WATCH: Adventure and chocolate overload in KZN Midlands
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The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands has long been a destination to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. And with the pandemic, it makes for the ideal social distancing holiday option.
I've been here many times, and each time I'm surprised at its diverse offerings.
This time I'm travelling with Tourism KwaZulu-Natal. We will spend the next 48 hours dabbling in adventure, sinking our teeth into some delightful cuisine and visiting landmarks filled with rich history.
Our first stop is Yellowwood Cafe and Restaurant, known for its majestic view of the Howick Falls and sumptuous food.
Owner Sandra Murphy bought the property 18 years ago and transformed the premises into an appealing spot for locals and tourists.
Besides the exquisite views, the food options are vast and the portions generous.
Thrill-seekers can work up an appetite with a game of paint-balling hosted by Action Combat Paintball on Yellowwood's property.
Our next stop is the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, the site where police arrested the former president in 1962. The immersive museum offers insight into the freedom fighter's political career and achievements.
You can take the 'Long Walk To Freedom' to check out the steel structure that depicts Mandela. It's here where travellers snap a few selfies or two.
As I've been here before, I opt to explore the premises and stumble upon a beautiful seating area where travellers can enjoy picnics or respite from the heat.
The next morning, our group leaves the hotel at 5am to get to our sunrise hot air balloon experience at Granny Mouse Country House and Spa.
The almost one hour ride boasts some of the most scenic views I've ever seen, from a dazzle of zebras enjoying a morning sprint to aerial views of elegant houses kitted with enormous swimming pools and fire pits.
By midday, we indulge in a picnic on the lush lawns at Karkloof Canopy tours before the group tackled a two-hour zip-lining expedition in the forest.
The picnic basket, filled with cheeses, freshly baked bread and spreads, sandwiches and chocolate brownies, was the fuel needed to tackle the adrenaline-fuelled activity.
Arts and crafts central
The itinerary for day 3 of our Midlands trip put the spotlight on arts and crafters in the area.
General manager of Midlands Meander Association Marian Evans said the organisation aims to showcase more arts and craft offerings this year.
Shuttleworth Weaving, a company that creates bespoke handcrafted carpets and rugs, is one of them.
Woodcarver extraordinaire Alson Zuma, who has his work sold at many Midlands establishments, is outside Shuttleworth Weaving this morning. Zuma's hand-carved panels are featured on the walls of The Palace Hotel, Mala Mala Game Reserve and the KZN cultural Museum. He doesn't have a premises but is part of many events in the community.
Soon, our bus travels to ceramist Astrid Dahl studio. Dahl, who had her work displayed in New York, Paris and Dubai, shared insight on what drew her to become a ceramist and the process of creating a masterpiece.
The morning activities end with a chocolate dipping experience at Chocolate Heaven at The Junction.
I dip sweet piquanté pepper, ginger and jelly sweets into dark and milk chocolate. All pairings were delicious, leaving us all in a sugar high.
We still manage to feast on a three-course meal at Bosch Hoek Lodge. The only thing better than the delicious food was the mouthwatering views the lodge offers.
KZN Midlands, a real treat!