1 Die Pad­stal

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No road trip is com­plete without pad­kos. At this farm stall near Vil­liers you can stock up on de­cent bil­tong and droë­wors (both R289/kg) and fill your cool box with farm-fresh lamb chops and boere­wors. Own­ers Flip­pie and El­ize Lourens also sell home-made gin­ger beer, fruit juice, pre­served prod­ucts and their Leka Hot chilli sauce (hot enough to knock you off your chair, ac­cord­ing to El­ize). You’ll find bis­cuits and rusks on the shelves, too, along with arts, crafts and toys. Man­ager Jenny Webb speaks the truth: “All you need in life is a lit­tle friend­li­ness and lekker bil­tong,” she says. The best thing about Die Pad­stal? There’s a branch on ei­ther side of the N3 so you can stop again on your way home. Where? At the En­gen Vaal 1-Stop on both sides of the N3, just north of Vil­liers. Open­ing times: Most days from 7 am to 5 pm; Satur­days un­til 2 pm. Con­tact: 082 859 3117; “Die Pad­stal” on Face­book – Willem van der Berg

2 En­gen Bergview 1-Stop

This fill­ing sta­tion is an N3 in­sti­tu­tion – it gets busy dur­ing the hol­i­days and over long week­ends. There’s a Wimpy here, and a hand­ful of other fran­chises like Nando’s, Mugg & Bean and Ocean Bas­ket. At the Guinea Fowl Farm Stall you can get jams, pre­served goods and raw honey. Buy bil­tong at Sparkles from R295/kg. Let the kids stretch their legs and visit the farm an­i­mals in their pen while you have a cof­fee. Stay over: Moun­tain View Inn is on the same premises ( 058 623 0255; moun­tain­[email protected]­loze. co.za). There are dou­ble rooms and a camp­site un­der pine trees. En suite dou­ble room from R830 per night; camp­ing R220 per night, plus R30 per adult and R20 per child aged 6 – 12. Good for an overnight stop. Where? About 5 km from Har­ri­smith. Open­ing times: Mon­day to Thurs­day, and Sat­ur­day, 8 am to 6 pm; Fri­day and Sun­day 8 am to 9 pm. Con­tact: 076 127 1675; 058 623 0255; bergview.co.za

BUD­GET OP­TION 3 Riverview Coun­try Inn, Swin­burne

Swin­burne is a one-street vil­lage east of Har­ri­smith, on the banks of the Wilge River. It’s worth a stop if you’re tired of Wimpy cof­fee and pies. There was once a rail­way sta­tion here, and a post of­fice, but in­dus­try ceased when traf­fic was di­verted to the N3. Life in the vil­lage re­volves around Riverview Coun­try Inn, an old-world overnight stop. All the rooms open up onto the gar­den. The Hound & Hare restau­rant and pub serves de­li­cious home-style meals at bud­get-friendly prices (soup of the day R35, chicken schnitzel with chips and salad R60, mixed grill R130). Take a dip in the pool (ask per­mis­sion if you’re a day vis­i­tor), browse the an­tiques and sec­ond-hand books in the Nutty Meg shop across the road, or go and see the old bridge that dates from 1884. If you de­cide to stay over, hike to the base of Rens­burgkop: an easy walk of about 14 km there and back. The own­ers of Riverview, Steve and Jenni Clev­erly, have lots of sto­ries to tell about the vil­lage. Pets are wel­come. Stay over: En suite room from R450 per per­son; fam­ily room from R750 per night (three beds). Break­fast R60 per per­son. Where? About 24 km east of Har­ri­smith, take the Mon­trose Stop exit. Open­ing times: Inn and restau­rant: Mon­day to Sat­ur­day from 7 am to 10 pm; Sun­day from 7.30 am to 8 pm. Con­tact: 058 672 1033; riverview­coun­tryinn.co.za

