This city of Nelspruit,  situated in the eastern part of South Africa is the capital city of Mpumalanga Province and the gateway to the best eco and adventure activities in the country.   With the Kruger National Park on its doorstep, getting a look at the African Big 5 is as easy as looking out your own back door. The province is also home to some of the most renowned game lodges such as Sabie-Sabie, Timbavati and Llondolzi to name but a few.  The KNP is an international tourist destination that brings thousands of tourist, local and international to visit the region all year round.

The moderate to the tropical climate, ideal for the growth of most subtropical fruits such as oranges, avocado, lemons, litchis and bananas, have also inspired local farmers to be adventurous in their thinking.   In recent years they have also been experimenting with growing exotic fruit such as grenadilla and Kiwi fruit amongst others.  With more than 11 000 hectares of land planted with bananas in 2010 the Mpumalanga province is the top producer of the fruit in South Africa and in 2010 the province contributed R1.2 billion to the amount of subtropical fruit produced in South Africa.

But the city of Mbombela/Nelspruit has much more to offer. With two major shopping malls that are host to chic boutiques and lush designer stores that include international brands such as H&M and Woolworths, Soviet, Guess to name but a few. The Tsogo Sun Emnotweni Casino is amongst those prime entertainment venues.

The I’langa Mall’s superb location and easy access offer every good reason for NELSPRUIT and surrounding citizens to embrace it as their shopping and dining venue of choice.

It has an extensive offering of popular national retailers as well as a number of unique independent retailers offering specialised products and services, many of which are local businesses. Shoppers have access to many top brands, exceptional stores and a superb comparative shopping experience which is also unique in every way.

The riverside precinct, home to the Emnotweni Casino and all major motoring dealers, is fast becoming a hub of big business in Nelspruit. Recent developments include the upbeat Chill Pepper Boutique Hotel.

But 2017 has promised to be a big year for the city of the sunny province. It was voted as a finalist in the Kwela Town of the year competition and Lowvelders are poised to welcome all the visitors to its warm heart. With great cuisine, fine dining restaurants and world-class entertainment venues Mbombela is bound to have the best South Africa have to offer to local and international visitors.

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers

Author: Thomas Böhm

Thomas Böhm is well known in the bike riding circles of Mpumalanga. He is the owner and instructor at  Sabie Valley Rider Academy. The academy is based at the Windmill Wine Shop and Cottages on the notorious and fabled road known as the “22” (R536 ) winding between the towns of Sabie and Hazyview.

The Academy offers on- and off-road riding courses to Adventure Bike riders from novice to advanced riders wanting to improve their skills at bike handling in off-road or dirt road riding conditions. Thomas also conducts a Defensive road riding course. This course is aimed at the riders wanting to improve their safety and skills for riding on public roads.

Thomas’s passion for biking was born at the young age of nine and he participated in off-road races as a teenager. He shared his love of riding with his wife Jacqui and together they originally rented bikes to tourists visiting the Lowveld.

In 2005 he planned and hosted the first ever Sabie GS challenge This became an annual event and only registered owners of BMW Adventure Motorcycles are allowed to enter and participate. The event is held in March every year and is the longest-running BMW GS biking event in Sout Africa. Participants in the event usually have to arrive fully prepared to camp overnight, but chalets and cottages are also available for accommodation. The Sabie GS challenge provides the opportunity to ride in safe, sometimes challenging off-road conditions. The routes are pre-determined and are classed from Green – the easiest – to Black for those that has the advanced riding skills and determination to be challenged.

Thomas started The Sabie Valley Rider Academy in 2010 after a series of negotiations with BMW Motorrad. He completed the advanced instructor training course in 2012 in Germany. He is planning to construct a bigger and better training facility on his property. He is hopeful to have it completed in June this year. Thomas is actively involved in the local BMW Riders Club and assisted in the organising of this years Mpumalanga GS Trophy 2017 held in Badplaas in May.

In addition to the Sabie GS Challenge and offering beginners to advanced (level 1 to 3) training, the academy also offer bike rental, and personal, 1-on-1 training for those not comfortable in groups. The Expert Adventure Riding Sand Experience is aimed to provide training for riding in sandy conditions. Sandy roads can be challenging to most riders and are generally referred to as the sand monster. Thomas’s course conducted over a weekend at Kosi Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal gives the participants comprehensive training and the opportunity to hone their newly learned skills under the supervision of a capable and qualified instructor. Just to be sure, Thomas assures us that all lady riders are welcome on any of the courses he presents at the Academy.

Thomas and Jacqui Böhm are passionate about Adventure Biking and biking in general. They are as passionate about the Lowveld and riders are welcome to contact him if they are looking for riding partners and or advice on routes to ride in the Lowveld.

