Travel Serendipity – An Unexpected Encounter in the Drakensberg

I appreciated some serendipity in the Drakensberg; a compelling motive for choosing to travel. Discovering the unexpected is a large part of the appeal for me. It provides the excitement, exploring a world where even the remotest corners have been thoroughly surveyed and mapped. Anticipating a new discovery, finding something different or unexpected is a driving force for all modern-day explorers.

The unique landscapte of the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa near Durban  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-90_drakensberg

The unique landscape of the Drakensberg

Encounters with wildlife are amazing experiences, taking our breath away and providing memories that can last a lifetime. However I often find meetings with people equally satisfying, the culture of any destination is fascinating. Just a few moments interacting with the local population, through gestures, broken English and a few words of their language is usually a very enjoyable diversion. Attempting to capture a little of their character in a digital image is often a worthwhile challenge too.

On a recent trip to South Africa the opportunity arose to take a short hike into the Drakensberg mountains. The Crystal Falls and the ‘Sphinx’, a large rock sculpted by the elements to resemble its more famous but artificially produced cousin in Giza was a leisurely three-hour hike from our base. Our driver Tom, provided some welcome company.

Zulu women in the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa near Durban  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-92 zulu_women

Modern Zulu women

After reaching Sphinx rock we decided to walk on for a few more minutes and we were fortunate enough to meet a group of lovely Zulu women balancing bundles of long grass on their heads. We exchanged pleasantries and they agreed to allow me to take a few photographs.

Zulu women in the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa near Durban  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-96 zulu_women

Resting near The Sphinx

Zulu woman in the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa near Durban on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-93 zulu_woman

Balancing act

Their faces lit up and they giggled like young schoolgirls when I showed them the results, obviously pleased to see their images on the small LCD screen of my camera. Their reaction was spontaneous, they did not seem self-conscious and their mirth was infectious, making it impossible to resist grinning back.

This was a fleeting but highly enjoyable meeting, interacting with these striking women turned a pleasant but mundane hike into a memorable one. There had also been a chance to witness a highly energetic performance by a Zulu dance troupe and some storytelling in a village. These had been worthwhile but obviously commercially staged, this unexpected meeting was much more enjoyable due to its spontaneous nature.

Zulu women in the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa near Durban on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-94 zulu_women

Returning home with their loads

It was in fact a highlight of my visit to South Africa, one of a series of moments, which turned a pleasant trip into a special one.

Zulu women resting in the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa near Durban on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-97 zulu_women

Chilling in the Drakensberg

*A compact camera was used for all images, hopefully they do these beautiful women justice.

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Comments 20

  1. Zoë Dawes

    What a lovely article Iain – you have captured some great shots and also the spirit of these beautiful women and stunning country. I visited very many years ago and these images brought back a very memorable experience.

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      Iain

      Thank you Zoe I’m really glad you liked reading the post and it brought back some pleasant memories. The landscape is stunning but the women were the most pleasant surprise.

  2. Laurel

    Love hiking in the Drakensberg and the Zulu people are so warm and friendly. When I visited our guide was really excited as his village was getting electricity.

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      Iain

      It is a beautiful and unique landscape Laurel, that statement about the electricity says all that needs to be said about the Zulu people and Africa.

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      Iain

      Thank you Judith and agree travelling is about real experiences, genuinely unexpected encounters, they make it all the more authentic and enjoyable to merely doing guidebook recommended sightseeing.

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  3. Louise Hardy

    These photos are beautiful – a reminder of why I’m proudly South African. One thing I need to mention (for the sake of people who read this with the intention of visiting South Africa) is that the Drakensberg is not near Durban. It’s about two to two and a half hours away by car. I know this because I live in Durban and travel to and from the Drakensberg every year. Besides that, this is a lovely, inspiring article.

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      Iain

      Thanks Louise I’m glad you like the pics. I considered just a couple hours from Durban was relatively close in such a large country but thank you for clarifying.

  4. budget jan

    This is the reason most of us travel, yet it is something that either happens or doesn’t happen, and I for one always feel honoured when it does. Loved this post.

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      Iain

      I agree Jan it is indeed the main reason most of travel, serendipity is extremely appealing to us all. I’m really pleased you enjoyed the post.

  5. Dean

    I agree. It is those unexpected, spontaneous moments that make travel so exciting. It is something that you can’t plan, it just happens, and it is those moments that often become the highlight of a trip.

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      Iain

      I do agree Dean and have a saying “the adventure of a lifetime may take a great deal of planning but the greatest adventures of all are probably totally unplanned”.

  6. fred mucai

    This article has really captured the essence of travel, especially when you talk about the unexpected encounter with the Zulu dance troupe and the storytelling. It is just this sort memory that lingers and is so valuable to a traveler.

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      Iain

      Thank you Fred, I love meeting people and especially in natural and often surprising circumstances, they always seem to last in my memory longest.

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  7. escapadist

    South Africa has wonderful scenery. Green areas, vines… They should show these places off more often. The image most of us have is about savannas, arid plains, sandy deserts, cliffs on the shore.

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