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Smoking Dragon Festival - A Look Back

Imagine our spaceship earth without a Corona Virus pandemic. Imagine we are back in 2015 about to celebrate the New Year. And then imagine a land of green fields bordered by huge mountains. Imagine these lands to be situated in one of the most naturally striking locations on the planet. And finally imagine that these lands are somewhere in Southern Africa, the birthplace of humanity. This is the venue for the annual Smoking Dragon Festival that normally takes place just after Christmas. This is the festival to patronage if you plan on discharging the Old Year in the midst of a unique community of revelers, and nomadic dreamers. Of course, things are a bit different in South Africa at the moment with an out-of-control pandemic with much human suffering, and attendant casualties. The Smoking Dragon Festival is traditionally sponsored by the Amphitheater Backpackers Lodge. The lodge is located in the Northern Drakensberg. The enormous beauty of idyllic farmlands, African village communities, and the impressive rolling mountains will surpass your expectations if this is your first time in this part of Africa. If you possess even abecedarian knowledge of South African history, you will come to see what the legacy of war and internecine struggle is all about. The original stewards of this precious piece of earth have likely not given up the fight to get their ancestral lands back. Images ©

The uKhahlamba Mountains stand like patient giants as you approach the festival camp grounds. One of the neat features of the Smoking Dragon Festival experience is being able to raise camp anywhere on the lodge’s expansive field areas. If privacy is what you want it is easily obtained by setting up your gear in the middle or outer perimeters of the festival camp grounds. Although the SDF is a tame fete when compared to what one might enjoy in the Caribbean, the festival is buoyed by a mellow and endearing comradery. Everyone was there to have a good time and we had a sense that this “good time” was predicated on a mutuality of accommodation. The vibes were welcoming and unpretentious. The entertainment was certainly well thought through and loads of fun. The music and food were lekker, as they say here in ZA. This blog only attempts to share some of the photos we produced on this particular adventure.

Although the price of the festival ticket included a spot to camp, our crew elected to rent a small self-catering bungalow in the mountains. The views of the uKhahlamba mountains and Kwa Zulu Natal were unforgettable. On Old Year’s Night we beat a hasty retreat back to the bungalow just to bring in the New Year. These stunning vistas were more in tune with our contemplative mood as 2016 arrived. That new year dawned like a beautiful woman and optimistic though most of us might be around New Year, we could never imagine the strife and ignorance that lay before us in the very near future.

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