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With more and more day- and overnight-trails opening every week, hiking is rapidly becoming one of Mpumalanga’s major drawcards for visitors. There are literally hundreds of spectacular hiking trails on offer, lasting anything from several hours to several days.

Examples include day hikes at Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) sites, such as the Belvedere Day Hike from Bourke’s Luck. This full-day trail takes in some hefty gradients and leads down to the Dientjie Falls in the foot of the Blyde River Canyon, where buck abound, baboon calls echo and eagles and ibises soar overhead. The Bourke’s Luck area also offers a number of other day trails and a 30-kilometre three-day overnight trail. All are self-guided.

Another option is the newly-reinvented Jock of the Bushveld Day Hike, running along the edge of the escarpment, taking in Paradise Camp from the book Jock of the Bushveld and offering great grassland bird sightings along the banks of the many streams. It even has its own geocache site.

Sabie offers the popular Bridal Veil hike, a gentle wander along the Sabi River to this popular waterful, with some challenging detours for the more adventurous, and the walk to the Forest Falls. Known for being the only falls in Mpumalanga to be wider than they are high. Hazyview offers the popular Matumi Trail, a shady wander along the Mac Mac River, from its confluence with the Sabaan and Sabi Rivers. Cool off in the forest, chase butterflies and find a rare Narina Trogon or a red duiker among the manifold matumi trees.

Situated in the Nelshoogte Forest Reserve between Barberton and eManzana (Badplaas), the Queen Rose Trail is arguably one of the most scenic hiking trails in South Africa. The two-day, 26km hike takes adventurers through indigenous forest, over mountain passes, through the Montrose timber plantation and along the Queens River.  Spectacular scenery and rich in wildlife, including over 350 bird species.

The hike includes 20 river crossings, some with suspension bridges to keep boots and kit dry, as well as several natural pools where hikers can take a break and cool down.

Alternatively, the Num-Num Hiking Trail is a self-guided 3-5 day hiking trail situated between eManzana (Badplaas) and eNtokozweni (Machadodorp), in the Skurweberg Mountains, Mpumalanga. This trail has been rated by Green Flag as moderate-to-difficult, meaning hikers have to be of reasonable fitness and agility. Along the route, hikers may encounter suspension bridges, ladders and steep up- and down-hills to get into stunning gorges. The route winds through a spectacular variety of Highveld Escarpment terrains including indigenous forests, sandstone mazes, ancient grasslands, waterfalls and panoramic views of the Komati River Gorge.

Overnight accommodation is in five unique and comfortable camps that have equipped kitchens and hot showers.

The Kruger National Park offers numerous trails with possibly the most exciting being the opportunity to backpack the length of the park in a rigorous hike broken up into 100-kilometre sections. The SANParks Honorary Rangers are offering this as a chance to ‘Follow in the Footsteps of the Giants’.

As a further indication of the increasing popularity of hiking in the province, passionate hiker Kevin Ruthven’s has also founded Lowveld Hikers. This innovative institution is more of a hiking club than an established hiking trail, whereby Kevin manages to find obscure trails and walks, predominantly along the Mpumalanga escarpment but sometimes further afield, and invites members (and visitors) to join him in appreciating the natural beauty that the region has to offer.  He has access to properties that very few could obtain permission to hike without him. At least two hikes are organised every month.  Check the events calendar on the Facebook page for forthcoming hikes.

The Mpumalanga Highveld also offers a broad range of challenging walks, including the Ama Poot-Poot trail near Dullstroom with both day-trail and overnight options and taking in lovely views, ravines and mountain streams. Nearer Middelburg, day routes include the Slagthoek Trails, with longer options following the Olifants River Gorge,  through open grassland, up steep climbs and down wooded gorges.

With more and more trails opening every day and with the launch last week of the first phase of The Marula Route, a cultural trail running through the rural communities along the western border of the Kruger National Park between the Paul Kruger and Orpen gates, Mpumalanga is definitely the space to watch for hikers.

For more information, check out the following websites:

http://www.safcol.co.za/ecotourism/

http://www.mpumalanga.com/things-to-do/adventure-sports/hiking

http://www.thenum-numtrail.co.za/

http://www.sanparksvolunteers.org/camps_trails.php

https://www.facebook.com/lowveldhikers/ 

Finally, December has arrived. Now you can wind down and spend some quality time with your family. The Lowveld offers a wide range of activities to keep the kids busy and we guarantee you will end up looking back on many memorable moments after a visit to one of these hotspots.

HAZYVIEW

A visit to Hazyview and surrounds is essential for a family looking for adventure and fun. Other than the various types of accommodation and family-friendly restaurants found in town, there are many activities on offer for all ages.

Make a booking at Induna Adventures for anything from zip lining to quad biking or white-water rafting. Get elevated to the treetops on Africa’s longest aerial cableway with Skyway Trails. Interact with mighty African elephants at Elephant Whispers or at the Elephant Sanctuary, or embark on a horse safari at Horse Whispers. Visit Monkeybirds to see 120 exotic monkey species and over 50 pairs of exquisite birds, do a Segway tour through tropical fruit orchards or view an extensive collection of reptiles at Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park.

LOWVELD NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN

With its waterfalls and wildlife, the Lowveld National Botanical Garden is a subtropical paradise for kids and adults alike. The garden is shaped by the Crocodile and Nels rivers that cut across it to form spectacular waterfalls which can be viewed at the Cascades and the Nels viewpoints.

