Highs of the Lowveld

Find them with our off­beat A-Z of the Panorama Route

South African Country Life - - In This Issue - WORDS AND PIC­TURES MELANIE VAN ZYL

he Panorama Route, home to more wa­ter­falls than any other part of South Africa, and blessed with the Mot­latse Canyon, pre­vi­ously called the Blyde River Canyon and the world’s largest green canyon, might just be South Africa’s most beau­ti­ful road­trip. Here’s your in­sider guide to the land of tum­bling wa­ters.

A is for AfriCamps

Well es­tab­lished in the Western Cape, AfriCamps has fi­nally opened a chic glamp­ing desti­na­tion. Just out­side the trop­i­cal town of Hazyview, AfriCamps at Mack­ers of­fers self­ca­ter­ing tents with splen­did out­door decks that over­look the Sa­bie River. Make the most of the serene wa­ters and pack a lilo or floatie if vis­it­ing this sum­mer.

063 170 4222, www.africamps.com

B is for Brum­mer Tours

The town of Pil­grim’s Rest was de­clared a Na­tional Mon­u­ment in 1986 and is one of two liv­ing mu­se­ums in South Africa (the other is Matjies­fontein). Do a Pil­grim’s Rest evening Ghost Tour with Brum­mer Tours and you might just meet a res­i­dent from the town’s gold rush hey­day. If an evening tour is not for you, there are also daily tours of the beau­ti­fully re­stored Alanglade House. 082 522 1958

C is for Chakalaka Vetkoek

Pair it with Shangaan Stout and you have the per­fect lunch. Sa­bie Brew­ing Com­pany is home to pet chick­ens, an out­door din­ing area and home-made hops beer. Each beer is named after a char­ac­ter from lo­cal folk­lore, such as the Shangaan Stout, which shares the tale of how Sa­bie River got its name.

013 764 1005, www.sa­biebrew­ery.com

D is for De­lagoa Arts and Crafts

Named for Ma­puto Bay and the trad­ing route that his­tor­i­cally linked South Africa and Mozam­bique, this quirky shop stocks beau­ti­ful finds from across South Africa. There are stores in Dull­stroom and Graskop. Once you’re done

brows­ing, grab a sweet or savoury treat next door at Har­rie’s Pan­cakes – it’s be­come an in­sti­tu­tion on any Panorama Route road­trip. 013 767 1081, www.de­lagoa.co.za

E is for Eh­lanzeni Dis­trict

This area of Mpumalanga to which the Panorama Route be­longs en­com­passes the Drak­ens­berg es­carp­ment and Lowveld, and stretches from the Three Ron­dav­els view­point in the north all the way south to the gold rush town of Bar­ber­ton (home to the Makhon­jwa Moun­tains, South Africa’s new­est Unesco World Her­itage Site) and the Eswa­tini bor­der.

F is for Fann Falls

About 25 kilo­me­tres north of Graskop on the R532, the short river­side walk to the falls (about seven kilo­me­tres, and two hours re­turn) from the best al­fresco eatery in the area. And the rush­ing wa­ter­fall is likely to be far qui­eter than other eas­ier view­points. After you’ve worked (and walked) up an ap­petite, set­tle in at the Potluck Boskom­buis. Un­fussy with rus­tic tables over­look­ing the Treur River, this offthe-grid bush kitchen serves up good old South African meals (think pap and wors) cooked over fires. 073 705 4734

G is for Geck­o­ing

An un­der­tak­ing for the more ad­ven­tur­ous, geck­o­ing (or white-wa­ter tub­ing) in a one-man in­flat­able with Kestell Barnard of Kestell Ad­ven­tures (in Sa­bie town) will in­tro­duce trav­ellers to the more tur­bu­lent side of the Sa­bie River. Pack a pair of wa­ter booties or closed shoes, cos­tume, towel and set aside four hours.

072 351 5553 www.kestel­lad­ven­tures.com

H is for Hei­del­spruit

This is the start­ing point of the re­cently re­launched Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Hik­ing Trail. Closed for al­most a decade, this trail is back in busi­ness as a three-day route that be­gins near God’s Win­dow out­side Graskop and ends at Bourke’s Luck Pot­holes in the Blyde River Canyon. The mod­er­ate trail doesn’t re­quire any hard-core scram­bling and the ba­sic overnight huts are set in prime lo­ca­tions be­side dreamy swim­ming spots.

