“Just give him some Mandrax in the Eyes!”

These, the wise words from the lead singer of Retro Dizzy, are the words I saw the new year in with. They also, in some kind of psychedelic way, sum up my experience of the absolutely gorgeous Smoking Dragon Festival.


At the foot of the iconic Amphitheatre, in the KZN Northern Drakensberg. A mere three hours’ drive from Durban and Johannesburg, Smoking Dragon takes place at one of the country’s most popular travel destinations, Amphitheatre Backpackers. Aa beautifully creative eco-lodge that attracts a diverse range of people from across the globe.

The festival included some of South Africa’s leading acts. Featuring the likes of Desmond & the Tutus, The Kiffness, Southern Wild, Retro Dizzy, PHFAT, Haezer, Bittereinder, BCUC, Leeu and Weston & Engine, Hezron Chetty, to mention just a few.

I’ll be straight up honest with you and say Smoking Dragon is no Oppikoppi/Rocking the Daisies. If my numbers aren’t too skewed, a total of some 3000 tickets sold. This made for a festival that was extremely intimate, and I must say, that was the best part about it. You could make new friends AND still see them again at some point throughout the festival. It was great!

If you’re a little scared of getting wet, then Smoking Dragon is nowhere close to the right festival for you. The first night in and I experienced one of the most hardcore rainstorms I’ve ever had the pleasure of camping in. Wind, tons and tons of rain, lightning, thunder, and then hail. People who came in late, or didn’t have their campsite secure were deeply regretting their decision to drive 4 hours away from home to listen to some music over New Year’s Eve. However, by morning, all was well and sunny. Only to have it all start up again on night number two.

But, if you’re anything like me, a little rain never hurt anybody, and you make a party of it all the same.

Always a winner

Smoking Dragon was a new experience for me, as I’ve never done much else over NYE other than a chilled vibes braai at home with some tjommies. I went in with no expectations, and I do believe that’s why I enjoyed it so much.

Yes, it’s a small festival, and yes they’re still experiencing teething problems (like an awful, AWFUL headline act that played until midnight on the main stage for the actual NYE celebrations – but it was okay as Catherine Grenfell came to save the day with her awesome old school tunes). I really think it’s something everyone should experience at least once.

Many people arrive early to go hiking as there are a number of trails you can take from the camping area. There’s a dam. There are the picturesque mountains of the Drakensberg. Seriously, if you’re a festival whore (like me), then you’re going to love Smoking Dragon.


Check out my not so thorough photo-series of this glorious weekend away:


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