Children will really enjoy walking through the enchanting African rainforest and across the famous suspended bridge, where the cascading waterfall can also be viewed. They will also enjoy one of the largest collections of South African fig trees and the mystical baobab tree.

Other highlights include the useful plants project, children’s play area, dry bushveld area, the riverside trail, canals, SA Forest, cascade viewpoint, Sappi Aerial Boardwalk and Nursery, as well as the resident wildlife and wonderful biodiversity.

SKUKUZA

Whether you are staying in the Kruger National Park or not, a visit to Skukuza is a must.

Although part of getting close to the Big 5 entails a full day in the car, you can get a break from the midday heat by spending the bulk of your day at the rest camp and visitors’ centre.

Skukuza offers family-friendly restaurants and loads of things to do. Just sitting alongside the Sabie River provides a wonderful game-viewing opportunity.

If things really start heating up, make your way down to the day visitors’ precinct where a splash in the pool and an ice cold ice cream will go a long way towards cooling you off.

Visit the Stevenson-Hamilton Knowledge Resource Centre Museum and get to know the history of the Kruger National Park’s most famous warden or take a quick drive to the Skukuza Indigenous Nursery and buy a plant or two for your garden at home.

SUDWALA CAVES AND DINOSAUR PARK

Enjoy an excursion into the depths of the earth. This system of caves dates back 3 000 million years to a time when extraordinary stresses cracked the dolomite of the Mankelekele Mountains, allowing water to slowly trickle through and forming a series of passages through the rocks.

As a result, the Sudwala Caves, thought to be the oldest in the world, were formed – a series of many chambers revealing giant stalagmites, stalactites, flowstone formations and dominated by a circular chamber – the amphitheatre. For the more adventurous, there is the crystal tour, which involves a journey of 2 000 metres into the bowels of the caves.

The Dinosaur Park displays life-sized models of prehistoric animals, ranging from amphibious and ancient reptiles, dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, prehistoric man and more.

BADPLAAS/EMANZANA

Nestled at the foot of the Ndlumudlumu Mountains between Machadodorp/eNtokozweni and Carolina, is Badplaas/eManzana, which is known as a resort town.

Badplaas, A Forever Resort has become legendary for family leisure breaks and is a firm favourite among kids. It’s a treasure chest of entertainment from heated and cold mineral pools to an entertainment team that keeps the youngsters occupied. There are also game drives, horse trails, paintball, a hiking trail along the canals, a waterfall and so much more.

At The Cradle of Life, kids can visit the animal farm and see a variety of animals like pigs, ducks, geese, tortoises and chickens. They can also go fishing or spend some time at the playground next to the restaurant.

HOEDSPRUIT

The town of Hoedspruit has grown from a small village serving the agricultural industry to a popular wildlife tourism destination ideal for families.

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre breeds endangered species for release and cares for injured and orphaned wild animals. Regular tours enable visitors to see some of the animals up close.

A visit to Lion Tree Top Lodge to meet some white lions is a must when exploring Hoedspruit.

At the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre the public can interact with animals that have no chance of being released into the wild due to their injuries or habituation.

Khamai Reptile Park is the best place to go to learn more about spiders and reptiles or to help you overcome your fears.

PILGRIM’S REST

Exploring South African history as a family is a rewarding experience and there is no better place to do this than Pilgrim’s Rest, one of South Africa’s most loved heritage sites.

For the outdoorsy types, there is fly fishing on the Blyde River, golf at the nine-hole course and, of course, a visit to the diggings and a spot of gold panning. The town has seven museums that are open daily and offer insight into the history of the town. There are several accommodation establishments catering for most budgets as well as cafes and restaurants that offer something for all palates.

Fun activities also include a visit to Kuzzulo’s Emporium – a place where visitors can get dressed up in period costumes and have old-fashioned photos taken. This is a favourite among the youngsters!

SABIE

The attractive hillside town of Sabie is a Lowveld gem. At the source of the Sabie River, lies under the impressive Spitskop and Mauchsberg mountains and Mount Anderson and has always been a popular place for South Africans looking for a family-friendly holiday.

The town owes its formal founding to the discovery of gold in 1871. Its restored settler buildings, numerous high-quality restaurants, friendly bars and coffee shops along with the surrounding tranquil forests, exhilarating activities and scenic views continue to make it one of the best options for a peaceful retreat.

Have a round of golf at the Sabie Country Club, explore the South African Forestry Company Forestry Industry Museum, go tubing down the Sabie River or take a mountain bike ride with the family.

I’LANGA MALL

Ideally situated on the main road to the N4, i’langa Mall is a hub of entertainment for kids, shopping for parents and fun for the whole family – from the ice rink to Ster Kinekor cinema.

Inside the mall there’s fantastic fun to be had at The Fun Company, enjoy a game of tenpin bowling and a jump around the trampoline park. You can also head over to the arcade games to hit, shoot and jump your way into the top scores.

For those looking for a more relaxed experience, there are loads of restaurants in the entertainment area that offer various options.

CASTERBRIDGE LIFESTYLE CENTRE

Experience the tranquillity of the Lowveld at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, set on the original Casterbridge Farm.

Located on the R40 just outside White River towards Hazyview, the centre offers parents the ideal venue to let their kids unwind after a busy day. There’s nothing better than grabbing some popcorn and catching a good movie at the Casterbridge Cinema or enjoying a show at the barnyard-style Casterbridge Theatre. The centre also boasts the motor museum, which is home to a large collection of immaculately restored vintage cars and bikes.

