds deter wild life too.
  3. There are 2 game drive loops that you can take to explore the park by car and plenty of view points where you can spend a few extra moments admiring the beautiful views.
  4. Clarens is a short drive away, so if you fancy some shopping, art gallery visiting and munching on delicious food then add that to your itinerary.
  5. If you don’t fancy camping Golden Gate has a hotel and a mountain retreat to choose from.

This is a very special place, the clean mountain air, the abundant wild life, the gurgling springs and streams and the glorious mountains are a perfect combination of nature.  Golden gate is a mere 3 hour drive from Johannesburg and a perfect weekend break away for those seeking to be in nature with the convenience of a small town close by.

So for a very relaxing break in the most perfect setting be sure to add Golden Gate Highlands National Park to your wanderlist!

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