For more information and upcoming events visit their website http://rideracademy.co.za/

Or call Thomas +27 (0) 72 133 2151 and Jacqui +27 (0) 82 930 6289

A Hotel with a view – Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino Swaziland

The Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino is located in the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland, a country with unique flora and fauna and a distinctive and interesting cultural heritage. The hotel is situated in a beautiful and secluded pine forest and it meets the diverse needs of nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, casino guests and night owls. Each day has many activities or none, whichever you prefer.  Situated just 31km from the South African border on the northern side

Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino in Swaziland provides everything for everyone, from a top class restaurant, luxury bedrooms and a cosy casino to excellent sporting facilities. The hotel is perfect for a romantic honeymoon, a relaxing weekend or a family holiday. Its secluded location also makes it an ideal out-of-town conference destination.  Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino offers a choice of 103 luxury rooms, including 14 suites and 89 comfortable bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, tea/coffee stations, telephones and satellite TV. All rooms have spectacular views from their individual balconies.

The hotel offers a 24-hour room service, arts and crafts boutique, a children’s playground, jumping castle, an indoors life-size chess facility and a babysitting service. For business people, secretarial services are available on request.

Conferences at this Hotel are hosted in 3 well-equipped conference and meeting rooms that are air-conditioned. For smaller gatherings, there is a board room accommodating 10 plus people. There are 4 conference rooms accommodating between 20 and 65 people which can be combined to seat a maximum of 216 guests.

For an experience of a different kind, enjoy a relaxing drink in one of the hotel’s three bars. Gamble in the Casino, where punters have a choice of several gaming tables with a mix of Blackjack, Roulette, Punto Banco, as well as slot machines. Stroll around the beautiful grounds and discover two tennis courts, a gymnasium, two air-conditioned squash courts, a swimming pool, a sauna, a bowling green and a mini golf course. Numerous scenic walking and hiking trails exist in the surrounding forest, which is home to a variety of bird life and indigenous flora and fauna. The hotel is close to tourist attractions like the Phophonyane Waterfall, the Maguga Dam and Sibebe Rock, the second largest single rock face in the world. Local glass and candle factories are worth a visit to search for a perfect Swazi memento.

When visiting Swaziland, if one is a non-local, one needs to have a valid international passport. Check with your travel agent to ensure you have all the correct travel documents to travel to Swaziland. A road tax is payable at all Swaziland borders upon entering Swaziland (at the moment the road tax amount is R50.00 – June 2017). Once in Swaziland it is possible to make international phone calls, the international code for Swaziland is +268, there is also e-mail centres and internet cafes located in Mbabane (Swaziland’s Capital) and Manzini. Travelling in Swaziland can be done via the railway lines, roads, buses and minibuses, roads are in excellent condition but be on the lookout for speed bumps near all the populated areas.

Tel: (+268) 2437 8800
Fax: (+268) 2431 3382 / 3415

Email: res@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz
gm@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz

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

Author: Ina Stevens

A burning red ball of fire with hues of orange fading into a magnificent Africa sunset, lush greenery and wild animals roaming on swaying grasslands springs to mind when I’m descending into Mpumalanga.

My husband James was born and bred in the Lowveld and always dreamed about his own piece of land in this tropical lush part of our country. For me, life on a farm would just be too remote but when he showed me this beautiful location I fell completely in love with Marloth Park. It is then here we found our perfect piece of paradise…

Marloth Park situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, is a Holiday destination for local and international guests alike. Giving you the opportunity to relax, unwind and appreciate nature and wildlife at its best. It boasts four of the “Big Five “in its own game reserve Lionspruit, with the exception of elephants. The rest of the game such as zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and warthogs roam freely between the houses, they are quite tame and use to humans, which makes for a very” close”  viewing experience. Many lookouts along the river offer magical picnic spots, it leans itself to having a romantic sundowner with spectacular views at dusk.

One can often spot the” Big Five” while driving or walking along the fence road neighbouring the Kruger National Park, with elephants so close you can almost touch them,  Lions feasting on a kill and lurking Wild dogs and Hyena waiting to scavenge. Should you wish to visit Kruger Nation Park, Crocodile Bridge gate are a mere 14km away. Due to its close vicinity of the Mozambique and Swaziland borders, the Park is also a very popular stopover.

You will find this small community friendly and helpful. There are several restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisine and a few shops as well as hair and beauty salons which usually are a big plus for city girls like me!

Bird watching is very popular and those familiar sounds of a Fish-eagle can be heard echoing through the sky. But the true beauty is the calmness, the quietness in your soul, sitting next to a fire with dancing flames, hearing a lion’s majestic roar, looking up at the Milky Way with millions of flickering stars in the night sky. The peace and tranquility it brings to mind are almost indescribable… something you will just have to experience for yourself!

Aurthor:  Isak du Toit

After I read the articles on Marloth Park in Edition 6 of YGo e-mag, my friends and I decided to go and see for ourselves what the big fuzz is all about.

Since it is less than 100 kilometres from home in Mbombela, we went for the weekend. We arrived on Friday just in time to witness a  spectacular sunset after which we spent the evening around the campfire enjoying the sounds of nature.

On Saturday we explored Marloth and caught a glimpse of its wildlife such as giraffes, warthogs, impala, kudu, zebra, some of which freely roamed the streets. We also visited the two shopping centres, where we met up with some of the locals – all genuine and friendly people.

It was indeed a weekend well spent.  If you love nature like we do, we definitely recommend Marloth Park for a tranquil break away to enjoy the wildlife the village has to offer.

Marloth Park – we will be back soon!

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