There’s also a variety of shops, art galleries and restaurants ready to tantalise your taste buds.

CHIMP EDEN

A must-see when travelling through Mbombela towards Barberton is the only chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa, Chimp Eden. Offering three tours daily (10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm), there is no reason to miss this experience and educational opportunity. After your tour through the sanctuary and meeting some of their famous residents, have a look around the curio shop and enjoy a light meal and a refreshing drink at the restaurant.

Chimpanzee Eden

RIVERSIDE MALL

Situated on the main road to White River, Riverside Mall offers a range of entertainment for kids, from the Mafunyane Riverside Water Park – which features seven, rip-roaring super slides, a sparkling pool and a lazy river specifically designed for the young ones – to the Riverside Go Kart Park – with Honda engines which range in size from 50cc to 200cc.

Inside the mall the Magic Company offers exactly that – a magical experience of fun for the kids. Don’t be surprised if the smell of popcorn lures you to Movies @ Emnotweni, which is right next to the Magic Company. Here you can enjoy all the latest blockbuster films on the big screen.

Information supplied by Kruger Lowveld Tourism
+27 (0)13 755 1988

The old saying of “been there, done that” in no way applies to this tropical paradise. If you thought going to Zanzibar is similar to a visit to Mozambique, it is time to get rid of your old sunnies. The azure sea and sky will have you doubting the quality of your Ray-Ban’s polarizing lenses.

This becomes evident as soon as the aeroplane swoops down over the edge of the island to land at Zanzibar’s quaint airport. Off the east coast of Africa the deepest blues of the Indian Ocean give way to the turquoise waters and white beaches of this island.

The attraction of the beaches will keep you mesmerised. Zanzibar is a photographer’s paradise, especially with the spectacular sunsets and the colourful fashion of the female residents. A word of advice though – the locals, especially the women are camera-shy. It is advisable to respect their traditions and refusal to being photographed as the population is traditionally Islamic.

We ventured north and settled in Nungwi. The village is known for its tourist shops and busy beaches. It is also the base for countless scuba-diving operations and if this is your priority, you will find at least seven professional operations within a three-kilometre amble along the beach. Best is to take along a snorkel set including fins. The tranquil and clear blue ocean is an underwater photographer’s dream. With dive sites around Mnemba Atoll and the lush coral mounds off Tumbatu Island, divers have a multitude of options to explore to their heart’s content.

After a full day of traversing the underwater world, you will have quite an appetite. Zanzibar is known for its abundance of spices and seafood – all the more reason to take yourself on a sensory tour by savouring the local cuisine. The bounty of fresh seafood such as kingfish, tuna, prawns and octopus, to name but a few, can be enjoyed by trying the various curry dishes on offer. Traditional breakfast is substituted with freshly cut, succulent fruits…. From the everyday bananas, tropical pineapples to the exotic jackfruit and carambola, or more commonly known as star fruit. Be adventurous, find the locals’ favourite food hangout and ask for a Zanzibar pizza. This uniquely Zanzibari snack makes for a filling breakfast.

Remember to stay hydrated, drinking enough water is essential. But who can deny a long cold cocktail at the end of a hot day on the beach? Settle down at a rooftop bar that overlooks the wide-open ocean and watch the sunset while sipping on your favourite island drink or ice cold beer.

The spice island offers much more than idyllic beaches and excellent cuisine. Explore the vibrant cultures and history of Zanzibar up close when you wander through Stone Town. The maze of alleys and narrow streets seem to have no specific order and you might end up going around in circles. With an abundance of hip cafes and coffee shops, you will find yourself admiring the rare carved ancient doors and energetic daily life. From the local artist exhibiting his creations on his doorstep to the more trendy crafted jewellery, fashion designers and curio shops, one is bound to find gifts for friends and family back home.

If you like the hustle and bustle of shopping take the time to walk through the world-renowned Darajani Market. Taste the sticky dates and chetti then take a break and have a hearty meal at Lukmaan restaurant around the baobab tree. Once you have had your fill of the sights and sounds in Stone Town head to one of the various spice farms along the road between Nungwi and the capital city. Witness first-hand the harvesting of spices such as cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise and vanilla pods when in season.

The allure of Zanzibar is its mix of blissful beaches, flavoursome food, lively culture and rich history. Add to this the rush of adventure when doing island hopping from Zanzibar to Mafia and Pemba islands by making use of the local airlines and you’ve had a taste of tropical paradise.   The booking for your inter-island flights can be done online and in general, is slightly cheaper than doing it when on the ground in Stonetown or Nungwi.

Using your Visa or Mastercard here will incur excess fees and these payments are loaded with a 4 – 6% surcharge or handling fee. Take into account that you will also have to fork out the banking and exchange fees when using your plastic to pay for food services and or gift. ATM services are available in Stonetown.

Pictures and text;  Nicolene Olckers

There is nothing quite like indulging in a treat every now and then, especially when these are handmade or produced using only local ingredients. Listed below are six of SA’s finest confectionaries where any sweet tooth can be satisfied. Be sure to visit them these holidays.

Coach House Confectionery

They make a point of using local ingredients and contributing to the development of the surrounding communities. It is this love of South Africa that makes Coach House’s nougat, nut brittle and Nugu, their nut-free nougat, so irresistible.

