Situated at the foot of the Drakensburg escarpment, the setting alone would make Champagne Sports a memorable stay. Even without leaving the resort you are presented with an array of options, but it is the location that makes Champagne Sports unique, with hikes, mountain biking and even Segway tours (crazily, this is riding on Segways along the mountain paths) on offer, as the Drakensburg looms above. Unfortunately, we were only here for a quick weekend getaway, so I sadly had to forego many of the adventures available.
It would be sacrilege to breathe in that mountain air and not be doing something; fortunately there is lots of something to be doing. I took advantage of my travelling companions’ propensity to sleep in and escaped for an early morning run alongside a small berg stream, with a quick detour up a hill to take in the quintessential valley view.
Thereafter, and quite surprisingly, the first activity to grab our attention was lawn bowls. Not a game I expected to enjoy before my 70th birthday, it was not long before I was thoroughly entranced. Stakes were raised with a bet; the loser having to swim a lap of each of the two main pools. It being winter and in the Drakensburg meant that losing became a rather fearful prospect.
Bowls was followed by tennis, although what ensued can only be called tennis in a rather loose sense. It was a game noteworthy for the lack of skill and blundering efforts, but enjoyable all the same. To be fair to my limited tennis skills, they were hampered by the surrounds, which constantly sought to distract me.
All the sports on offer, whether basketball, table tennis or volleyball, were all social in nature and created a vibrant atmosphere.
Children seemed to move around in a laughing pack, entertained with games run by a hotel staff member. Dads returning from the golf course, perhaps hoping to be greeted by a lethargic child worn out from a morning of play, were instead swarmed by children running on mountain-air-fuelled energy reserves. For those with children, Champagne Sports is a tailor-made haven. There is staff available to baby sit or entertain, so that parents are able to enjoy their chosen method of escape, whether it be a round of golf or spa session.
As every good action-packed day should, this one ended with a braai and beer. And while the rampaging children may have had energy to burn, I was more than willing to sit on the veranda and enjoy some quiet conversation. The starlit mountain easily covers the awkwardness of any lapse in conversation, as the silence holds you in the pureness of the moment.
Sunday was the day of our departure and settled bets, as the unlucky losers from the previous day prepared for an icy dip. Adventure golf was quickly fitted in as a final event to satisfy our betting habits. A difficult course to begin with, some fragile nerves from the more sensitive amongst us lengthened the game further. Winter may not be the best time to enjoy the swimming pools on offer, but for the talented few who had not suffered defeat, the icy water only served to make victory that much sweeter.
In the end it is perhaps not the array of activities on offer that makes Champagne Sports special, but rather the moments it creates. It is a chance to play, laugh and be with friends or family on the doorstep of South Africa’s greatest mountain range.