|Blyde River Canyon at Three Rondawels|
Having booked a room in Sabie, we had a 4-5 hour drive ahead of us. Lands outside Jo'burg were primarily dry, brown and flat. Signs of mining were evident, and cattle ranching and corn and sugar cane crops dominated much of the landscape. As we approached Mbombela, formerly Nelspruit, rolling green hills and extensive citrus fields emerged. Periodically along the road vendors appeared hawking the produce from the area. Oranges, grapefruit, avocados, macadamia and pecans were available. Purchasing a dozen oranges and a dozen avocados cost us R40 (about $3 USD).
Beyond the citrus groves we found mile after mile of pine trees planted as we headed on the highway north out of Mbombela. Pine forests were initially planted in South Africa back in the 1860's by a gentleman with incredible foresight. He realized that with the start of the Gold Rush that people would be coming to the area; and lumber was also needed for the mining industry to prop up shafts in the gold mines. The area surrounding Sabie is one of the largest man-made forest in the world.
Sabie is a small, pleasant town and it would probably take 5 minutes to walk from en to end. Numerous shops and a handful of restaurants are available. On Sunday evening, however, only one restaurant was open. Luckily, they served the local rainbow trout. We were all set. In addition to great trout fishing, this area is also know for beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails, with many of the falls located only a 10-30 minute walk from the access points. Unfortunately, on our departure the following morning, rainy, misty, foggy weather engulfed the region and views of the falls would have been non-existent and the hiking miserable.
Driving northerly, we stopped in Graskop for a late breakfast at the widely renowned Harri's Pancake Restaurant. Serving a few dozen varieties of both sweet and savory pancakes, we both indulged in something different. Alan's was a rolled cinnamon sugar concoction, mine stuffed with butternut squash and feta served with a sweet red pepper sauce. Both were excellent. Alan scored some local macadamias for about one third the cost back home.
Graskop is just south of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Red sandstone mountains, gorges and grasslands stretch along the Blyde River. Mist and fog continued to hamper our view, but luck was with us and by the time we reached Three Rondawels, skies were beginning to clear. Considered one of the most spectacular vistas in South Africa, the views were truly incredible.
Traveling on to Hoedspruit, we stopped for an overnight break and stocked up on food for the coming week before heading on to the centrally located Phalaborwa Gate, our entry point for Kruger.