Coach House Confectionary, Old Coach Road, Agatha, Tzaneen, 011-394-6892, 015-307-1020.

Darling Sweet

Darling Sweet produce the tastiest toffees you’ll ever eat, and their exciting offering has expanded to include honey and toffee spreads. Their creativity will change the way you view toffees, with bold flavours like rooibos chai, red wine, chocolate, and even bird’s eye chilli.

Darling Sweet. 7A Long Street, Darling, 083-235-4002.

Yotti’s Turkish Delight

Yotti’s Turkish delights are made using a traditional Turkish recipe, ensuring only the best texture and flavour. You can choose between rose, pistachio or cherry, or grab some flavours from their recently added low GI range.

Yotti’s Turkish Delight, 69 Rigger Road, Spartan, Kempton Park, 011-394-6892.

Shauntany Chocolatiers: Belgian Chocolate

Shautany Chocolatiers have established themselves as one of the leading purveyors of luxury artisanal chocolate in South Africa. They offer an array of luxury products through their four branded stores throughout Mpumalanga. They are famous for their handmade truffles, ganaches and bars.

Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, R40, White River, 013-750-2154

Perry’s Bridge Trading Post and Tourism Centre, R40, Hazyview, 013-737-6966

Next to Harrie’s Pancakes, Louis Trichardt Road, Graskop, 013-767-1170

Broekielace Centre, Naledi Drive, Dullstroom, 013-254-0438.

Granny’s Fudge Shop

Granny’s Fudge Shop manufacture and sell a wide range of gourmet fudge, with over 70 flavours to choose from. They also offer fudge frappes and “good old-fashioned sweets” such as nougat,‎ coconut ice, Turkish delight, honeycomb, hard candy and caramelized nuts, to name but a few.

Situated at the main entrance of uShaka Marine World, Durban, 031-337-9737, 083-556-3060.

Le Chocolatier

Here you can find luxury handcrafted truffles, pralines and authentic chocolate bars, made the Swiss way in Franschoek and Paarl. They believe that chocolate should not contain any preservatives or filling ingredients intended to expand the volume. This is why they use recipes inherited from generations of Swiss chocolatiers.

10 Church Street, Stellenbosch, 021-883-2200.

How to photograph lightning

Have you ever looked at a thunderstorm and wondered how to take a perfect picture to capture the beauty of lightning?

In South Africa, we get some very powerful thunderstorms and perfect opportunities to photograph lightning.

Read more

Since the day I met my Portuguese husband Carlo Neto, he promised me that we will travel to Madeira Island, also known as “the Pearl of the Atlantic” to this island his parents and family originated from. Our adventure began during the July holidays of 2014 when our 2 daughters were old enough to enjoy and appreciate this amazing trip that we were about to experience. All we had to worry about were booking our flights and packing our bags before we could set off to chase the sun to this breathtaking paradise and as a bonus escape the winter here in South Africa.

Madeira

Carlo’s uncle Fritz Helena and his wife aunty Sue Helena were waiting for our arrival at Madeira’s own International Airport. We were so lucky to have these two special people as our very own personal tour guides during our entire stay. They live nearby Ponta do Sol in a simply enchanting town called Calheta, Calheta is blessed with rare natural beauty and 8 parishes.

Calheta was, in fact, the first town in Madeira to import sand from Morocco. Calheta Village has an artificial yellow sand beach that opened in 2004. We thoroughly enjoyed the days we had on Calheta beach and all it had to offer.

Madeira

The Ponta do Sol beach is hidden away in a small cove in the village of Ponta do Sol, between the slopes of the valley. One just can’t help but fall in love with this little gem, with its beautiful sunsets and excellent pebble beach. We’ve  spent many afternoons with our daughters sunbathing, swimming, relaxing and playing on this beautiful beach.

Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, south-west of Portugal and the main agriculture here is sugar cane, banana and wine production. Historically the sugar cane was worked by slaves owned by a Flemish lord João Esmeraldo, a close friend of Christopher Columbus. There are many religious nature traditions, strongly rooted in the Madeira culture, but also traditions linked to crafts, music, and even the evolution of the island’s economy. We were very blessed to visit a couple of these churches and busy, noisy, colourful covered markets stocked with fresh fish, tropical fruits, spices, beautiful flowers and local crafts.

The Aquaparque de Santa Cruz, close to the airport was definitely the highlight of our Madeira trip for both our daughters Carla, Simoné and me…

Madeira

It boasts 5 toboggan slides of varying heights and speeds and a fast and slow river. There are 2 leisure pools too as well as play parks for the younger guests.

We also treasured our visit to Machico town and Machico beach, this historic, peaceful town was the landing point of the discoverers and offers a number of good quality guesthouses and restaurants.

Madeira

Uncle Fritz took us to many little towns and beaches, but the Porto Moniz Natural swimming pools are the highlight of my stay. These natural salt water swimming pools are made up of volcanic rock, into which the sea flows naturally, we also visited the aquarium.

Another must see when visiting Madeira is the Traditional Santana houses close to the Santana Municipal Council. This is a preservation area, expanded by the municipality of Santana, in memory of local heritage.

Other memorable places we visited on the Island were the Ponta do Pargo Light House Viewpoint, the Marina of Funchal, CR7 Museum which tells the story of the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and houses all of his individual and team trophies won. Our daughter Carla was totally smitten. Our youngest daughter Simoné was very excited about our visits to the botanical gardens and all our different rides in the cable cars. Don’t let me even start talking about the gardens and flora, it is simply magnificent…….

