Champagne Castle

A few weeks ago (well - EIGHT, to be exact), Immy and I took a trip to one of my favourite places in this world: the Drakensberg.

I pick a new place each time we go, so that we can experience a new part of the mountains, a new place to stay, new people, and new adventures. I love the old-fashioned hotels where meals are all provided, huge fireplaces grace the formal and informal lounges, and dinner is preceded by drinks on the terrace while the sun slips away behind huge, shadowy crags.

This time around we stayed at Champagne Castle, and it was perfect.

Our room overlooked the mountain, and from the very first morning we were captivated by the view. She coloured in and I drank coffee and we both breathed in deep of whatever was on offer: bright, sunny skies, liquid gold afternoons, and soft gray mornings when the mountain hid behind a veil of clouds and we curled up in front of the fire, playing card games and drinking hot chocolate.

We hiked every day. The first hike we did turned out to be almost seven hours long. We walked much further than we had initially intended, but it was so beautiful that we just kept going, Eventually, exhausted, Immy sat down in the middle of the path, and said: Mama. I'm tired.

I looked at her, and down at the hotel, which at that point was a tiny speck in the valley below us. She drank some water, ate a snack and we walked the 5km back to the hotel, hand-in-sweaty-hand. I was so proud of her.

The best thing for me about being in the mountains is that somehow my mind stops working. All the difficult things that I'm sure I HAVE to think about while I'm trudging up a mountain skitter away when I try to grab them. Instead, I'm completely immersed in every single detail around me: the absolute smallness of us, the sound of our footsteps, the way Immy's chatter washes over me, the hair that curls damply off her neck and temples, the stretchy feeling in my thighs when we walk uphill, the shaded forest paths where clouds of tiny coral butterflies dance around us, cupped hands scooping icy water from gurgling streams for us to drink our fill.

Of course we accumulated treasures along the way. Tiny pine cones, and oh! A chameleon. It was love at first sight, and I was reminded of Dory in Finding Nemo: I shall call him Skippy, and he shall be mine.

Skippy clung to Immy all the way until we reached the waterfall, where we set him free. Judging from his facial expressions , I think it was with some relief that Skippy made his way back home.

An entirely different adventure awaited us in the form of Kyle. They became friends at the swimming pool on the second day, and at dinner that night Kyle took her by the hand to the dessert table to show her how to order a pancake, and what the absolute BEST toppings were.

She confided in me later: Mama. Sometimes when I'm with him, I feel like I'm in love. I don't know why.

I took them for a sunset walk to the dam. He found her a walking stick, and then they both proceeded to try and outrun each other and fight over who was the leader ALL THE WAY THERE.

On our second-last day, we did another long hike. We turned left instead of right. It was a much easier walk, with gentle slopes covered in the greenest grass I've ever seen. We picked up another chameleon (the ecstasy!), and called him Charlie. Immy was limp with laughter every time I yelled 'Thanks for NOTHING, socks!' because my socks kept slipping into the backs of my shoes and I had to keep tugging them up again. I lost my sunglasses, and walked right through a thorny tangle of branches, only stopping when I looked down and saw half a dozen thorns embedded in the flesh of my leg.

Totally worth it.

I am so glad we got to do this again. Every time feels like an enormous privilege, passing the days within the protective arms of the mountains, blue skies above and our hearts connecting below.

And I'm always, always amazed that even though I consciously shrug off all the burning questions and tumbling emotions, in my dreams at night things become crystal clear and I wake up in the mountain air feeling grateful, and whole, and completely at peace.


Dad said…
Lovely post Moogs. Beautiful photos and great words as usual.