082 8793 945, www.mpumalanga.com

I is for Iron Age Art

Be­fore you start the as­cent up Long Tom

Pass on the R37, the Ly­den­burg Mu­seum just out­side the town is well worth a stop. En­try is free and in­side you’ll find his­tor­i­cal dis­plays on the var­i­ous in­hab­i­tants of this area, plus the ear­li­est-known ex­am­ples of Iron Age art south of the equa­tor – repli­cas of the in­tri­cately carved, ter­ra­cotta Ly­den­burg Heads dated to about 490 AD. 013 235 2213

J is for Jou­bert Bridge

Sit­u­ated in down­town Pil­grim’s Rest, this pretty stone bridge was built in 1896, named after JS Jou­bert (the mine com­mis­sioner in the 1890s) and is the start of Rob­bers Pass. A moun­tain pass with that kind of name has to have a great back story. In this case, it harks back to 1899, when two high­way­men held up a stage­coach and robbed it of £10 000 worth of gold. It took 13 years to bring the cul­prits to jus­tice. 013 768 1060

K is for Kadishi Tufa Wa­ter­fall

The Kadishi Tufa wa­ter­fall is in the canyon but ac­cessed via Hoed­spruit and the Swa­dini Road. Known as a liv­ing wa­ter­fall, the Kadishi builds up sed­i­ment with its wa­ter flow, rather than erod­ing the rock, as nor­mally hap­pens with wa­ter­falls. It’s best seen from a boat on the Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Dam, which also takes you below the Three Ron­dav­els.

086 512 9186, www.bly­de­canyon.co.za

L is for Lo­co­mo­tive.

There are two train-themed eater­ies in the Panorama Route area. Housed in an ac­tual car­riage, the Smokey Train Diner (013 764 3445) in Sa­bie is fa­mous for foldover piz­zas served hot from the old En­gine Room. Sleep­ers Rail­way Sta­tion Restau­rant (015 793 1014) in Hoed­spruit is a pop­u­lar lo­cal hang-out, has great spe­cials, su­per Sun­day roasts and brims with mem­o­ra­bilia.

M is for Mot­latse Canyon

You might bet­ter recog­nise it as the Blyde River Cayon but, of­fi­cially, in 2005 the Blyde River was re­named Mot­latse River which means ‘a river that is al­ways full’ in the SePu­lane lan­guage. The canyon walls plum­met more than 800 me­tres from the plateau and the spec­ta­cle is best ad­mired from the Three Ron­dav­els view­point.

N is for New York

New York, Lon­don, Ber­lin and Liver­pool are just some of the names of farms in this area. The names re­flect the ori­gins of the many min­ers who flocked there dur­ing the gold rush, in search of riches. An­other place in­spired by its early set­tlers is Lis­bon Falls just north of Graskop, at 94 me­tres the high­est wa­ter­fall in Mpumalanga. Don’t miss the hour-long hike to the bot­tom, and swim in the crys­tal-blue pool.

O is for Otis El­e­va­tor

The same brand that sails down Sand­ton’s tallest tow­ers can be found on the edge of a cliff in Mpumalanga. The Graskop Gorge Lift drops 51 me­tres into a mag­i­cal for­est world. Wan­der the bril­liantly sign­posted board­walks and en­joy views across the Motitsi Falls.

066 305 1572 www.graskop­gorgelift­com­pany.co.za

P is for Pot­holes

A bone of con­tention among many lo­cals (who will tell you the ‘P’ on the Mpumalanga num­ber plates stands for pot­holes), many of the roads in Mpumalanga sadly have fallen into dis­re­pair. Keep your eyes on the road. You can also find nat­u­ral (much pret­tier) pot­holes at the Bourke’s Luck Pot­holes vis­i­tor cen­tre.

Q is for Qui­nine

Best served in a tonic and mixed with gin. Lo­cal va­ri­eties in­clude Duke Gin made us­ing litchis farmed at Sum­mer­fields Rose Re­treat and Rottcher Cit­rus-based Slowveld Gin, both found in Hazyview. At­tend the Lowveld Gin Fest on 27 April to find more flavours.

076 674 5536, www.lowveldg­in­fest.co.za

R is for Riss­ing­ton Inn

If you’re after true coun­try feel and hearty fare, look no fur­ther. Set up to en­joy sweep­ing views of Hazyview’s ma­cadamia farms and av­o­cado fields, this re­laxed inn is a won­der­ful base for ex­plor­ing the Panorama Route and dip­ping into the Kruger Na­tional Park, with Phabeni Gate just a 15-minute drive away.

013 737 7700, www.riss­ing­ton.co.za

S is for Shiloh Cof­fee Es­tate

Bring your binocs. Not only will you find in­for­ma­tive cof­fee-grow­ing and tast­ing tours, freshly baked cakes, quiches and waf­fles, but un­usual bird species. A pretty pit­stop out­side Hazyview, the restau­rant over­looks a lake that in­cludes some un­usual species, such as the Pygmy Goose and Half-col­lared King­fisher. 079 290 9567

T is for Tobog­gan

Also known as an ‘alpine coaster’, this unique moun­tain-side ride at Misty Moun­tain in Sa­bie of­fers three min­utes of pound­ing adrenalin that will sate any rest­less­ness if you’ve spent too much time in the car.

013 764 3377, www.long­tom­to­bog­gan.co.za

U is for Uzuri

The Uzuri Skin Booster fa­cial and African Pino­tage Deep Tis­sue Mus­cle Melt mas­sage are just two of­fer­ings you can ex­pect from the new AM Spa at Skukuza. The first spa to be opened in a Kruger Na­tional Park rest camp, it will soothe your body and soul in the bushveld.