Madeira

I really loved our visit to Ponta do Garajau where you’ll find the statue of Cristo Rei de Garajau, carved by Georges Serraz in 1927 and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing view over the ocean. I was brave enough to walk all the way down the path… It felt like I was entering the sea what a wonderful feeling.

We also enjoyed every minute of our time spend in Funchal, the biggest city in Madeira. It is modern but at the same time kept an authentic historic centre that will amaze you. We went on an unforgettable Yellow Bus trip around Funchal, very similar to the Red Bus trips in Cape Town….

We had so much fun at the Madeira Theme Park. The Park’s main attractions are the 4 multimedia pavilions; “ Discovery of the islands”, “Future of the Earth”, Fantastic Voyage in Madeira” and “A World of Islands”. A replica of the Monte train, traditional ox carts and nets, a traditional Santana house, a windmill, a maze and even a lake are some of the Park’s attractions.

Madeira

Uncle Fritz took us to the Cabo Girão Skywalk too. At 589 meters, the Cabo Girão Skywalk is the highest cliff skywalk in Europe and 2nd highest in the world. As I was looking all the way down from the glass deck to the ocean my legs went absolutely numb… what a thrilling experience.

Another very special memory is our visit from Funchal by cable car to the Church of Our Lady of the Monte in Funchal. We climbed to the bell tower terrace and oh my word we experienced the most spectacular view of Funchal.

Madeira

Monte Village was built in 1565 as a summer refuge for Funchal’s aristocracy. Constructed in 1741, the Church of Our Lady of the Monte is the resting place of Charles 1, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We had an absolute blast and we just couldn’t get enough of this astonishing Island with its warm friendly people, it’s breath-taking nature, it’s incredible history and it’s wonderful opportunities to go for walks and find so much to see and do. Should you seek a place to stay, away from the hustle and bustle, then Hotel Jardim Atlântico (Jardim Atlantico) is just the place to be. This exquisite Hotel promise for a very memorable stay. Here we had the pleasure of meeting a very stunning lady working at the Hotel, named Rita Santos, we learned that she also stayed in South Africa many years ago…….Although she loved South Africa she loves Madeira more!

Madeira

Maybe one day if I am fortunate enough I could go and retire in Madeira this magnificent Island that I love to call paradise… But first I want to travel and see the world!

Content by Tanya Neto

For extreme enduro racer, Barend Erasmus, taking part in the Redbull Romaniacs race in Sibiu, Romania is part of the enjoyment. Visiting this exotic, mountainous country also leaves a great impression in scenery.

Ro-maniac

Why did you go to Romania?
Sometimes I ask myself, why participate in the Redbull Romaniacs hard enduro?

Ro-maniac

The answer is simple: “It is an addiction.  I enjoy riding my bike in places that seem impossible, pushing my body and mind beyond its limits.  To see how far I can push myself.”

At that moment, I ask myself questions like: “What am I doing?”… “Am I crazy? ” I cannot begin to explain the feeling of fulfilment and pride when completing an Extreme Enduro race like Romaniacs. It is a tremendously rewarding feeling.
After finishing in the top 20 in the 2016 Romaniacs, I thought never to do it again.

Yet a week after I got home, I started planning to enter the 2017 race.

Although this year’s race was utterly extreme and taxing, the same thing happened again. I am already looking forward to going to the 2018 race. The more I do this the better I get at riding extreme environments in this type of races.

Ro-maniac

What is the airport like?
The Sibiu International Airport is reasonably small, surprisingly modern and very sufficient.

Although the staff is friendly and accommodating, they are very strict on security.  They want to know everything about you and what you are doing there They check your passport picture ten times to make sure that it is really you on the picture.
Ro-maniac
What was your first impression of Romania? 
When you step out of the airport a whole new world opens up!

There are yellow taxis everywhere waiting to transport tourists to their next destination.  To make the experience more fascinating,

the drivers can hardly speak any English. Romania is a very poor country but certainly, a country where you can relax.

Ro-maniac

The locals are very friendly and look relaxed as they take each day as it comes. They obviously dress differently from us and I find their shoes very fascinating.
Their sneakers have very high soles, more than double of what I am used to in South Africa and the ladies wears funny pointy flat leather shoes also not something that I am used to.

Ro-maniac

I also find the unique culture with the historically significant landmarks and Medieval architecture very appealing as a tourist.

Ro-maniac

What Tourist attractions are there in Romania?
I only visited Sibiu and a few surrounding villages where everything looks if it was built hundreds of years ago.

It feels like going back in time straight back to Medieval times, there is nothing modern around there.

There are a lot of tourist attractions in and around Sibiu but because I went to Romania for the Romaniacs Race,

I didn’t get a lot of time to do sightseeing. I personally love the dramatic mountainous scenery, where the race takes place and the coastline on the Black Sea with its picturesque landscapes. 

What are the Hotels and Restaurants like in Romania?
In Sibiu, they have beautiful hotels like the Ramada, Continental and the Ibis, where a night’s stay will cost around 70€ to 100€ per person and it include breakfast.

