Couples wanting to get married in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, can do so in various ways. From driving through Sani Pass to hiring a helicopter or… on foot. When two South African hiking guides contact you about their elopement in ‘The Berg’, then you know all too well what’s coming: You are going to hike that dragon.
Now don’t get me wrong. This photographer is a fit one. But the thought of hiking the Drakensberg, literal translation ‘Dragons Mountain’, had me a bit nervous. Some places in this world, don’t ask for respect. They demand it. The Drakensberg, is one of those places.
But hey, at least Marliet and Cornel knew what they were doing – haha!
The most special place
Often times couples rely on me for guidance. Leading the way, planning, and finding their location. But sometimes, it’s the other way around. Then my couples take me along and introduce me to their most favourite place on earth. A place so close to their hearts, that there’s no other location in the world they’d imagine to say their vows at. Mnweni, The Drakensberg, is that place to Marliet and Cornel. And oh my did they lead the way. Like true experts, they navigated us up, through and over that mountain.
Rockeries hiking route, The Drakensberg
Trust me when I say that by the end of this hike, standing at the top looking down Rockeries, Mrs. Dragon damn well reminded us of that respect bit. Well… everybody apart from bride Marliet, who was basically ready for a 10k run after getting to our sleeping location at Ledges Cave. A ledge right next to a sheer vertical drop of several hundred meters.
Mnweni, The Drakensberg South Africa
And then there’s your feet, reminding you of the fact that this is a sunrise elopement wedding. Meaning we still (somehow!?) need to get back down this very same, very steep mountain the next morning. But oh, the view. The VIEW. As mentioned, they call this place Mnweni. It’s Zulu, for ‘the place of fingers’, referring to the pointed rock spikes so high, they shoot up into the heavens. It’s magic. Another truth is that once you’re up there absorbing a view like that, one always forgets what the last kilometer scramble felt like. I remember thinking: “If this isn’t an adventure elopement, I don’t know what is?!”
Sleeping at Ledges Cave
We set up our little camp under the cave’s rock ledge. Lucky – we were the only hikers there and had our little private open-air ‘hotel’ all to ourselves. Another lucky: glorious weather. I looked over to the cliffside where these two were going to say their vows in the morning and couldn’t believe how I got this damn lucky.
Elopement wedding at Mnweni, The Drakensberg
Marliet and Cornel got ready separately from one another. Marliet on the one side of a big boulder, Cornel on the other. Brushing teeth with a cellphone light, applying make-up with a camping light. Cornel going ahead of Marliet, waiting for her on this insane piece of cliffside. You could hear a pin drop in the canyon below us, the silence was mesmerising. A first look, vows, more words, and rings followed, so did a first dance and more photos. Time to have one last coffee, before hiking back down the mountain where the parents waited for all of us. A stunning dinner followed that evening. So did a great bed and a shower.
An adventure that will live on in my memory (and feet haha) for a very, very long time.
Thank you Marliet and Cornel, for introducing me to your Mnweni <3