This South African adventure started in the city of Johannesburg, click here if you want to read this story from the start.
After a delicious lunch at the vibrant Neighbourgoods Market, we leave Johannesburg. Our wonderful driver Nelson takes us to the beautiful Magaliesburg mountains and Ananda pics up the microphone now and then to give us information about the area we drive through (and about life in general in South Africa). The landscape changes as soon as we leave the citym I think that is maybe the most special about South Africa: the constantly changing and impressive landscapes.
After about an hour we arrive in Magaliesberg where we stay for 2 nights. Magaliesburg is a small town, located at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountain range. The mountain, the city and the river are all named after Magali (or Mohale), chief of the Po people, who lived here in the 19th century. We have entered a beautiful, lush, green area. Nelson carefully crosses a small bridge to the driveway of De Hoek Country Hotel. Velvet monkeys swing through the trees as we drive towards the entrance. The hotel looks absolutely beautiful, I cannot believe we are staying here! De Hoek Country Hotel is a 5 Star boutique hotel and looks amazing. Both the exterior and interior blend in with the surroundings and the work that has been put into this hotel, makes this place so special. The colours, materials and art… so many little details make it warm and cosy!
We are welcomed with a high tea in the lounge, while the reception staff check us in. I love an authentic high tea and when being at home or at work, I always have a pot of tea next to me (just not with delicious treats like we get served here). Next to the reception is the Conservatory restaurant and from here we can see the forest through the glass doors and windows. We all get a room in the original Manor House; actually we get a beautiful executive suite, complete with bathroom/shower en-suite and 2 very comfortable beds. I see a bath tub and I am not leaving this hotel before having a bath (since I only have a shower at home)! What a treat to be staying here!
We get changed for dinner. Tonight we are eating outside the hotel at restaurant Carnivore in Muldersdrift; it takes Nelson about 40 minutes to get us there. This is not just any restaurant, it is Africa’s Greatest Eating Experience (as they say so themselves). The restaurant is big and busy, but buzzing and full of atmosphere! You have to love meat, otherwise you are at the wrong restaurant. They serve delectable game and domestic meat dishes and there is an extensive wine selection of well-known South African wines. Carnivore says it guarantees the guests an unforgettable dining experience. Well… this for sure is true!
It is an “all you can eat” concept, so there is food in abundance. We try chicken, pork, but also crocodile, zebra, kudu and warthog. I have a local beer instead of wine and I think it goes perfectly with the food that is being served to us! In between the courses, the waiters and kitchen staff make music and sing and everybody enjoys it. I am not a fan of big restaurants, but the food and atmosphere here is really good and we are in good company with this wonderful group. Back at the hotel we all go to bed with our bellies full, a smile on our faces and curious what awaits us tomorrow. But I am not going to sleep without having my bath :).
Day 4: The Cradle of Humankind
We all have a good night sleep in our beautiful suites and very comfortable beds. In the morning the velvet monkeys wake us up, happily jumping over the roof above our heads. We have breakfast outside in the hotel garden, where ducks and chickens wander around and have their bath in the pond. The sun has come up and the morning light shines beautifully through the trees, which creates a pretty picture. I feel so lucky to be here in this amazing country, in this beautiful hotel!
After breakfast we visit The Cradle of Humankind, the “Cradle of Mankind”, about a 15 minute drive from the hotel. This area has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, because of the large amount of fossils found, which shows that all current world residents are descended from a small group of African people (although some countries claim to have found proof that says otherwise). The Cradle of Humankind is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites (so a must see/visit).
We first visit the Sterkfontein Caves and learn about the interesting history of human origin. Here in 1936 a researcher found a skeleton of more than 2 million years old of an adult ape-man, a lady popularly known as Mrs. Ples. We descend into the caves which are partially open, we wear helmets, get a guided tour and a few history lessons. We see four million years old rocks and beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. What an interesting site to visit!
We move on to the Maropeng Visitor Centre, located just 10 minutes further. At the entrance I find out I left my mirror reflex camera in the ladies room of Sterkfontein Caves. Oh nooooooooooo… 😦 While we go inside the visitor centre, Nelson decides to drive back to see if it is still there (such a sweetheart). In the meantime I will have to use my phone camera. I am a bit upset with myself, because I am always very careful. But I do realize that the weeks before this trip were extremely busy at work and I started this trip a bit tired and well… then you forget things. Anyway, I want to enjoy being here, so I forgive myself and move on! The Visitor Centre is seen as one of the nicest museums in South Africa, because there is much to experience for young and old. We see various excavations, interactive exhibitions and do an underground boat trip.
