I joined B on a regional visit to Nelspruit and we took the opportunity to explore part of the Mpumalanga province over the weekend. Just the name in itself made me want to explore it: Mpumalanga…it means “the place where the sun rises” (similar to Nippon/Japan, which is where half my roots lie, but I digress…)
I rented a big car since our plan was to head into Kruger Park on the second day and the lovely people from Avis presented a brand new Toyota 4×4 SUV. White of course. Because all the cars in South Africa are white.
For the first part of our road trip we headed from Nelspruit to the famous Panorama Route. This route is about 250km and it stretches from, let’s say White River all the way to the Blyde River Canyon. We didn’t make it that far, but I feel it is certainly worth exploring on a next visit.
We drove past White River towards Sabie and from there on towards Graskop. The last being a rather touristy town, that has for reasons unknown to me, a disproportionate number of pancake restaurants. Which is not my thing.
The real Panorama Route starts from here. There are plenty of lovely sights and viewpoints on the way, like waterfalls, water holes and rock formations.
A famous and busy stop along the way is a viewing point called God’s Window. Someone should be awarded a prize for thinking up that gorgeous name. And it certainly is a beautiful spot that is easy to reach via a trail cut out of the mountain bush to the top and then you can watch from the top almost a kilometer down to the Lowveld.
Besides God’s Window, the sights along the Panorama Route are a marketing dream, with names like Wonder View, the Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondawels. Who wouldn’t want to visit those places? Most of them require a small fee (like R10-20, not much, but better to know about it upfront) and although you will be able to take many beautiful photographs, you will not be alone. The Route has been promoted widely and most stops will have curio stalls supporting the local communities, and toilet facilities at the parking areas. At some waterfalls, the view consisted mostly of bathing Scandinavian backpackers on teva’s (sorry, but: ugh!)
We made a stop for lunch at Pilgrim’s Rest, a quaint old village from the gold rush days of the late 1800s. The entire village is a tourist attraction and was declared a National Monument in 1986. The small shops sell all kinds of arts, crafts and other curios stuff your old Granny would make. The historic cemetery is lovely and worth a visit.
Best: The drive itself is beautiful, with long winding roads through forests and mountains and the names of the sights are soooo evocative!
Worst: July is a very quiet month but it was quite busy everywhere. Don’t expect to have the view to yourself!