Marakele Reserve to Hazyview (via Tzaneen): 8 hours
One last early morning drive through the Marakele reserve and we left Limpopo. We decided to take the ultra scenic route via Polokwane and Tzaneen, crossing the border into Mpumalanga before driving south to Hazyview. I’m so glad we did; this section of the drive was by far the most spectacular. From Polokwane, winding roads hugged the mountainside as we climbed higher and higher, above the mist and dust from bakkies upon the gravel roads out of Mankweng township. Then as we drew nearer to Tzaneen, we became surrounded by plantations of bananas and maize. Out of the dry, golden Limpopo we were now engulfed in luscious, deep greens. The landscape had become that which I’d expect from Rwanda, not South Africa.
Where We Stayed: Gecko Lodge, Hazyview
We found ourselves staying in Hazyview while we explored Blyde River and it’s surroundings. Gecko Lodge was the perfect location for us: just half an hour from pancakes (also known as Graskop), close to restaurants and a few stores but still isolated enough to hear nothing by the wind and see nothing but a sky full of stars. Hazyview itself is a quaint little farming town, not far outside the Kruger National Park. I can only really describe the place as beautifully humble.
We stop at one of the local stores and I watch as a farmer and his wife pull up next to us. His shoes, once a deep brown leather, camouflage perfectly into the sandstone gravel in which he trod. I imagine him, working the farm by day as his father did, and his father’s father before him. It seems he has no interest nor reliance on the outside world; no need to venture far…
It was time to head closer towards the Blyde River but first, we needed some fuel. If you ever venture to Mpumalanga, make it your mission to visit Harries Pancakes on your way through Graskop. You won’t be disappointed (and you won’t leave hungry – trust me!)
Where We Ate: Harrie’s Pancakes, Graskop
When you’re on the road, two things are crucially important: snacks and music. I though’t I’d list a few of our favourites for this trip, as well as linking a Spotify playlist with a variety of songs that will now always remind me of this epic adventure. The playlist is quite folky with some South African vibes in there too. If that’s your jam, feel free to check it out:
What We Listen To: Mpumalanga Playlist
- Idris Elba (Home, Hold On)
- Mumford and Sons (Fool You’ve Landed, Ngamila, There Will Be Time, Wona)
- Tom Rosenthal (About the Weather, Soon Soon, Go Solo)
- Tom Misch & Carmody (The Last Song)
- London Grammar (Hey Now, Strong)
- Roo Panes (Open Road)
- Rationale (Fuel to the Fire, Fast Lane)
- Beatenberg (Rafael, Scorpionfish)
- Oh Wonder (Drive, Lose it)
- Michael Kiwanuka (Cold Little Heart)
Though South Africa (like every country) has it’s issues, there is no denying the sheer beauty in both it’s people and it’s landscapes. I have never witnessed anything so awe-inspiring as the Blyde River Canyon. As I sit on the edge and look far across the deep valley, down over the birds now flying below me, I wonder how it looks from way down below. How intimidating it must be; how small and insignificant you must feel. Yet, from way up here, it’s like you are on top of the world. Truly breathtaking.
We watch as the sun begins to set; rays of light hit the top of the cliff face and the mist that had accumulated over the shallow waters begins to glow. We are the only people here. How can it be? This site of beauty undiscovered and unexplored by so many.
Pretty speechless, we returned to the car and began our last leg of the journey back to Pretoria. This trip was everything I could have hoped for. There’s just something special about exploring South Africa: that fire in your belly, the excitement, anticipation and that true feeling of a real adventure. I left Pretoria feeling totally energised and excited for whatever was next… who knows what that will be?!
I made a short Youtube video of our trip to the incredible Blyde River Canyon. If you are keen to watch, click here!
Photos by Mauritz and Myself. Check out more photos from our time in Limpopo on Mauritz’s incredible Instagram: Mauritz Crous