Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Panorama Route, South Africa

Suhale and I decided to take a weekend break away from city life and enjoy the natural beauty of South Africa.  Granted that for me, nature occasionally prompts high pitched shrieks from "bug-fright" and my irrational fear of heights, I do enjoy some controlled interaction with wilderness. 

We decided to visit the Panoramic Route of South Africa, which lies in the province of Mpumalanga.  Although this was a 2 night stay, it was memorable and allowed us the privilege of enjoying the beautiful nature of our country.

Before departing on our trip, I printed this map, which proved to be really useful given the Northern location of our accommodation (Kampersrus, near Klaserie).

Our plan was to visit the route's highlights, namely; God's Window and the Bourke's Luck Potholes and enjoy the other view points in between.

The drive between Pretoria and Kampersrus was enjoyable.  We departed at 14:00 on Friday from Pretoria, predicting an arrival time of 20:00.  If you are going to take this route, be prepared for a pothole marred stretch between from the R36 off-ramp from the N4 until Lydenberg.  This demanded a bit of concentration but swerving to avoid the potholes was like an obstacle course.  Given the recent rains, we assumed that they were in a worse condition than usual.  Lydenberg and Ohrigstad are small towns which we passed through.

The Route from Ohrigstad to Kamperstad is scenic.  The curving roads up the mountains break through spectacular views that make me so proudly South African.

We even drove through the sunset.  Beautiful!

We stayed at a lodge called Little Bush, near Kampersrus.  The unit we stayed in was really unusual, with an outdoor shower and an outdoor living space.  It was a really open space with abundant self catering resources, which allowed one to feel really in touch with nature.

Louis of Little Bush was accommodating and friendly.  Little Bush provided some nice extras (like chocolates, juice on arrival and a picnic basket) but failed in other areas of necessity.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't be this fussy, but since the Kingfisher Unit was advertised as a luxury unit, the non provision of soap was not excusable.  Luckily we carried our own ;-).  Besides that, the shower drains were dirty, the doors were difficult to lock and unlock and some of the tap fittings came loose when I tried taking a bath.  Besides those few shortcomings, it was a pleasant stay and I enjoyed it, however, I wouldn't return, or recommend it.

Saturday was a wonderful day of sightseeing.  My major tip for this route is to carry cash for entrance into viewpoints and attractions.  We visited Echo caves, of which only 2 chambers were open (the third was flooded).  If you are elderly or unfit, you won't enjoy this.  There are small spaces and lots of stairs and climbing and the flooring is irregular (it is a cave).  The formations are beautiful. We were given a guided tour by Thabo, who (I'm hoping because of my knowledge in Geography) didn't teach me anything new.

From Echo Caves we drove along the R532 and stopped along the roadside to purchase some fresh mangoes, tomatoes and avocados. Violet, the vendor was really sweet, and allowed me to take a picture with her.

We then headed to Three Rondavels, the highlight of our day.  This view speaks for itself .

Here we met Martin (that's the closest to what I think his name was) from the Netherlands, who had been traveling alone in South Africa for a month.  It was great to meet someone who really loved being in our country and we were really happy to add value to his journey with tips and suggestions as to where he should stay next.  While chatting and enjoying the view, we were interrupted by another tourist asking if we were done with our photo because we taking up the view.   This really angered me.  I love meeting new people and love helping others enjoy my country even more, but sheer entitlement and exploitative attitude really sets a fire in me.

As a tip to any tourist (especially visiting South Africa) and a special message to the Rude Tourist: it is extremely rude to behave as though you are entitled to a resource at the expense of the enjoyment of another individual. While bullying, bombarding and dictatorship are wonderful traits in your land, understand that it doesn't work anywhere else and that truly enjoying my country also means respecting others.  I'm glad I stood my ground and said, "I'm not done enjoying my country." Hehe, that sent her packing.

From there, we visited various view points on route:  The Berlin Falls, World's View and Pinnacle Rock (below).

God's Window was inspiring and extended to an ascending rainforest walk to a wonderful viewpoint.  The walk wasn't one of solitude given the popularity of this site.  Replacing the sounds of birds and crickets, were panting and moaning and "Sjoes" from the exhaustion of the uphill walk.

From there, we drove to Sabie, checked out the town and enjoyed a snack.  We then returned back to enjoy Bourke's Luck.  By then, it was late afternoon and we were exhausted.  Bourke's Luck was splendid but I suspect better enjoyed at midday when the formations are golden from direct sunlight.  It is really amazing to see the transformation of the Blyde River Canyon from cliffs to mountains, to potholes and pinnacles.  It really is a panaromaic route.

One of the route highlights was driving through Strydom Tunnel:

We then headed back to Little Bush, where we spent the evening braaing and reading through the guest book.  Being prone to seeing the lighter side of life, Suhale realised the alternative connotation of the name "little bush", which provided a hilarious twist to the guest comments.

"We really enjoyed visiting your Little Bush"
"Little Bush is spotless"
"Little Bush is like a piece of heaven"

Childish but funny...   Here are the comments we wrote:

 "Little Bush really is a lush haven"
"We enjoyed the natural sounds and smells of your Little Bush"

I wonder if they caught on?  Hehehehe....

We had tea the next morning and then headed on route home.  On the route back home we stopped at Milly's Service Station and enjoyed a trout pie.  They are really delicious and unusual, with river rainbow trout being a specialty of the area.  We also purchased some fresh trout to enjoy at home.

The Panorama Route was a lovely trip.   We had a great time, and when things get heavy and stressful, we will return to enjoy the glorious views and regain perspective. ;-)

Where are your favourite weekend holiday spots?