Generally, the rooms are spacious with comfortable beds and air-conditioning. The big showers are roomy enough for two.
The restaurants are reasonably priced and on par with South African restaurants.  I found the traditional dishes delightful, the soups are to die for!  Since I am a steak lover, my favourite eateries
where The New Yorker and Benjamin Steakhouse. These establishments are a little more expensive. then the others but the meals are worth every cent.
Ro-maniac

Tell me about your flight to Romania?
According to me the easiest way to get to Sibiu in Romania from South Africa is direct to Munich in Germany and from Munich to Sibiu.  Total travelling time, including 1:45-hour wait for the connecting flight to from Munich to Sibiu, was 11:45 hours.
I paid R20 000 for this return flight.  Make sure you eat and drink enough during the flight as the restaurants at the airport are extremely expensive. I paid the equivalent of R150.00 for a Croissant and a bottle of water!

Ro-maniac

Does South Africans need a visa to travel to Romania?
As South Africans, we do need a visa to travel to Romania.  Applying for the visa online is fairly trouble-free. Once you submit all required documentation and they will send you the date that you have to go to the Embassy in Pretoria.  A week after visiting the Embassy you can collect your passport with the visa at a total cost of R900.00

Ro-maniac

What about Romania will you always remember?

What humbled me is the people’s acceptance of their meagre lives. They seem satisfied with very little and despite their simple life, they always smile. Once again I realized how fortunate I was.

Ro-maniac

Would you recommend Romania as a holiday destination?
Yes, I would absolutely recommend Romania to anyone who enjoys travelling and exploring new places.  Experiencing the Romanian culture, the mountainous scenery, great architecture and the local’s passion for life makes Romania well worth visiting.  If ever I get the opportunity to explore more of Romania, I would gladly do so!

Tell me about Bleed for Isak?
Isak Du Toit is a 24-year young man from Nelspruit. Three years ago, he was just like me. He loved riding his bike enjoyed going out with friends, he lived life to its fullest! Unexpectedly everything changed. First, in 2014, he lost his one eye in an accident at work. In 2015, he got seriously ill and he had a heart transplant at the age of 22. As if that wasn’t enough he was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago!
Ro-maniac
I met Isak recently his story and positive outlook on life, despite what happened to him, really touched me. Isak gets 4 pints of blood every month and creating awareness for blood donating is something very close to his heart. I have decided to start a campaign to create awareness of the importance of donating blood, there are thousands like Isak who’s lives depends on people donating blood and organs. I urge you, please join hands with us and support this worthy initiative

I choose 28 October for this event because on 28 October 2015 Isak received his new heart, and I feel we should celebrate his life.

In conclusion:
I would like to thank all my sponsors that made it possible for me to compete in the 2017 Redbull Romaniacs Race Without you I wouldn’t have been able to go…

Ambassador Foods
KTM Nelspruit
Malelane Toyota
The Lowveld community

I appreciate your help – Thank you

A must do pilgrimage for every BMW motorcycle enthusiast is to the gathering at Garmish Patenkirchen, a ski village on the border between Germany and Austria, a weekend of motorcycling overload that attracts about 4500 riders on the first weekend in July annually.

Thomas Böhm the operations instructor from Sabie Valley Rider Academy situated between Sabie and Hazyview was invited to promote the training facility at the event in a massive tent that was filled with BMW Motorrad Partners from all over the world.

BMW Motorrad Days 2017 in Garmish Patenkirchen

Thomas relates to the never-ending activities on offer from test-rides, new product displays,

Enduro rides, the wall of death displays and displays by stunt rider Mattie Griffin and Sarah Leito. Also, don’t forget the beer and German food available from multiple beer tents and gardens.

BMW Motorrad Days 2017 in Garmish Patenkirchen

The event is filled with BMW motorcycles from all eras with a big emphasis on older bikes and the custom scene, with multiple companies specializing in custom and retro bikes displaying their latest creations, doing a good trade in custom parts.

BMW motorcycle enthusiast

BMW Motorrad has a huge display tent of all the latest models, rider gear and accessories available with a knowledgeable crew on hand to share their enthusiasm and information on the life style products, with the slogan “Make Life a Ride”.

Make life a ride

The days are hot with most attendees participating in rides heading south to the Alps in the day then enjoying the

the long evenings browsing and watching shows till the sun set at about 10 mp when the real party starts

with big name bands rocking the crowds in multiple venues at the show until the early morning hours.

BMW motorcycle enthusiast

Most South Africans will combine this must do pilgrimage with a riding holiday in the Alps incorporating famous mountain passes like Stelvio Pass, Gross Glockner and the amazing riding in the Garda Lake area in northern Italy.

Thomas Böhm

If you want to be part of this amazing experience in 2018 please send Thomas Böhm an email to thomas@rideracademy.co.za to receive a special offer on a package deal put together by

Sabie Valley Rider Academy.

Written by:  Thomas Böhm

An opportunity arose for Zander McDonald and his daughter, Joni Smit, to buy an existing eatery in Sabie Mpumalanga.  Zander has been in Forestry most of his life and Joni is a Goldsmith; none of them had any restaurant or hospitality experience but this minor obstacle didn’t scare them.

Loggers Pub & Grill
Zander decided to use Forestry and Bikes as the theme for the restaurant as that is what Sabie is best known for, hence the name Loggers Pub & Grill.
The eatery was refurbished for 3 weeks. With Zander’s exceptional taste, eye for detail and some help from friends, Loggers Pub & Grill where born

Loggers Pud & Grill

Although Zander and Joni are the owners of Loggers Pub & Grill, Sonja helps a lot with, basically everything…
Sonja is the glue that holds this pub in place.

Henk Le Roux, from La Provance, supplied the profile timber products to create the rustic yet cosy ambience.