4 Green Lantern Inn, Van Ree­nen

You’re half­way from Joburg to Dur­ban and you’re also at the high­est point on the route: 1 768 m above sea level. Van Ree­nen’s Pass is wide and well built, but it can be deadly when it’s misty or rainy. Be pa­tient and drive care­fully. Dur­ing peak hol­i­day times, as many as 2 000 ve­hi­cles use the pass per day. Ev­ery year, more than 58 mil­lion tonnes of cargo go up and down the pass. Why rush? Turn off to the vil­lage of Van Ree­nen and have a look around. (Com­ing from Gaut­eng, turn left at the Star Stop Drak­ens­berg and right into the vil­lage.) The town was named af­ter Frans van Ree­nen, who farmed at the base of the es­carp­ment in the mid1800s. He would move his cat­tle to higher ground in sum­mer. The rail­way line ar­rived in 1891 and the rail­way sta­tion be­came the fo­cal point of the vil­lage. A year later the Van Ree­nen Ho­tel opened its doors and so be­gan a tra­di­tion of light­ing a green lantern in misty weather so trav­ellers would know when they had reached the top of the pass. In 1948, the ho­tel was re­named the Green Lantern Inn. These days, the inn is owned by Bill and Gail RossA­dams and it of­fers lovely plat­te­land hos­pi­tal­ity and space for your kids and pets to run around. Be on the look­out for Bo­jan­gles the don­key, who likes to pop into the Half­way Nog­gin Pub… Call be­fore­hand to book a meal; the menu is avail­able on the web­site. Stay over: Self-cater­ing and B&B op­tions. Dou­ble room with com­mu­nal ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties R410 per night; R500 with break­fast. Self-cater­ing R445 per per­son; B&B R490. Where? 7 Wragg Street Open­ing times: The kitchen is open from 7 am to 8 pm.

Con­tact: 058 671 0027; green­lantern.co.za

5 Bom­pas Trad­ing

One block down the street from the ho­tel you’ll find this trea­sure trove where you can buy gro­ceries, fur­ni­ture and cloth­ing. Look for a nice can­dle­holder or a vin­tage hand­bag. Where? Wragg Street Open­ing times: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Con­tact: 058 671 0011; “Bom­pas Trad­ing” on Face­book

6 Llandaff Or­a­tory

The most fa­mous land­mark in Van Ree­nen is on the other side of the N3: the tiny Llandaff Or­a­tory church, which only ac­com­mo­dates eight peo­ple. Ap­par­ently, it’s the only pri­vately owned Ro­man Catholic church in the world. The church was built in mem­ory of Llandaff Matthews, a miner from Dundee in KZN, who died in an ac­ci­dent in 1925 while try­ing to save his fel­low min­ers. His fa­ther May­nard wanted to put up a memo­rial plaque for Llandaff at the lo­cal Catholic church in Dundee, but his re­quest to do so was de­nied. So he de­cided to build his own church up in Van Ree­nen. May­nard later be­came a priest and ded­i­cated his time to his tiny cre­ation. Have a look at the beau­ti­ful stained glass win­dows. Next door you’ll find the Lit­tle Church tea gar­den and an an­tique shop where owner Geral­dine John­son will serve you tea and scones, a slice of cake or a home-made stew. She’s also well versed in the his­tory of the vil­lage. Open­ing times: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm. There’s a church ser­vice ev­ery Sun­day at 10.30 am. Con­tact: 058 671 0106; the­lit­tlechurch.co.za

