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