Johannesburg - Travelling to Durban by car in 1945 was a 14-hour mission. My earliest recollection of going on holiday was of the family strapping suitcases on the roof of the Hillman Minx and setting out at 4 in the morning. The road sported stretches of sand and even a farm gate in one place and refreshments consisted of tucking into the ample picnic basket with homemade delights so part of a long journey in those days… not to forget the canvas water bottle that hung on the front bumper to keep cool.
In those days it was simply not on the agenda to consider an even more arduous holiday venture to Nelspruit and the Lowveld except for those who were inveterate caravanners attracted to the Kruger National Park and its wildlife.
Today it appears that Mpumulanga’s time has come with society’s hectic pace limiting leisure time, making it a preferred destination for Gautengers.
Heading for Kruger, we took the N4 from Pretoria and the R540 scenic option at Belfast to Sabie (also saving R50 in tolls) and booked into the Wayfarers Guest House which is renowned for its hospitality and the stunning photographs hanging on all walls courtesy of Chris Colverd, the host.
He and wife MoraG are also a wealth of information and over dinner at the Wild Fig Tree (tasty, well-served meal all-round – trout with macadamia nuts; kudu potjie and excellent steaks), we learned that Sabie had recently won the national competition as “Dorpie of the Year” which is expected to increase the influx of tourists.
However, on the down side it is apparent that the concession fiasco at Pilgrim’s Rest will have negative repercussions throughout the region with some tour operators already changing their routes. Chris says that common sentiment among all those affected is that the minister of tourism has turned a blind eye to the problem in his fixation with the Cape taking preference in the industry.
It was non-stop discussion about the business of tourism and around midnight before we returned to Wayfarers. Amazingly the Wild Fig was still filled to capacity considering it was a Sunday evening.
Wayfarers has five spacious en suite bedrooms, some with their own deck, a breakfast room, guest lounge and a quiet and relaxing garden teeming with Birdlife. At prices ranging from R375 per person to R500 it makes an ideal place for a family visiting the area.
We settled down for a nightcap in the lounge adorned with striking photos of wildlife and cars feeling much like part of the family. Chris points out that much remains to be done in educating the people overseas who book tours for visitors to improve the quality of their trip.
“Many do not realise the distances between tourist hotspots in South Africa and a party will end up with an exhausting itinerary that takes away the wonderful experience of peace and relaxation that can be found in the Kruger and many places in Mpumalanga. In a similar way travellers from Gauteng will add a lot of enjoyable quality to their wildlife experience with a night over en route to the park.”
His words rang true for us in the days that followed. Refreshed after a comfortable seven hours sleep, we continued our journey to the Kruger National Park just an hour or two away depending on the route chosen.
Footnote: Watch out for potholes on the road to Orpen Gate.