Contact Henk for your profile timber products: 083 566 2334

The Turpentine Wood (solid wood live edge slab) for the bar counter was supplied by Denzil Lawrie from Woodfella.

They specialize in exceptional furniture timber – not your everyday timber products that you find everywhere.

Contact Denzil for exclusive custom cut furniture timber: 082 455 7153

Woodfella

These beautiful lights were made by Brian van Rensburg from MR. B. crafts & creations.
Brian and his wife, Jaque, basically did most of the Decor and woodwork; they played a huge role in the finishing touches of this intimate gem in Sabie.

Call Brian for unique custom made Decor items or any woodwork you need:
082 927 2574

This is Zander’s baby, fully functional and runs on Nitro Gas.
It’s hanging in the restaurant because Sonja doesn’t want him to ride it.

Zander

The unique children’s play area consists of two fully functional green jeeps that Zander build, he just took out the batteries and keys. I wasn’t surprised to see the Dads enjoying the area just as much as the kids.

Ruan

International Chef, Paul Westergreen, is in charge of the kitchen.  His style is a mixture of Indonesian, Malaysian,  Thai & The Seychelles to name but a few.

All these influences helped him to create his own unique cooking style. Curries are his speciality and, believe me, he makes scrumptious curry dishes!

Loggers Pub & Grill

Loggers Pub & Grill caters for private events; they also do special theme evenings.  The Sushi evenings are very popular with the locals.

Breakfast

With their inviting atmosphere,  friendly staff, delicious food and reasonable prices, Loggers Pub & Grill is a true asset to Sabie and definitely worth a second, third and fourth visit.

Make sure to visit them next time you are in the area.

Written by: Ista van Zyl

We spoke to Piet van Zyl, former owner of Matzikama Tours and Accommodation in Cape Town, who specialized in spring flower tours in the Western Cape mainly. He gave us some guidelines for first-time visitors.

Timing is everything – This is probably the number one thing that visitors miscalculate. Being a hotter area than the rest of the Cape, spring starts earlier.  The flower season peaks between early August and late August and it is dependent on the winter rains.

As a general rule, the wild flowers begin flowering first in the Northern Cape in Namaqualand in late July/early August.

They then advance southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg region and then begin in the West Coast at the end of August. Thus the West Coast offers the best chance of seeing spring flowers in early September.

However, there is a large element of luck involved as it all depends on the amount of rain. Some years are better than others! If there has been a steady flow of gentle cold fronts during the winter, then it is likely to be a good flower season. But one or two violent storms interspersed with dry weather are not so good.

Spring temperatures are also important. If it heats up too quickly then the early visitors have glorious sunshine but the flowers do not last very long.

The bottom line is that ideally, you need to go with an attitude of acceptance and ideally be prepared to explore other aspects of the area if the flowers are not so amazing. For example, the Cederberg has some stunning mountain passes to enjoy. View rock art, do a walking trail or visit Rooibos tea farms. The towns have attractive coffee shops to enjoy and arts & craft shops to explore.

Visitors might not feel they need any tips for flower viewing (how hard can looking at flowers be?). But there is quite a lot to consider if you would really like to get the most out of this experience.
Piet suggests you visit the Tourism Information Centres and talk to the locals, who are very hospitable and enjoys sharing their knowledge with visitors, to get the information you wouldn’t necessarily find in books or on the internet.

The best way to have a well-rounded trip would be to include the West Coast National Park for its Postberg flowers, wildlife and birding, some of the quaint West Coast Towns like Paternoster, Yzerfontein and Saldanha, for their laid back atmosphere and fresh seafood, the Cederberg for its rock art and mountain beauty, Wuppertal for its interesting history and Citrusdal for the beautiful orange orchards.
Darling is also well known as a cultural experience, with the Eva Perron theatre and culinary delights. The entire flower area has become well-known for its vineyards and boutique wine cellars, and the West Coast Wine Route will give you options, whichever route you take. If time allows, the flowers in the north, though further away, around Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok are glorious and well worth the trip.

Cape Town to Richtersveld 850km: Johannesburg to Springbok 1160km:

Springbok to Richtersveld 297km. We did this trip in spring after good rains. It was one of our most memorable travel experiences!
Richtersveld, a world heritage site, has the most amazing scenery in a desert environment, with a remoteness that stills the soul. Set in a great loop of the Orange River, the deep canyons and jagged mountains, unusual rock colours, the rare kokerboom or quiver tree, the strange halfmens tree, unique succulents and isolation make for a lifetime experience.
In spring, the desert can bring forth a host of wild flowers. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces.

Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.

Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed in the park. For detailed park information, booking and how to get there visit the park’s website. There are no shops in the park, but fuel and cold drinks can be purchased at a small general store at Sendelingsdrift. The shop is open on weekdays only. Tel: 012 428 9111 for central booking or 027 831 1506 at the park itself.
The trip to Springbok is 568km from Cape Town and 1160km from Johannesburg.

Springbok is close to the famous Goegap Nature Reserve, also known for its birding.  Springbok is a great springboard from the north, with the top flower destinations of the Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon (visit the Skilpad Flower Reserve – named for its tortoises), Garies and Bitterfontein, all en-route to Vanrhynsdorp and Clanwilliam.

