I have no idea how to write this, so I’ll just write as it comes back to me!
OK, so the first exciting thing I did during my trip was travel with the friend I haven’t seen for 10 years to the Blyde River Canyon, following parts of the panorama route. We left from Johannesburg, so we had quite a trip ahead of us, and plenty of time to catch up!
One of the first stops we made, was at the Elands River Falls. This was interesting, as we stopped in this old run down car park, with a small deserted building in it, and a group of about 6 people with red shirts on. Turns out these guys are ‘Tourism Safety’ officers! I have no idea why there were so many of them, (other than job creation), as in the 45 minutes we were there, not one other person stopped. That said, I am very glad they were there! We had to walk through an old tunnel used by trains years ago to go back through the mountain. Apparently the tunnel was built in the 1890’s, and only used for about 15 years! Anyway, we walked through it, with our new best friend, Sean! It took about 5-7 mins to walk, in total darkness! On the other side we met a viewing platform that needs a bit of work, but gave some amazing views over the river below and of the waterfall to the left. It was around here that I got my first taste of Biltong! I like! We gave the Sean and his crew some money for looking after us, but I have no idea how much on this occasion.
Following on the waterfall theme, our next stop was Mac Mac Falls, which was good fun! We stopped in the car park and were met by loads of women manning their craft stalls. Some really lovely stuff, but much the same stuff as you will get at any of the roadside/car park stalls. I had a good chat with one of the women, though, before taking the short walk to see the falls, from a well maintained platform. The path to the falls is also well maintained, and they were working on putting new wooden slats down on a bridge as we passed. Again, the falls were great, with quite a drop, in beautiful scenery. I am beginning to get a sense of how much space there is out here!
Our next stop was at a Farm Stall, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We bought some fruit, and had a stretch of our legs, watched the Baboons watching us! It was here that I began to feel like I was in a badly made horror movie – the killer spots his tourist victims as he passes them on the deserted highway, stalks them for a few hours, before kidnapping them and killing them in the night, with no one to hear their screams! Obviously, this did not happen, and in fact everyone I met was fantastic company, and super helpful. But the space and isolation took a little while to get used to! I am just a city girl, really!
Our next stop was at the Artists café at Hendriksdal. It’s actually a guest house type thing, but we just stopped for coffee. It’s right on an old train line, and was a welcome stop to stretch our legs. The guy here told us about a few other waterfalls we should try and find. Following on from coffee, we stopped in Graskop for pancakes. Very very nice pancakes, with yummy chocolateyness covering them! This seemed like a nice town, but I had Potholes to see, so we continued on.
Before the Potholes we reached God’s Window. The views from here were simply amazing. It was quite a hazy/misty day, so the full depth of distance was hard to judge, and didn’t show on photographs very well, but it was an amazing view none the less My friend laughed at me as I described it as an amazing view of not very much! The area is covered by forests and mountains. Definitely worth a look! Also not to be missed is the view on the opposite side of the road as you travel back to the main road to the Potholes. We stopped in a layby for some more pictures, and the mist that lingered gave a beautiful atmosphere to them.
Bourkes Luck Potholes where the rivers Blyde and Treur meet, (I think!), were even better than the pictures you see in guide books! They’re much bigger than I expected, and it was fascinating to see them! And I love the story about how the rivers were named, too! It was interesting to see not just the potholes, but the way the rocks are shaped well above water also. Really gives you a sense of just how old this stuff is! The sun was starting to set at this point, so I managed to get some amazing pictures, before we headed to find our beds for the night.
We stayed in the Forever Resorts Blyde Canyon. This seemed nice enough, a fairly large resort of chalets of differing sizes, with a fair few activities you could pay to join in with, such as horse riding…there was even an airfield nearby! We arrived quite late, so managed to get in a few beers from the shop onsite, and some food for breakfast, before heading to our little chalet. Outside each little house is a Braai stand! We hadn’t thought of finding coal or any kind of fuel before hand, so as night set in, we searched the nearby bushes for fallen branches and dry grass to get a nice little fire going! We then cooked the sausage we had bought for breakfast…my first, dubious, experience of a Braai! The beds were very comfortable, with extra pillows and blankets available, the kitchen stocked with all the utensils you’ll need, and the shower was amazing! In fact, the bathroom was bigger than the kitchen area!
The next morning we got up before sunrise, and walked up to the upper viewpoint – Worlds End. We climbed as high as we could, and settled in to watch sunrise. We weren’t disappointed, for the most part! You’re up so high, looking down over a beautiful river, again, lots of mountains covered in thick forest, and a great view of the three Rondavels. We saw the most amazing colours of pinks, oranges, purples as the sun climbed, only for the mist to set in, followed by cloud. But for those 20 minutes or so, I was totally in awe of nature. (That wouldn’t be the first time this trip!)
We did a little walk, about an hour and a half, following a trail – the Tufa Trail, which took in some amazing small waterfalls, including a larger waterfall with a picture book pool around it, totally isolated. If it had been warmer, I’d have been in there! The water is so clean and clear, and very inviting! At one point, we were joined by a few small Baboons, so I stopped to catch a photo or two, only for about 20 others to join them and start screaming at us! I was a little nervous, but they left us alone eventually! (Later, an older Baboon was cheeky enough to jump up, and open our kitchen door before running off! Clever things! – Top tip….don’t just shut your doors and windows – lock them too!) There are also some amazing plants and flowers around, and Aloe is everywhere and massive!
On the road again, heading back to Johannesburg, (some bad timing/planning, as the following day I have a transfer back this way for my trip to the Klaserie!), we stopped at a few other outlooks, taking in the scenery. I simply can’t describe how bit everything is. My Dad asked me how high up I was when taking some of my pictures, and I simply cannot even guess! I’ve never experienced such extremes of distance clearly visible. Each time we stopped, we had to pay a small amount in each of the car parks, usually between R5 - R10.
We had lunch at Pilgrims Rest, and strolled through the town, but did not spend much time there. We also made an unplanned stop in Lydenburg, which was interesting! I needed sun protection, which was turning out to be difficult to find, (since mine was confiscated at Heathrow – my own fault!), and an adaptor plug. My travelling companion didn’t seem to understand the importance of these 2 things, and was not keen to stop for them, describing many towns as ‘too African’, strangely. Still not entirely sure what he meant, but I got him to stop, and successfully found everything I needed with the help of some lovely people in the town. That’s something I’ve noticed throughout the trip…people are helpful, friendly and chatty, and at no point did I feel nervous or hassled for money. I wish people here were so friendly!
So, this is longer than I had planned….will keep it in check for the next installment!