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I Vote Casterbridge For Father’s Day

As I was looking for content for this edition, I decided to explore Casterbridge in White River Mpumalanga.

Was I surprised and impressed with everything they had to offer! Staying in the Lowveld for most of my life I couldn’t imagine why I didn’t do this years ago! Then I wondered, how many others are there like me? Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is an exceptional lifestyle destination with serene gardens, unusual independent shops a boutique hotel and even fitness centre.

They got a huge variety of shops, something for everyone from Coffee Shops and Restaurants to vintage cars, and everything in between.

Sabie Valley Coffee Shop and Roastery

Start your journey with COFFEE

Tim Buckland, owner of Sabie Valley Coffee, and his wife Kim are your hosts. This friendly couple’s passion for coffee is catching, one cannot help but listen to every word they say, their knowledge of these precious beans is astonishing and they are more than happy to share that knowledge and expertise with their clients.

As you enter the shop the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee welcomes you. In the shop, they got a variety of coffee gadgets from years ago to the latest on the market. Add one of their mouth-watering homemade dishes to your experience and you will have something to talk about for years to come.

Valley Spices

Maybe you need the perfect spices to turn your next Biryani into a masterpiece

Valley Spice is a hidden gem of exotic, Indian and Middle Eastern spices. They stock a wide range of difficult to source food ingredients and hand mix spices to your taste.

ROTTCHER WINERIES AND DISTILLERY

Wine or Gin tasting anyone?

Rottcher Wineries and Distillery, which has been a landmark of the Lowveld for the past 50 years, is well worth a visit.

At this cellar, unique alcoholic orange beverages are fermented in the old fashioned way. Pop in and come and taste the “Pride of the Lowveld” – their version of dessert wines, Sherries and ports.

The Distillery produces several citrus based products

– Their very own version of Limoncello Liqueur.
– Rottcher Slowveld Mampoer
– The first citrus based gins in the world! – Slowveld Gins

SHAUTANY CHOCOLATES

“FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE”

Shautany Chocolatiers reminds one of the sweet shops you went into as a child where you pointed at the glass jars and said, “I’ll have that one please”. Glass display cabinets abound with locally handcrafted Belgian and Swiss chocolates, while shelves are laden with pure cocoa chocolate bars and exquisite gifts. The ultimate chocolate fantasy begins…

They encourage a new way to love chocolate that is as appealing as appreciating the traditions of fine wines and coffees. The seduction of chocolate on all human senses is irresistible. This ceremony of chocolate tasting is enhanced by a casual, easy, ambience of intimate excitement.

Shautany is the new chocolate culture: sexy, nostalgic, and forever an object of fantasy for children and grown up children.

ANTIQUES AND ARTIFACTS

If history and classic cars fancy your interest, this is the place for you

The charming owner, Angie Bunyard welcomes you with her friendly warm smile and when she is not around the equally charming Marilyn stands in for her.   Their love and knowledge of History and Antiques are remarkable.

In this unique ‘destination‘, nestled in the Vintage Car Museum, a treasure trove of artistic fusion of funk & functional, past & present pieces creatively combined into bespoke genres by Angie.

The collection comprises of a superb assortment of antiques, fabulous ‘jewellery’ items for décor processes and personal homes, general collectables, historical memorabilia, books, artworks, porcelain, mirrors, carvings, imported French wares combined with traditional African artefacts, stone works, carvings and more. An exciting mixture of traditionalism and innovation, indeed something for everyone.

The delightful owner, Angie Bunyard with her boundless energy has the exceptional ability to point one in the exact direction to find ‘what you never knew you were looking for’.

Creative Union

An eclectic mix of function and design – from repair and restoration of vintage/antique clocks and lighters, custom lighting to furniture design and manufacture.

Vintage Car Museum

The White River History & Motor Museum is home to a large collection of perfectly restored vintage motor cars, tractors and bikes.

Here automobile enthusiasts can see a wide variety of vintage vehicles, including the Willys-Overland, the Swift and the celebrated Model T Ford, the 1929 Austin Seven, various MGs and the 1936 Jaguar SS100, amongst others

A must see for petrol heads visiting Casterbridge.

If these are not enough to keep you busy for a day, they also got an Art Gallery, a Second-Hand Bookshop, a Spa, a Cinema and many more interesting shops.

End the perfect day out with a scrumptious lunch at one of the restaurants in Casterbridge.

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Explore Mpumalanga On Your Off-Road

It is time to take out your bike riding gear and head for hills, forests, dirt roads and those slightly far off places in the province.

Remember to check your bike’s oil and fluid levels before heading out on the road. If your luck is anything like mine, make sure to pack the rain suit as well. Whether you plan to go on a tar or a gravel route be sure to have your brightly coloured reflective jacket on to ensure high visibility. If you are going on an off-road route be sure to have a puncture repair kit and or spare tube handy if your wheels are the tube types.

If you are an experienced rider you know what to do. To refresh your memory and riding skills head out to Sabie either from MBOMBELA (Nelspruit) or via White River. If you get there early have breakfast at The Woodsman or why not make a change and try out the fine fare at Sabie Brewery or The wild Fig Tree Restaurant.

Then get back the tingle of excitement in your toes as you swoop through the smooth curves of the Long Tom Pass. If you are new to the area and the Long Tom Pass ask one of you fellow experienced rider to show you the lines to take through the curves.

Don’t be shy to ask advice on riding some of the best twists and turns in Mpumalanga. Challenge yourself and make use of all the expensive rubber you have on your bike. If you are out early you might just be lucky enough to feel like you are riding on top of the world.

