With Cape Town overbooked, and Durban overdone, we found ourselves road tripping through the eastern part of the country. Pleasantly surprised, a weekend away was just what the doctor had ordered and courtesy of Jeep, we were able to make this happen.
Our trip began in the early hours of Saturday morning where we left home at around 5am. Test driving a 2017 Jeep Renegade, was an experience in itself, definitely worthy of praise.
With a 1.4 turbo motor and an average of 7.5l/100km this little baby was not only fuel efficient, but packed enough clout to give high end vehicles a run for their money. Together with its luxurious interior and distinct smell of newly stitched leather, it was easy to lose track of the purpose of our trip.
In accordance with good driving etiquette, we stopped over at Alzu Petroport (on the N4 to Middleburg) for a short break and quick bite to eat. With its assortment of different restaurants including a Spur, Nandos and Mugg & Bean, the station boasts a rather impressive centre, and also has a fenced off enclosure inhabited by wild game and rhino, in full view of the customers. Also there is a large curio shop, stocked with awesome souvenirs.
Hazyview – Summerfields Rose Retreat and Spa
We had the pleasure of spending the night at Summerfields Rose Retreat and Spa – a rather cosy and romantic beauty spa, along the banks of the Sabie River. Welcomed by a much needed glass of non-alcoholic champagne (yes they catered for us without request) we were shown to our rooms. We had booked a tented suite, and it was certainly worth every penny spent. A fully structured, luxuriously furnished, large and airy, ‘glamp‘ styled tented suite, high atop the trees and surrounding vegetation overlooking the river bank, it felt as if we had stepped into a scene from Tarzan.
What I found most fascinating, was the bathroom. An open bathroom, in full view of the river bank, made getting into my birthday suite a little unsettling. Initially, it took some getting used to, but surrounded by thick vegetation, privacy was fairly well catered for, and it wasn’t long before we were gazing down at the river bank while in the NUDE!!! We ended the day off to a steamy bath, while sipping on our non-alcoholic champagne and watching the beautiful orange sun set in the far horizon.
Panorama route – Waterfalls and sight seeing
Awakened by the break of dawn (no, we did not close the shutters that night) we began preparing for the day ahead. Today was a day of exploration and the entire Panorama route was on our list.
With Sabie falls situated closest to us, our first stop was decided and in 15 minutes we had reached our destination. It did not seem like much from the outside as the road bridge above snatches away much of the majestic beauty of what nature had intended.
The entrance to the falls is in the car park, and a short walk from here brings one to the viewing area. There are many observation points from which to view the falls and pre-booked activities on site include wet and dry abseiling.
Ending off the tour with a short hike under the bridge and along the cliff edge, we returned to our car and made our way to the next site that this beautiful province has to offer.
Entrance – Free
Cost per car – R10
GH Tip – Do not get too close to the edge. With smoothed out rocks, if one were to slip- well- I think we all know where this is going….
Mac Mac Falls
Named after the Scottish miners that flocked here in search of fortune, Mac Mac falls boast a 60 metre waterfall over jaggered rocks and in the heart of the Blyde River Canyon- the largest green canyon in the world.
Hiking down to the bottom of the falls from this point is practically impossible, and viewing is done from some distance away. This allows for a full view of the escarpment and its marvel is beyond wonder.
There is a curio market at the entrance and as with Sabie Falls; the entrance is free while cars pay a small fee.
Entrance – Free
Cost per car – R10
GH Tip- Take along a set of binoculars for better viewing, and wear comfortable shoes. The walk down to the viewing area is a good 5 minutes at an average pace.
Yet another waterfall on the Panaroma Route, the Berlin falls are by far the most beautiful of the three. The gentle flow of water along the escarpment, disturbed by a sudden drop onto the natural rock feature of the cliff below, resulting in a myriad of showers violently plummeting into the river, in an ultimate showdown of nature’s beauty, makes this the perfect setting for many nature lovers.
Viewing is done from some distance away, although still nearer than the viewpoint at Mac Mac falls, and a curio market stands at the entrance.
Entrance – Free
Cost per car – R10
GH Tip – A high powered camera for extreme close-ups would be an excellent addition to ones artillery of photographic equipment.
Arguably one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the country, Gods Window overlooks much of the Lowveld. Named Gods Window, due to the sheer height of the place, one can view the entire ravine from here. Beautiful, lush hills cover the area below, and stretch out as far as the eye can see. Majestic cliffs are plentiful, and looking into the distance one can see the private game reserves that have made the area one of South Africa’s main wildlife destinations.
There are two designated lookout points from where one may observe the ravine, the first being the lower of the two. A short walk from here, along the steep path way and through the Misty Forest trail, leads one to the second observation point. I quite enjoyed the second spot more than the first, due to the ability to meditate on the large boulders of rock next to the designated observation area. There are no security fences to obstruct the breathtaking view from here, and one cannot help but drift off into the inner depths of one’s own mind. Also there is enough space for all, and whereby the first observation point can feel a tad bit claustrophobic in crowds, the second is much larger of an area with enough room for all.
While there are curio stalls in the car park, no refreshments are available. For this there is a caravan on the opposite side of the road, but the prices are higher than that of a local store.
GH Tip – Comfortable shoes are of a necessity here. Be sure to take refreshments with, as the walk up to the second observation spot is steep and strenuous.
Entrance – R10 (adult) R5 (child)
Cost per car – inclusive
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Our final stop before journeying back to Johannesburg, Bourke’s Luck Potholes named after Tom Bourke, a famous Gold prospector is essentially a massive rock feature, created naturally from the erosion of swirling waterborne sand molecules, over countless of eons. The cylindrically shaped craters carved into the rock surface are extraordinary to look at and observation points are plentiful. The split landscape boasts steep cliffs and is interconnected by narrow bridges. Steer away from crowds and move upwards towards the source of the stream where shallow pools make up much of the terrain. While swimming is forbidden, a dip of the feet in the sparkling clean and cool spring water is enough to rejuvenate the most strenuous of souls.
GH Tip – Keep vehicle windows closed at all times. A troop of baboons have taken up residence at the entrance and wait in awe for unsuspecting motorists.
Entrance fee – R50 (adult)
Cost per car – R20
Road Home (R532, R36, R540, N4, N12)
With the Panorama route completed, we made our way home passing through the Limpopo province and then back into Mpumalanga, all the way down to Gauteng. This being the quickest route back to Johannesburg from Bourke’s Luck Potholes is most famous for its scenic drive and passes through various small towns, all of which have contributed much to the history of this great land and thus rich in South African heritage. Perhaps we will explore what each has to offer in upcoming blog posts, but for now, we are quite enjoying reflecting on the moments shared, while journeying along this endless road of self exploration.
GH Tip – It is wisest to drive this route during the day when visibility is good. Pothole ridden, and oncoming traffic make the journey less forgiving for reckless motorists.