To reach Vanrhynsdorp from Cape Town is a 308km trip and Springbok to Vanrhynsdorp is a 260km drive.
If you are camping, the Vanrhynsdorp private caravan park is close to town on the Main Gifburg Road. The Caravan Park has a quiet, well managed, farm like atmosphere and also offers guests the option of staying in self-catering units. Camping sites have power points and ablution with hot water. There’s a restaurant with a great a la carte menu. Tel: +27(0)27 219 1287: +27(0)76 293 2578.

Vanrhynsdorp itself has flowers on various farms and it is best to contact tourism for the best places to go, both in town and in other areas. T:027 219 1552: Van Riebeeck Street, Vanrhynsdorp.

Vanrhynsdorp is home to Kokerboom,  the biggest succulent nursery in the world (Tel: 027 219 1062: Cell: 082 811 5474)  and to the Latsky Radio Museum with its interesting displays:  Monday – Saturday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm: Tel: +27-27-2191032: 4 Church Street.

From Vanrhynsdorp you can do the following breathtaking day trips:

Take the 182km circular route from Vanrhynsdorp to the coast and back. From Vanrhynsdorp take the N7 to Klawer, and visit the Klawer wine cellar. From Klawer, drive to Vredendal, famous for its flowers and wine. Continue to Lutzville with more wine cellars and then on to the flowers at Standfontein and Doringbaai, home of Fryers Cove wines on the coast. Not only do you go through the beautiful Olifants River Vallery, a rich wine, fruit and vegetable farming area, but get to enjoy the quiet beaches along the coast. See our article on the West Coast Wine Route. Or you can go to Nieuwoudtville.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets. Visit the Hantam Botanical Gardens that boasts an incredible 1350 plant species, and is found on the Oorlogskloof Road and the Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve, close to town.

A great day trip from Nieuwoudtville, is to take the R357 north out of town, and visit the Nieuwoudtville Falls, the Quiver Tree Forest at Gannabos, a private farm, where trees grow to 400 years old and produce vivid yellow flowers in May, June and July, as they have been doing for many thousands of years.

This forest is spectacular at sunset. Further on, Loeriesfontein has a rather interesting windmill museum.

An excellent flower experience can be enjoyed by driving south from Clanwilliam. It is only 228km from Cape Town and 80km from Vanrhynsdorp on the N7. You will pass the Klawer Cellars en-route from Vanrhynsdorp, so make a stop.

Clanwilliam offers the magnificent Ramskop Wildflower Reserve, next to the Clanwilliam Dam. A wonderful day trip from Clanwilliam is the 140km round trip to the Biedouw Valleyand Wuppertal. Not only are the flowers overwhelming, but Wuppertal is a village lost in time and an experience itself. You can enjoy something to eat at the little shop in Wuppertal.  To get there, take the R364 from Clanwilliam over the Pakhuis Pass and turn right onto the Biedouw Valley/Wuppertal road.

If you are interested in Bushman Rock Art, take a really professional guided tour with the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project.

Citrusdal is situated on the Olifants River and is famous for its citrus orchards. It is 170km from Cape Town and 58km from Clanwilliam along the N7. However, there is a wonderful gravel route from Clanwilliam along the dam, towards Algeria.

After approximately 30km, you will access the N7 again. No traffic, pure bliss (this is the same road you took to visit the Ramskop Wildflower Reserve).

The Postberg area of the West Coast National Park that is only open in flower season is a brilliant spot and the park itself is also a sight to behold, where wildlife on the plains mingle with the flowers. There are also bird hides in the park. The towns of Yzerfontein and Darling are also good flower spots.

From Citrusdal, an interesting route can be taken over the Piekernierskloof Pass and onto the R399 to Velddrif, which is also well known for its birding and fishing. From Veldrif, experience the quaint West Coast Villages of St Helena Bay, Britannia Bay, Paternoster (very popular village with great seafood) and Tietiesbaai. Drive through Vredenburg en-route to the West Coast National Park and Postberg. In Postberg you can enjoy a picnic at the Uitkyk picnic spot. An interesting attraction, 13km from Vredenburg on the R45, is the Fossil Park. On the same road, 37km from Vredenburg is Hopefield.

The veld around Hopefield provides its own natural display of springtime flowers when the green winter wonderland is transformed to an overnight spectacle of bright indigenous daisies and fynbos. There are four botanical zones: renosterveld, sandveld, reed veld and vlei areas. At the Hopefield Show, these regions are displayed in the exhibition hall to reflect Fynbos in their natural habitat. This very popular show takes place at the Hopefield Sports grounds on the last weekend of August each year.

In Langebaan visit the Strandloper Seafood Restaurant for a fresh seafood indulgence.

From the WCNP drive to Yzerfontein and enjoy a meal at the Strandkombuis Seafood Restaurant on the beach or participate in an authentic Bushman cultural experience.

Drive to Darling on the R315 and visit the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Garden, the Renosterveld Reserve, Wayland Farm, Contreberg Farm on R307 Darling-Mamre road and Oudepost Farm. Wayland and Oudepost are only open for flowers during August and September. Here millions of these exotic flowers are cultivated for local and export markets. The Groote Post wine farm also offers long walks in its beautiful natural surroundings.

Piet also stressed the fact that you need to book early to avoid disappointment the ‘season’ is very short and people book way in advance.  His last private tour was in August 2017 when he took his mother-in-law and grand-mother-in-law to observe Mother Nature at her proudest: spring flowers spring as this was a lifelong dream of Grandma. Piet says that everybody should go there at least once in their lifetime.

Written by:  Ista van Zyl