If your heart rate has not been raised by then, stop at Misty Mountain Lodge and take a wild ride on their downhill toboggan. Contact the lodge regarding fees and bookings.

You can then brave the roads from Lydenburg to Dullstroom and enjoy lunch at one of the fine establishments there. The whisky shop comes to mind.

For the more adventurous, the off road dirt roads around Kaapmuiden, Barberton, Kaapsehoop, Swaziland border, Badplaas and Chrissiesmeer offer a wide range to choose from. Take into account that the logging season is in progress and most of the forestry roads are also used by logging trucks and machinery.

Another factor to consider is the recent rains. Roads used extensively by the loggers can proof challenging to beginners or novice dirt riders.

Making a full days ride and getting dirty is the goal. You have to spend at least a day or two cleaning the mean machine that carried you safely. Be sure to oil the chain if your bike is chain driven. Mud and water can take its toll on that shiny new chain and sprockets you had fitted and not used regularly.

Get an early start to make use of the best light for your pictures and utilise the cooler morning air. Pack snacks in your top-box or camelback backpack to have a picnic along the route. Don’t forget the water.

Exploring a recent route, we ended the day at Badplaas. The route followed the service road between the railroad track and the Kruger National Park fence from the Numbi Gate to Matsulu.

This sometime two-track dirt road can be challenging with washed-away low water bridges and slippery causeways. Do not ride this route alone.

From Matsulu you can make your way on tar to Louw’s Creek (R38) and on to Barberton. You can detour on the dirt road by taking the Louieville turn-off that skirts alongside the Shiyalongubodam.

This road links up with the Barberton Geotrail and ambles through an indigenous forest with rich birdlife and small game. This is also a great spot for an impromptu picnic. The Geotrail to Barberton has paved viewpoints where travellers can stop to read about the rich geological finds in the area.

Get out there and explore the blue sky country.

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers

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Roads Less Traveled

In the small town of Barberton in Mpumalanga history and architecture have been coexisting for many, many years. This little town in Mpumalanga is often overlooked, so is the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden.

The town had two stock exchanges, countless saloons and a hotel, as well as the richest gold field in the surrounding Makhonjwa Mountains. It has been home to quite a few colourful and notorious characters. Famous ones include Cockney Liz, Percy Fitzpatric and the Barber cousins who discovered profitable gold in the De Kaap Valley. The life and adventures of Percy Fitzpatric and his dog, Jock, has been immortalised by a statue of this terrier in front of the town hall.

The town, which was proclaimed in 1884, survived and thrived throughout the Gold Rush era.  The discovery of asbestos at the nearby towns of Bulembu and Msauli, also known as Diepgeset close to the border of Swaziland in the late 1960s, attracted new prospectors. The two mines and the town of Barberton were linked by a cablecar system to transport the ore, supplies and even passengers.

Many of these characters are well documented and honoured by plaques or statues and framed photographs in several private collections. One such location where numerous interesting items are found under one roof is the Barberton History and Mining Museum in De Villiers Street.  The old building has been renovated in recent years and now serves as the offices of Wynand Engelbrecht and Pieter Visser of Dusty Tracks. They use the building as the base for their tour operation.

Originally the structure housed the Transvaal Hotel that later became the Impala Hotel.  After moving in they found the building had ample space and decided to display several items they have stumbled upon while guiding tourists and 4×4 enthusiasts through the area. Since they opened the museum in 2016, the collection of items has grown through generous donations from residents and patrons wanting to preserve a small part of the town’s history. The collection ranges from geological finds of rare green stone to fine porcelain, old photographs, old bottles, mining tools, a replica of a penny-farthing bicycle, and, what could most likely be the last 1958 Zündapp combinette motorcycle ever made.

Among all these rare and precious collected items is the artwork of the wandering German artist, Conrad Frederick Genal, dating back to the 1930s. Unfortunately, not much is known about him and a Google search doesn’t turn up much more than references to those murals found in the Barberton building and the Diggers Retreat. It is rumoured that he would offer to decorate the walls in exchange for a place to stay for a few days.  The paintings vary in colour. Some are in full colour and others in monotones of sepia and/or black and blue ink. Over time Genal’s art was painted over and some parts of the walls it will require time and effort to uncover the originals behind the black paint that covers them. Looking at the older buildings in Barberton, one might speculate that there are more of his work hidden behind the high ceilings and covered with new bland layers of white PVA.

How much of these scenes that Genal painted as record of his travels are not known.   At Diggers Retreat on the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden his work has been well preserved though. The hotel in the vicinity of the old Sheba Mine, the renowned Eureka City and the Golden Quarry have several rooms decorated with his works. In the dining room of the hotel, the works of Genal show the old Zeederberg coach, transport riders with their ox-wagons and the Guya Falls in northern Rhodesia. Some say they also depict the life of Jock of the Bushveld.

The Zeederberg Coach Service was established by four Swedish brothers in the 1800s. They transported mail and passengers and started the first mail coach service between Johannesburg and Kimberley in 1887. They expanded their services to the north and eastern towns of Leydsdorp and Pietersburg in 1890. The mail coach service from the CH Zeederberg Ltd. company operated in 1910, and by 1930 the Zeederberg family decided to close the coach services in favour of a car-hire service.

It is interesting to see the different scenes painted in shades of sepia, a brownish antique colouring.  The scene of the Gonye Falls in “N.Rhod” proves that nature and man have changed over time. The waterfall is situated on the Zambezi River in western Zambia and is known today as the Ngonye Falls or Sioma Falls and situated few hundred kilometres upstream from the Victoria Falls.

Definitely, a road trip to add to your bucket list if you haven’t been there yet…

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers