Mbombela - To the fortunate, nature gave us two eyes and two ears, so that we could see and hear twice as much. Graskop and its surroundings are about seeing and hearing.
People need time away from the busy cities and routine lives at home and at work, and Mpumalanga is one of the best destinations for that soul-healing serenity.
For my girlfriend and I, it was an opportunity to chill, recharge our batteries and explore a little of what this fantastic country of ours has to offer.
But it was also road trip time! And who doesn’t love a road trip?
First rule of road trips: dress comfortably. When I picked up Ziphorah at her house, she was rocking a white pair of shorts and white top. I was dressed similarly, in white shorts and T-shirt.
Next rule: padkos (food for the road). Ziphorah reminded me about that!
With cooler box and basket ready, we headed straight to the stores to get something for the road. Still water, biltong, cashew and pecan nuts. I was ready to go. The lady needed still water, some sweets, potato chips and other things to fill the picnic basket.
Then, from Mamelodi, we hit the N1 highway and set course for our weekend home - Blyde Canyon, a Forever Resort - just under 500km away.
Third rule of road trips: enjoy the drive.
That thought is not always possible when you’re with a petrol-head who loves to drive. That’s Ziphorah: not for the passive role of sitting in the passenger seat, letting the man drive.
Anyway, I had a project I was working on, so she took the wheel.
Fourth rule of road tripping: great music.
One of the tracks pulsing through the little Renault Clio was Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. Apt, because Ziphorah was touching an indicated 140km/h at times.
“Speeds so fast, it was like I was drunk...” Tracy’s words in the air.
She didn’t think she was speeding.
I asked: “Ziphorah, why are we speeding? Shouldn’t we enjoy the beautiful, mountainous, serene and refreshing sight of Mpumalanga?”
She slowed down. But she was back at it after a few minutes. Once a petrol-head speedster, always a petrol-head speedster.
I was done with my work after two hours on the road. Then we had to swop at our second stop. It’s pivotal for both of us to have driver’s licences. Especially if you fancy exploring our beautiful country together as a couple.
Taking a flight is quick and more convenient, but it denies most people the beauty of the landscape, the vegetation, and all the attraction of nature exposed to the eye.
After driving 180km on the N4, we off-ramped to the Naledi road. There’s a railway line that stretches for about 60km alongside the tarred road. We saw a goods train on it and took in the sights of the green trees alongside, and the dams.
We kept on saying: “Wow, this is so beautiful. It’s as though someone was tasked with arranging the non-man-made features. Surely, it can only be God. What an artist He is.”
We stopped along the railway to admire the clouds and take a few selfies.
The journey was such fun, and this gave one hope that the destination would only be better. Boy, were we right.
We doubted the capacity of the car to get us there, but we were not the only ones driving in a small car. We spotted a few Kia Picantos, VW Polos, Toyota Aurises and more Renault Clios. So, it is not only people with big 4x4s who can take on such long trips. Nonetheless, it would be more pleasant in a big car.
We arrived at the resort at around 5.30 after about five-and-a-half hours on the road. Blyde Canyon, a Forever Resort, is 50km from Graskop and situated near the third-largest canyon in the world. Our chalet was not 5-star, but it was clean, it had pots, a stove, huge fridge, cutlery, etc, for self-catering.
There was not much to do on the first day, but we certainly had a fulfilling road trip.
It was a chilly and very cloudy Friday evening. We’d had lots of food and singing along the way, but we went to check out the resort’s restaurant. They have buffet for breakfast at R140, and dinner at R160.
We didn’t fancy a buffet. We’re both foodies, though, so Ziphorah was surprised when she realised I wasn’t interested.
We looked into the menu and ordered some light meals. They’re not the best cooks or chefs.
We discussed our plan for Saturday as I was excited about visiting God’s Window for the first time. That’s where I wanted to be.
We then headed to our chalet and called it a night at around 10pm.
Saturday morning came. It was sunny, bright and beautiful. Perfect weather to explore the beautiful landscapes of Mpumalanga.
We had breakfast around 9am, then headed on out. The plan was to start at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, but just 2km from the resort there’s a settlement named Matibidi, which is the home of Mamelodi Sundowns legend Surprise Moriri.
About 5km from our base there was a board that read: The Three Rondavels. We then took a short-left.
Nature is beautiful. The tourist guide taught us a lot. We learnt about the history of the rondavels. Apparently, these three geological formations were also once known as “The Chief and his Three Wives”. The flat-topped peak was named Mapjaneng (the chief) after a Bapedi chief, Maripi Mashile, who defeated invading Swazis in a great battle near the canyon. The three peaks are named after his three wives (from left to right): Magabolie, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto (one with a nipple). We are “holding Maseroto” in our hands.
The view is gorgeous.
We then checked the stalls to see what they sold. There were well-crafted sculptures of animals, chess pieces, unique African print cloth, and many other things one could buy for souvenirs.
We spent just more than an hour there admiring, learning, enjoying the tranquillity offered by nature.
We then moved to the amazing Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Not all potholes are bad and, certainly, these ones are the work of nature. A meticulous work of art.
We did not have any tour guide here, but we just rocked up and explored the potholes. This is not for people who have a phobia for heights. You have to believe you can fly. It’s also interesting how they restrict you from reaching areas you would really want to step on. It’s refreshing and the works of nature are really admirable.
We spent two hours at the Potholes, before realising that food and some ice cream were calling our names.
Then the moment I’d been waiting for arrived. A 40km drive to God’s Window. As a young boy, I’d always heard about this Window of God. I was fascinated by the name and finally had a chance to see the world from God’s own window.
It is a breathtaking view. One can’t put it into words to capture or paint the magnificent view from God’s Window. It’s godly.
When you go out, beyond the cities and the bad news, you realise one thing with crystal clarity: we’re blessed to live in such a place.
Tips and hints
It cost only R20 per person at The three Rondavels. It also cost only R40 per person as the Potholes. And God’s window is just R25 per person.
Take comfortable clothes. We spent R800 on fuel, and the fuel gauge was above quarter when we got back. We could not visit the Mac Mac Falls, but it is a place to check out when you are that side. All the sites were within a 60km radius from where we were staying.
A mistake we made, we did not take Monday off at work, and it would have been good to use the Sunday afternoon to explore more of what Mpumalanga had to offer. If it’s a weekend get a way, come back on Monday.
Two nights accommodation cost us R1 500 (thanks to Groupon discounts). We spent less R1 500 on food for two (breakfast, lunch, dinner).
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