Our 3-hour drive to the Blyde River Canyon area took 5 hours thanks to my incurably dismal navigating skills and Google maps. I happily place more of the blame on GOOGLE, because their foreign directions have proven to bite. You’d think we would have learned our lesson in Mexico. Note to self and others: Get a REAL map.
But we arrived, and that’s always a good thing. Add to it, the journey was beautiful. Rolling green hills dotted with grayish-blue sagebrush, splashes of bright pink leaping from the tops of Baobab trees, and a deep blue sky as a backdrop against the brilliant white of cotton candy clouds.
For three nights we stayed at the Thaba Tsweni Lodge and Safaris just 10k north of Graskop. Owned by Wendel Hough, Thaba Tsweni is situated in the Blyde River Canyon area and is part of the Mpumalanga Highveld. We learned this is a malaria-FREE zone. We saw no mosquitos at all, and it was a delight to let down our mosquito guard despite the fact I came stocked with Hem Citronella Incense Sticks 120ct and roll-on
Badger Balm Anti-Bug Balm Stick – 1.5 oz.
Thaba Tsweni means Mountain of the Baboon. Wendel happens to be an ecologist and can answer some of your questions about the surrounding area.
Thaba Tsweni lodging rating (1-6 scale): Cost per night app. 600 Rand/$58 US
Tip top. This place was immaculate.
General Accommodations: 6
We rented Chalet #6. As far as we recall from all of our travels, this is the best value we received for our money. First off, it was like an apartment with a big bedroom, a roomy bathroom (with shower and tub), a comfy living room, and a fully equipped kitchen with all the necessities to cook and enjoy nice meals at home. We were very pleasantly surprised by the size of this place.
General Environs: 5
I think we had the best location of all the chalets – #6. It was at the top of a hill and at the end of a row of three. We enjoyed a lovely view of the mountains at our outdoor seating area. With the way the buildings are designed, there’s privacy from one chalet to the next, each having a stone wall blocking one patio from the next. The grounds are well manicured with plenty of flora including numerous avocado trees that with some wishful thinking would’ve dropped ripe avos at our feet. Add to it, there’s the family dog, Jesse (a chocolate lab who we fell in love with) and a sweet, plump cat, Garfield. Both animals came to visit and Jesse was waiting for us outside each morning.
While some of the glitzier places are directly in the heart of the canyon action (various viewpoints, hikes, and the dam tour), Thaba Tsweni is a short and beautiful drive to these same places. And we were within a 10-minute walk to the Berlyn (or Berlin) Falls and a small, quiet forest.
The next day we drove the Panorama Route north from Thaba Tsweni on R532 and took the 534 loop to check out some of the stunning and curious vistas.
God’s Window entrance fee 10 R/car (just $1 US to see God’s Window – that’s affordable! Then again it’s a one-way ticket)
Part of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, God’s Window is an aptly named tropical rainforest with breathtaking vistas of South Africa’s Lowveld from cliffs that drop 900 meters. On a clear day you can see Mozambique. On a cloudy day you can see clouds. Fortunately, for us, we got a little of both: The moody and dramatic clouds, and as we were leaving, rays of sunshine nudging their way in. I felt like I was on top of the world lookin’ down on creation.
My Vervet Monkeys at God’s Window
Want to see 27 seconds of Love Coma Cuteness? Check out this baby vervet who incidentally reminds me a little of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Write in and tell me what you think about my monkeys!
Pinnacle Rock –10 R/car entrance fee
Only minutes from God’s Window, the Pinnacle Rock is a 30 meter quartzite free-standing tower that emerges from the dense forest below.
Wonder View – entrance fee $00.00
Only about 1 mile north of God’s Window, Wonder View boasts the highest point in the area ringing in at 1730 meters, nearly 5700 feet. While Wonder View was also pretty, neither it nor God’s Window impressed us as much as the lucky potholes and those potholes barely hold a candle to the Three Rondavels.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes -entrance fee 20R/car and 30R/person
The Bourke’s Luck Potholes were named after an unlucky prospector, Tom Burke, who claimed a whole hellava lot of gold would be found in the area. Tom was not lucky but his proclamation made some other folks very happy diggers.
Considered the starting point of Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck is located where the Treur River (‘river of sorrow’) meets with the Blyde River (‘river of joy’). Centuries of pounding water carved the most interesting and spectacular rock formations and cylindrical holes in the river’s bedrock.
The Three Rondavels -entrance fee 10 R/car
These three mountaintops are named such because a Rondavel or Rondawel is a round hut-like dwelling with a thatched roof commonly seen in Africa. From my perch, THIS view was much more like I would envision God’s Window than the actual God’s window. We stood there nearly 6000 feet above the world soaking in the great Drakensberg mountains wrapping around us and the shimmering green lakes below. It was one of those moments when you (I) realize how very small I am compared to our monumentally grand world.
Our new friend, Godwin, who served as the watchful eye over the vista point, gave us a brilliant history lesson. The flat-top mountain to the right is known as Mapjaneng after the legendary Mapulana or Bapedi Chief Maripi Mashile who chased the Swazis out of the area during the great battle of Moholoholo in 1864. And in celebration these gigantic shale and quartzite peaks were named after his three (supposedly ornery) wives (from left to right): Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto.
To learn more about the Three Rondavels, click here.
With so much eye taco to soak in, we returned to our chalet slap happy and ready to rest up in preparation for our next day of exploration. Life is good.
“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.”
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.
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Check out the other South Africa posts below:
South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
This is South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17: Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park
South Africa Post #20: The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22: Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23: Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
South Africa Post #25: Ubuntu