7 Spi­oenkop

The Bat­tle of Spi­oenkop took place over two days in Jan­uary 1900 – one of blood­i­est bat­tles of the Sec­ond An­glo-Boer War. There are sev­eral mon­u­ments at the bat­tle site on top of the hill, and in­for­ma­tion boards that tell the tale of how the Bri­tish sol­diers sta­tioned at the top made some dis­as­trous mis­cal­cu­la­tions in misty weather, which led to a hor­rific num­ber of ca­su­al­ties. Sources dif­fer, but about 320 Bri­tish sol­diers are es­ti­mated to have been killed, with more than 500 wounded. The Boer side lost 58 sol­diers. Ma­hatma Ghandi, serv­ing in the In­dian Am­bu­lance Corps, was at the bat­tle site as a stretcher bearer. Where? 51 km from Van Ree­nen. Take the 230/ Bergville exit from the N3, turn right onto the R616, turn left af­ter 4 km and fol­low the dirt road for about 9 km to the en­trance. Open­ing times: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm. Cost: R35 per adult; R25 per pen­sioner/stu­dent; R20 per child un­der 12. Con­tact: 033 3946543; her­itagekzn.co.za

8 The Mid­lands Kitchen

If your kids are picky eaters, don’t worry – you’ll find some­thing they’ll like here. There are two op­tions: Grab and Go if you’re in a hurry or The Food Shed if you’d pre­fer a sit-down meal. At the lat­ter, a num­ber of kiosks sur­round an eat­ing area: You can have Mediter­ranean falafels, a Mex­i­can treat, a gourmet burger, fresh pro­duce from the har­vest ta­ble, or a pizza (try the one with feta, caramelised onions, avo and moz­zarella). There’s good cof­fee, too. Where? Take exit 132/Not­ting­ham Road. Open­ing times: The Food Shed is open daily from 6 am to 4 pm; Grab and Go closes at 8 pm. Con­tact: 033 266 7046; themid­land­skitchen.co.za

9 Linga Lapa

This butch­ery is across the road from the Mid­lands Kitchen – get some steaks for the first braai of your hol­i­day. At the deli you can buy prod­ucts from In­dezi River Cream­ery (try the chilli camem­bert), as well as home-made rusks and fresh veg­eta­bles. Open­ing times: Daily from 8.30 am to 5 pm. Con­tact: 033 266 7001; lin­galapa.co.za

10 Blue­berry Café

There’s a lot to say about this cosy eatery, but the bath­rooms take the cake. Big win­dows of­fer views of the plains: Sit on the throne and watch Nguni cat­tle graz­ing in the fields. The build­ing has high ceil­ings and lots of nat­u­ral light – an oa­sis of calm away from the traf­fic on the high­way. Have a slice of cheese­cake and a cof­fee and re­lax. Where? Nether­wood Farm, 8 km from the N3 en route to Not­ting­ham Road. Take exit 132/ Not­ting­ham Road. Open­ing times: Daily from 8 am to 4 pm. Con­tact: 033 266 7132; “Blue­berry Café” on Face­book

11 Peel’s Honey

The old­est honey brand in South Africa was started in 1925 by Jack Peel, a part-time bee farmer. These days, most of their honey comes from their 7 000odd hives in KZN and the Free State. Visit their fac­tory shop for all your honey needs, in­clud­ing in­ter­est­ing prod­ucts like macadamia and avo­cado honey. You can take your own con­tainer to be filled if you’d pre­fer. Check out the spe­cial hive be­hind glass, which al­lows you to see its in­ner work­ings. The kids will love it. Where? 1 Bos­ton Road, How­ick. Take exit 99/ Zeeder­berg Road, turn right into Wil­son Road and right again into Bos­ton Road. Open­ing times: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Con­tact: 033 330 3762; peels.co.za

DIE PAD­STAL

JENNI CLEV­ERLY, SWIN­BURNE

NUTTY MEG, SWIN­BURNE

GREEN LANTERN INN

LLANDAFF OR­A­TORY

LLANDAFF OR­A­TORY

THE MID­LANDS KITCHEN

MEMO­RIAL FOR BOER SOL­DIERS, SPI­OENKOP

SPI­OENKOP

MEMO­RIAL FOR BRI­TISH SOL­DIERS, SPI­OENKOP

BLUE­BERRY CAFÉ

PEEL’S HONEY

BLUE­BERRY CAFÉ

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