FES­TI­VAL OF MO­TOR­ING

Driven - - Contents -

A mo­tor­ing spec­ta­cle of speed and per­for­mance

THE OUT­POST AND PEL’S POST

Three nights at The Out­post Lodge and two nights at the neigh­bour­ing Pel’s Post (both part of the ex­quis­ite Rare Earth col­lec­tion) is enough to write a whole book about. Both en­cap­su­late a supreme lux­ury safari ex­pe­ri­ence with such clev­erly or­ches­trated de­sign to have min­i­mal im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment. Each of the pri­vate spa­ces at both lodges is con­nected to the cen­tral lodge area and each other by Zimbabwean teak walk­ways through rocky outcrops and Bushveld.The suites all boast un­par­al­leled views of the river be­low, and bath­rooms have free­stand­ing baths and both in­door and out­door show­ers. The high­light of each of the suites is un­doubt­edly the state-of-the-art re­tractable re­mote­con­trolled screens that give you a real al fresco bush ex­pe­ri­ence, com­pletely im­mers­ing you in the wilder­ness. While The Out­post lodge can ac­com­mo­date up to 24 peo­ple in 12 suites, Pel’s Post is for ut­most pri­vacy and ex­clu­siv­ity with only four rooms that can sleep up to eight peo­ple.

THE BIG FIVE

Be­fore we knew it, our time in the Pa­furi Tri­an­gle was up, and we were headed south. Shum­bal­ala Game Lodge, nes­tled in the 14,000 ha Thorny­bush Re­serve– now part of the Greater Kruger Na­tional Park – was our next desti­na­tion and, though the bio­di­ver­sity of the Pa­furi re­gion was to be left be­hind for a more tra­di­tional Bushveld na­ture ex­pe­ri­ence, it was here that an en­counter with the whole Big Five gang was more likely. Ex­it­ing the Kruger at the Pa­furi Gate would mean a 350 km drive through Mala­mulele and Hoed­spruit through many small vil­lages, which would mean a drive of about five-and-a-half hours. We opted in­stead, to drive through the Kruger (at 50 km/h this would mean an ad­di­tional two hours onto the drive) and exit at Pha­l­aborwa be­fore hit­ting the road to Thorny­bush Re­serve (about 100 km from the Pha­l­aborwa Gate). If you have time, this is an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to get a self-drive through the Kruger and spot some game on your own time.

Shum­bal­ala (mean­ing where the lion sleeps) was all we had hoped for and more. Sit­u­ated right on the banks of the sea­sonal Mon­wana River, with an ac­tive wa­ter­hole right in front of the lodge, we were treated to up close and per­sonal en­coun­ters from the pri­vacy of our ve­ran­das by gi­ant herds of ele­phant, nyala, kudu, buf­falo and even a young male lion. Game drives gave a new mean­ing to bundu bash­ing as we went in search of prime sight­ings off the road, through dense bush. On the three drives we did dur­ing our stay, we saw a li­on­ess on the hunt, a fam­ily of leop­ards with an im­pala kill, the same li­on­ess the fol­low­ing day with a young wilde­beest that she had killed, hyena vis­i­tors dur­ing sun­down­ers (and one that ca­su­ally walked through the camp our first night at din­ner). Also spot­ted was a male tusker (one of the Mag­nif­i­cent Seven of the Kruger), buf­falo, a herd of wild dogs, bush pigs and more. For the ul­ti­mate in game view­ing, Shum­bal­ala is, hands down, where it’s at.

HOME TIME… AL­MOST

Af­ter three nights of no re­morse lux­ury in the twin-suited Pres­i­den­tial suite at Shum­bal­ala, nights around the roar­ing fires, a pri­vate din­ner in the mag­nif­i­cent wine cel­lar and days laz­ing in the in­fin­ity pool gaz­ing into the eyes of ele­phants, we re­luc­tantly hit the road again. My urge to take the Jag bundu bash­ing had to be sup­pressed by my fel­low road trip­pers but was soon for­got­ten as we hit the green hilly moun­tain roads of the gor­geous Mpumalanga, en route to White River for our last night. I have al­ways loved driv­ing in Mpumalanga – the quaint vil­lages and spec­tac­u­lar scenery are more than enough to make one for­get about the some­what shoddy road con­di­tions and low speed lim­its. It’s no won­der it’s one of our coun­try’s most loved self-drives.

Just un­der three hours and we were in an­other world en­tirely. Af­ter over a week in the bush, we were trans­ported into the se­cret gar­dens of the Bel­grace Bou­tique Ho­tel, de­scribed as be­ing an “un­apolo­get­i­cally ro­man­tic” space. A quintessen­tially Eu­ro­pean lux­ury ho­tel, it is in­deed the per­fect place for ro­man­tic in­dul­gences.

While be­ing ro­man­tic was not the pur­pose of this trip, we could soak up the grandiose set­ting, laze in our pri­vate Jacuzzis and en­joy the un­ri­valled five-star ser­vice and op­u­lence be­fore head­ing to the air­port the fol­low­ing day and bid adieu to our trusty steed – which by then most def­i­nitely had some sto­ries to tell.

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