It was one hot summer morning that I received my invitation from Herman Carstens. I was cordially invited to a formal evening, which included fantastic fine dining and a venue of insurpassable beauty. Of course I decided to go!
Like most formal events, the dress code was strict black tie and evening dress. Unlike most formal events it was on the top of the Drakensberg. The venue could not be reached by limo or car as with other formal events, the invitees had to hike up the mountain. The hike included a climb up chain ladders to get to the top of the Drakensberg and on top, inside and tied all around their packs was their formal attire, tables chairs, cutlery, fancy food and then all the normal berg camping equipment.
Of course, as with most plans to the Drakensberg, the weather follows its own head, and although it was the end of summer when the volatile Drakensberg weather was at its most stable, we still had a forecast of extreme wind. We started hiking at the Witsieshoek car park, the wind howling at us, daring us to turn around, and trying to turn us over in the process.
The hike was maybe a bit slower than normal, due to all the extra equipment we had on us, but everyone still had a smile on their face when we reached the top of the chain ladders. We decided we would set up our venue just over the hill of the Tugela river valley, close to the Ribbon falls. This would give us an excellent view of the Tugela falls as well as a bit more privacy for the evening's proceedings.
As the day progressed, a table was set, food preparations was started and then all the guests disappeared into their tents to get dressed. What emerged from the tents was completely in contrast with the surroundings and what you would normally expect in such a setting. Long formal dresses, make-up, high heels and jewellery for the ladies, the men had dinner jackets, ties and some even had bow-ties.
We all assembled for a photo session on the edge of the escarpment, the last rays of sunlight painting the cliffs of the escarpment in glorious orange. The wind was still trying its best to try and spoil our fun, but instead, it just gave that extra twist to the fantastic scenery making it really unforgettable. When we had our fill of the views (if that is ever possible) and when our stomachs rumbled for the fantastic meal waiting for us, we returned to our table.
After donning some warmer jackets for the evening's proceedings we made the final touches to the meals. The wind also seemed to sense that we would not be discouraged and settled down to the lightest of breezes. All the preparations was not in vain, the food was divine. From rocket, cranberry, pear and brie salad to fillet medallions in a succulent sauce. Champagne and wine accompanied the fantastic meal. It was all topped of with milk tart and a wide array of chocolates. Replete, we all sat back and enjoyed the fantastic moon rising, clouds playing around the escarpment's rim.
The next morning was equally fine and almost as windy, but not quite. After having our fill of sunrise vistas of the Drakensberg, we decided to go claim our peak for the MCSA 125th birthday and went up to Mount aux Sources peak via Crow's nest cave. One advantage of such windy weather is, usually the skies are also quite clear, sitting on top of the peak we could see for hundreds of kilometres, far beyond the escarpment rim.
Unfortunately like all great things, and quite frankly it was getting a bit cold on top of Mount aux Sources, we had to go back down, reclaim our packs that we didn't quite feel was necessary to carry all the way up to the peak, and head back down.
It was a fantastic weekend, and I hope our Extreme Dining event will become an annual instalment in the MCSA calender! Maybe by our 130th birthday we can have 130 people joining us for dinner.