Before this trip, Yosemite was probably the part I was LEAST excited for. See, I’m from Paarl, where we have all of the natural splendour you can imagine, all over the place.

Granite dome-shaped mountain? Yes. River? Yes. We even have wineries! Bonus.

Boy, was I wrong!

One thing you probably won’t get from my husband’s fantastic (I know, right?) video skills, is that it was about 2 degrees Celsius at the gate to Yosemite when we entered the park that morning around 11am. The wind plunged the real feel to well below freezing!

Photo by Richard Maspero

Richard was doing the driving, since I’m usually navigating. Unfortunately for us, while he’s otherwise occupied I’m left to (wo)man the camera.

Luckily the scenery is so spectacular, that it’s Elma-proof. Not even I could take a bad shot of this little corner of heaven!

From the eastern gate, the road snakes down into the very narrow valley where you can stay in a variety of accommodation options owned by the park. Hotels, both fancy and less fancy. Also cabins, tented cabins and campsites. Mainly because we booked pretty late, we couldn’t get our hands on anything except a campsite or a tented cabin. The other option was to stay in privately owned homes, guest houses or cabins higher up in the park (not in the valley), but in order to stay in the thick of things we were willing to settle for a tented cabin. It was for only 1 night, after all!

Photo by Richard Maspero

The view from tented cabin G518 was a perfect combination of Half Dome in the distance, and the river on our “doorstep”.

Photo by Richard Maspero

As you can see, I was wearing almost all of the warm layers in my suitcase at once, since the nighttime temps went down to -5! Another thing that caught us by surprise, was the bear lockers.

You’re informed to not keep toiletries, food or any other liquids in your car or tent with you, since these smells attract bears. However, our tented cabin came complete with its’ own bear locker right outside, where we could stash these luxuries. This sounds scary, but humans actually prove to be more dangerous to the bears, than the other way around. There are signs all over warning motorists to avoid speeding, since this is the leading cause of death among the park’s bear population. Just to drive the point home, I also saw some sad photo’s of what a run-over bear looks like, at reception when we checked in. Almost like those Arrive Alive ad campaigns, way too graphic. But necessary.

Photo by Richard Maspero

At night, you can see little dots of light emanating from all over this 900m high sheer granite rock face known as El Capitan. The lights come from the climbers who spend around 5 days summiting this beast, on average. The thought of climbers sleeping in hammocks up against it, dangling almost a kilometre above the ground, gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I saw it with my own eyes! It’s a thing. Somehow.

If you tend to get car-sick, but you need to see this to believe it, pack your nausea meds! The drive up to Glacier Point was pretty hair-raising and took a while, but it was SO worth dedicating most of our morning to get up there.

There’s a little gift shop up at the point, you can have a bite to eat and you can walk around a bit, but most people are just trying to take as many panorama photo’s as possible. What you can’t do, is really get it to fit into a frame. This is natural wonder on a scale so American it literally is breathtaking.

Photo by Richard Maspero