We walk outside and enjoy the never ending panoramic views. We have a snack for lunch after our tour. Nelson comes back and tells me the camera was not there any more, but… there was a note at the reception of the Sterkfontein caves. A lady took my camera with her, left her phone number on the note writing that she did not want to leave the camera behind. Ananda gets in contact with her to see if we can meet, but we are going into different directions. I do not want to interrupt the program we have, so we get back into the bus for our next adventure and I will see how this story ends.
It is time for some action! We drive to the Magaliesberg Canopy Tour Centre; the name pretty much gives away what we are going to do ;). We are going on a journey through one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world and we will swing over gorges in a rig while being attached to a pulley. Upon arrival we meet the friendly staff, locals with happy, smiling faces and one of them wearing striped knee socks (we give him the nickname Happy Socks). We get a thorough safety briefing that covers all the do’s and don’ts of our tour. After the briefing we get our sliding harness, safety helmet and sliding gloves and put them on. Happy Socks checks if our harnesses are fitted properly. We are ready to get into the 4×4 jeeps that will take us up the mountain, a distance of about 2 kilometres, to the drop off zone near the first platform.
The Magaliesberg range is home to a wide variety of plants, birds and animals. With some luck, we may see impala’s or zebra’s, maybe even spot a duiker or a shy klipspringer. In this area it is also possible to spot black eagles circling above and there is an abundance of rock rabbits (dassies). Depending on which time of day it is, they will either be running around or lazing in the sun on a rock. We are too excited about our canopy tour to spot any animals are keep chatting nervously and laughing.
We arrive at the first platform. We will do 10 slides, up to 30 meters deep and 140 meters long. We are all nervous and 1 or 2 chicken out (nothing wrong with that, quite understandable actually), but although I am nervous too, I do love a bit of adventure! I think about my father, who would see me getting back on a horse when I had fallen off while taking horse riding lessons (I was about 10 years old). He was more scared for me than I ever was, but he let me get back on the horse, giving me the feeling I could do it.
The most difficult part for me is letting go of the solid ground I am standing on; the sliding itself is great and gives me a feeling of freedom. There is no elegant way to slide from one side to the other; well… not for me that is ;). I do not like posting photographs of myself, but the one above is me sliding; I need to prove that I did it right?! The same goes for landing on the other side, poor staff members having to help a clumsy person like me. But they do so with pleasure. We are having the best of times and I think they can hear us screaming from far away as we slide through the mountains! Once we reach the last slide, we are actually sad it is over! If you are up for a bit of adventure, this for sure is one you should not miss!
At the end of the afternoon we return to our beautiful hotel. Ananda tells me that the lady who found my camera will come over to the hotel to drop it off. I seriously cannot believe it! Ananda tells me this lady knows we are on an organized round trip and it would have been difficult for me to collect it and sending it by post would mean I will not have the camera for the rest of the trip. I am so grateful and when I meet her we have a drink and I chat with her for some time. She and her partner have a restaurant, about an hour away from our hotel. I give her a big thank you, I owe her big time and the least I can do is to give her some finders money! I also thank Ananda for her help in contacting her. The lady leaves and I quickly freshen up.
Tonight we are having dinner in the hotel’s dining room. The Conservatory Restaurant in the hotel is known for its exceptional cuisine and fine dining. The personal service that comes along with staying or having dinner here, is the best asset to the hotel! We are in for a treat, because the food being served is exquisite and the wine is pretty good as well. What a great ending to an amazing day!
Day 5: from Magaliesburg to Vaalwater
The next morning the alarm clock wakes us up very early, it is actually still dark. On our program was another amazing activity, which was supposed to be a suprise. We were going to see the sun rise in hot air balloons, but there is too much wind this morning and it would be too dangerous to go up in the air, so the trip is cancelled. But they did wake us up so we do not get ready and we can go back to sleep for a while.
We enjoy another tasty breakfast in the garden, check out (unfortunately) and leave De Hoek Country Hotel and Magaliesburg behind us. We are heading north towards Limpopo. We are halfway through our trip, but it feels like we have been here for weeks. We have quite a drive ahead of us, but we are going to another exciting location, so the drive is worth it. At lunchtime we stop at a shopping mall alongside the road, to get some lunch and stretch our legs. Then a few more hours on the road. It is Nelson who has to do the hard work, driving over dirt roads with the minivan; we get to enjoy the scenery and the bumpy ride!
You can find the travel blog about Limpopo, the last part of this wonderful trip, right here. Do you want to be updated on newly published travel blogs? Sign up with your email address to get a notification!
Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
March 9, 2015