079 285 7769, www.amspa.co.za

V is for Vaal­hoek Road

Ditch the pot­hole-rid­dled roads and use this scenic route. If you have a ve­hi­cle with some clear­ance, this gravel back road be­tween Bourke’s Luck Pot­holes and Pil­grim’s Rest fol­lows the Blyde River and is a won­der­ful de­tour. Find it sand­wiched be­tween the R532 and the R36.

W is for World’s End

This is where you want to be at sun­rise or sun­set to ex­pe­ri­ence a true spec­ta­cle. Perched on the edge of the Mot­latse Canyon near Three Ron­dawels, you can’t get closer to Mpumalanga’s best views than at Blyde Canyon, A For­ever Re­sort. The provin­cial park view­points close early, but here you can pho­to­graph well into the golden hour from within the re­sort grounds.

086 122 6966, www.fore­verbly­de­canyon.co.za

X is for Xavier Vi­groux

An avid clas­sic-car col­lec­tor, Xavier has a splen­did vin­tage assem­bly of Chevys, Mi­nis, Landies and more at 24 De­grees South. The clas­sic cars and mo­tor­bikes alone are worth the stop, but they are just a small part of this de­light­ful com­plex of gift stores and restau­rants that make up this bushveld ‘mall’ near Hoed­spruit. Anne’s Cot­ton Club is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar so book ahead if you want a great lunch. 072 467 3310, www.24de­greessouth.co.za

Y is for Yield

Blessed with acres of agri­cul­ture, the Panorama Route has plenty of places to pull off the road and pur­chase the fresh sub­trop­i­cal fruits that thrive in this re­gion. Find ba­nanas, man­goes, paw­paws, macadamias and more.

Z is for Zenith

God’s Win­dow is said to be the zenith of the Panorama Route. Such a pic­turesque view­point (on the R534 loop off the R532) it was given holy con­no­ta­tions, it gives you a view across the en­tire Lowveld on a clear day.

The Blyde River Canyon Na­ture Re­serve in the Eh­lanzeni Dis­trict is home to the Three Ron­dav­els, the Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Dam, Bourke’s Luck Pot­holes, God’s Win­dow and the Mot­latse Canyon that stretches over 26 kilo­me­tres.

LEFT: Glamp­ing in style at AfriCamps. Each spa­cious tent faces the river and is just a step or two from the wa­ter. ABOVE: As well as pro­duc­tive farms, the Panorama Route is blessed with gar­dens, with blooms such as aza­leas that live be­side the Sa­bie Wa­ter­fall. BELOW LEFT: Go back in time at the var­i­ous mu­se­ums in Pil­grim’s Rest, where the post of­fice still works and the Royal Ho­tel still of­fers a cold pint. BELOW: The Sa­bie Brew­ing Com­pany is lo­cated in a road­side her­itage build­ing and is open ev­ery day.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Re­lax and dip your toes in the Treur River when din­ing at the rus­tic Potluck Kom­buis. ● On day two of the Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Hike, hik­ers ad­mire the view just around the cor­ner from Clearstream Hut. ● A bridge crosses the pools where the Blyde and Treur rivers meet in an area known as Bourke’s Pot­holes in the Mot­latse Canyon. ● A re­ward­ing sight, this beau­ti­ful wa­ter­fall and swim­ming hole lie at the end of a short trail that starts at Potluck Boskom­buis and runs along the Treur River.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: A high­light is the view­point look­ing across Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Dam in the Mot­latse Canyon to the Three Ron­dawels on the far side. Re­mem­ber to take cash for the en­try fee to the viewsite. ● Look care­fully and you’ll see a face in this cliff. The Ka­dis­ihi Tufa Wa­ter­fall seeps from the eyes and falls into Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Dam. ● Al­though these are repli­cas of the fa­mous Ly­den­burg Heads – the ear­li­est-known form of African sculp­ture in South­ern Africa – they are worth stop­ping to see at Ly­den­burg Mu­seum. ●There are also pic­nic and swim­ming spots above Lis­bon Falls if you’re not up to a hike down to where the Lis­bon River forms a se­ries of shal­lower ponds.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Graskop Gorge Lift (known as the Otis El­e­va­tor) drops 51 me­tres into pris­tine for­est where you can wan­der along well-sign­posted board­walks and en­joy views across the Motitsi Falls ● At Riss­ing­ton Inn out­side Hazyview, ask after the owner Chris Harvie to hear hearty sto­ries about the area, and hi­lar­i­ous travel ca­pers. ● Take a boat cruise on Bly­deriv­ier­spoort Dam, whose calm emer­ald wa­ters are home to hippo, crocodiles and of­fer a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to the third-largest canyon in the world. ● Pot­holes and pine plan­ta­tions – el­e­ments that de­fine the Panorama Route.

TOP LEFT: A-Z marks the spot. TOP RIGHT: Spike your adrenalin on this unique three-minute tobog­gan ride down the moun­tain-side at Misty Moun­tain be­tween Sa­bie and Ly­den­burg. ABOVE: At an al­ti­tude of 1 730 me­tres, the views from God’s Win­dow are worth the stairs.

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