Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Leaving for Pietermaritzburg

October 3rd we traveled from Giants Castle to Pietermaritzburg, a distance that took us around two hours on curvy narrow roads, to the highway, from mountains to the subtropic climate closer to the Indian Ocean.

We were recommended to choose another route from Giants Castle, not back to Estcourt, but down to Nottingham Road and turn right to Highway N3 from there. This brought us through a landscape that actually reminded us more of Central Europe or Scotland, than Africa. Round hills and dense forested areas and we still saw the mighty Drakensberg mountains in the horizon for a very long time.

The sense of being on the British Isles was strengthened further by the fact that most of the names of the area were of Scottish, English, or maybe Irish origin.

What we really found interesting was the number of fires that had scarred the landscape, and we even saw one or two still burning not far from road to the road. It may have been created deliberately according to local farming practice but it strange that both cultivated areas, as well as grasslands and forests had been burnt along our way.

We had a few times, during our drive, been afraid that we had been lost, but as we reached Nottingham Road we knew we were on the right way and close to the N3 Highway. Nottingham Road was a small community with a sign that clearly led us to the main highway connecting Durban with Johannesburg, and we were going south.

As we passed the small town of Howick we drove down the hills leading down to the lower parts of Kwazulu-Natal. As we got closer to the Pietermaritzburg area we once again saw the poverty so typical for the urban areas of this country. Some of the worst townships seen on our trips in the form of small, lousy, wooden sheds, was located just a stones throw away from the heavy traffic.

Finally we could see the capital of Kwazulu-Natal from a high hill and from here there were steep roads down to the city. We clearly noticed the change from the dry cooler air up in the mountains and neighbouring highlands and the humid heat closer to the coast.

We were to stay at the Ain Tree Lodge, not far from the casino for two nights.

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