I sit in the back of the taxi, in awe of the vast lands of beauty before me.The lush greenery, mountains and cattle captivate me. We are driving to Hluleka Nature Reserve.
This Eastern Cape gem is 5 hours from East London, 6 hours from Durban and 10 hours from Johannesburg. Hluleka Nature Reserve is one of those vacation spots you visit to enjoy the beach, while still having the privacy amid a rustic, luxury setting.
Part owned by Eastern Cape Tourism, Hluleka National Park is a getaway worth the painful gravel road drive.
We arrive at Hluleka just before sunset. Zebras wander near the chalets, their heads buried in the grass. Some chalets are perched up high, providing 180 degree views of the sea. All of the accommodation offerings are self catering.
The accommodation itself is cosy with modern furniture and designs.
By nightfall, my stomach roars with hunger. The staff prepare us a beautiful bush braai at one of the chalets. Usually it's self catering, but since we are on a media visit touring the Eastern Cape, they make an exception.
When we enter, they are teeming with songs of joy as they prepare a feast for us. On the menu is fish, a selection of braai meat, veggies and salads. A delightful trifle, in a wine glass, ends the meal on a high note.
By morning, after a night of load shedding, I am ready to explore more of this hidden gem. I decide to take a walk to the beach, just two minutes away from the chalets.
It is just what I need to cool off from the Eastern Cape sun. While I dip my feet, I see crabs sneak in and out of the sand. Those who have time can pack a picnic lunch.
Soaking in the culture is also important for the Hluleka team. They partner with the local community of Xhuthudwele to host a cultural experience for guests who want to learn about the dynamics of a truly authentic South African homestead.
We visit in the late afternoon, around the time the sun is about to set. Nodumile, the homestead keeper, welcomes us.
She shows us how the household operates and the duties men, women and children perform. With the cattle in the kraal, and goats finding sprigs of grass to eat, the villagers welcome us with a high energy dance.
Later, Nozamile Nondlondlo shows us how to prepare pap and samp and beans. We sample traditional bread and samp that is so delicious that I want more. The experience teaches me to value what I have. One does not need technology or a fast car to enjoy the pleasures of life. It's the simple acts that can bring happiness.
As we drive down steep hills and onto the gravel roads, I am itching to visit again. Besides, I have not been anywhere that offers state of the art accommodation, the beach and a village all in one setting.