I’m not much of an astrology fan, but I do think that August should be devoted to Scorpio (no, I don’t know the real dates) because it is the month with a sting in its tail.
Just when you think winter has gone, August will whip around and sting – with freezing winds, plunging temperatures and, as happened last week, even snow.
Undoubtedly the snow was fun for Gautengers, but the reality is that this bitter cold is not fun. Time to escape to a warmer spot…
Just such a spot is Tzaneen, the subtropical farming and business centre that is the second-biggest city in Limpopo. It’s 710 metres about sea level and its mild climate is evident in the crops you see growing in the Letaba Valley – oranges, bananas, avocados, mangoes, litchis, tea and coffee.
At the Fairview Hotel just outside the town, owner Marinda Thomas is an enthusiastic promoter of her home town: “There are so many different things to do around here that it is a great weekend destination.”
Thomas outlines some of the options in the area (at most an hour’s drive from the town):
There are a host of other things to see and experience in the area, from cultural tours to home produce (there is a regular strawberry festival) and art.
“When people think of getaway weekends from Johannesburg and Pretoria, they tend to go to places like Dullstroom and Clarens, but in this area we have everything those places have – and much more,” says Thomas.
For me, the appeal of the area is the combination of mountain scenery (in nearby Haenertsburg and Magoebaskloof) with the steamy plantations of the Lowveld. There are also two large bodies of water – the Ebenezer and Tzaneen dams – which are not only picturesque, but provide the opportunity for fishing, water-skiing or chilling and picnicking.
Thomas and husband, Andre (also from the town), established the Fairview Hotel and Lodge in 1996, converting a popular caravan park that was a favourite “pit stop” for many people heading to Kruger National Park.
The jewel in the crown of the complex is the Fairview Village, a five-star development on the banks of the Letaba River, which flows through Tzaneen, and that was where we stayed.
To say it was a surprise to find accommodation of this quality in what I had thought of as a one-horse farming town would be an understatement.
The suite was tastefully furnished. It was fully equipped – from satellite TV to a minibar and coffee-making facilities – and featured a large bathroom with jacuzzi bath.
The Le’Thaba restaurant at the hotel features an interesting and unusual menu. Among other things, we enjoyed a fresh tapas plate as a starter that would have gone toe-to-toe with any served by larney restaurants in Cape Town or Durban.
But the whole atmosphere of Fairview, and of Tzaneen as a whole, is relaxed. You can almost feel yourself slowing down as you wind down to the town out of the mountains.
There’s plenty to do, but there’s no pressure to do anything, if you don’t want to. Just the sort of place to unwind for a weekend. (Or for a wedding, one of the hotel’s speciality services.)
The Fairview Hotel and Lodge is part of the South African Hidden Treasures programme; an innovative local tourism initiative developed by the Tourism Enterprise Partnership (TEP) and consisting of unique tourism experiences that provide visitors with a taste of our country’s rich and varied history and culture. These small and medium enterprises were identified by TEP for their quality tourism experiences and craft offerings. TEP is funded by the government and large corporates. It offers hands-on, step-by-step support and guidance to more than 3 000 small, medium and micro tourism businesses.