Friday 8 April, we were off early morning, taking a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg. We got into the rental car and aimed for Hazyview, Mpumalanga, stopping on the way for a fresh trout pie at the well-known Milly’s near Machadodorp. Milly’s was established in 1974. The restaurant overlooks the trout dam and visitors have fun feeding the fish through an open window.
We arrived after dark in Hazyview and found our accommodation (after a few bumps and starts at Nelspruit) with relative ease. Thulamela Guest Lodge was somewhat of a surprise. The place is beautiful, and the hostess adds lovely artistic touches, like bowls of roses along the walkway, to make it memorable. But, in the dark of night, it was a little disconcerting to climb so many steps into the woods to get to our secluded log cottages. Thank goodness there were two men to carry our cases. However, our stay turned out to be remarkable.
The beautifully equipped cabins each had fabulous views of the surrounding forest. If one stayed there for a few days, one could be pretty self-contained. There is a lovely small kitchen plus a braai area. I enjoyed the private hot tub on my porch that night, even though I slipped on the rose petals scattered around it and landed on my behind!
Two charming ladies brought a scrumptious breakfast to our cottage each morning. What luxury, and what a spread!
We were ready to explore the Blyde River Canyon the following day. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy, and by the time we reached Graskop, thick mist surrounded us. Finally, it cleared enough so that we could take the glass elevator down the gorge at Graskop, descending 17 stories to the floor of the canyon. What an absolute joy.
A well-designed walkway with boards displaying information about the flora takes one on a lovely trail with stunning views of waterfalls, pools, and the cliffs above.
One can also hike further across a swing bridge, which I avoided, of course. But my companions had great fun!
High above, adventurers were bungee-jumping and soaring through the air.
What a pity the weather was so foul. With zero chance of visibility, we had to abandon seeing more of the Blyde River Canyon by car, and I took the road to Sabie instead. I love this area with its indigenous forests and tree plantations.
We stopped for lunch at Petena Pancakes Restaurant, regarded as one of the best pancake houses in the country. A South African pancake is very similar to a French crepe.
There was an exciting variety of sweet and savory fillings on the menu. We all opted for the bobotie filling.
We then took a leisurely drive back to Hazyview, just in time for the long-awaited meeting with the pachyderms at Elephant Whispers. Getting up close and personal with the elephants at this shelter remains a unique and moving experience. From an adjoining property, one can sometimes see them frolic in the shallows of the Sabie River.
That evening, an ex-colleague of mine, Leonie Schmidt, invited us for dinner with her family on their farm. Unfortunately, we had such a great time and lively conversations that we forgot to take photos! My group certainly had a great introduction to South African culture and hospitality. We thoroughly enjoyed the unique venison bobotie her husband made in their new outdoor oven on the extended porch. Bobotie is a national dish in South Africa, mainly ground meat, lightly curried with a custard topping. One usually serves it with sliced bananas and chutney. It was unusual to have bobotie made from kudu meat, so it was a special treat.
It was time for bed and a good rest before leaving for the Kruger National Park the following day.