The best part about living in Africa is that one has so many kilometres and routes to explore. Some countries you will leave unexplored till you are both ready for it. Some naturally form part of the amazing DNA of a country. In South Africa we are fortunate enough to have a few routes that form part of the road trip path of our country, roads that connect communities and places.
Like the Garden Route in the Western Cape, Route 66 with its quiet Karoo stops, and the scenic route from Dullstroom via Lydenburg towards the Kruger National Park, the Midlands Meander is a must self-drive route for young and old.
It’s a route with a fantastic mix between history, adventure, great crafts, scrumptious food, awesome places to rest you weary bones and more. I always say, if you want to experience the best, travel the road the locals use each day.
It may be useful now to explain the geographic location of this amazing route – situated next to the N3, the route starts in Howick just outside Pietermaritzburg and ends in Mooi River, where it connects with the N3 again. The next bit of useful information is very important. One cannot simply do this route without staying over for 1 evening at least, make it an overnight adventure.
We start our journey at the Nelson Mandela capture site just outside Howick at Lions River. The Capture Site marks the beginning of Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom at the site where Mandela was captured and arrested in 1962.
An unique and large 3D sculpture is set into the KZN Midlands landscape. It serves as a reminder for all of us, as to the gravity of the journey Nelson Madela faced as he became the first democratic elected leader of South Africa in 1993.
Also available at this site is the Truth Cafe, serving up a great variety of breakfast offerings and lunch time specials and the Truth Store, selling Madiba memorabelia and Impumelelo Bead artists items. A fantastic first stop.
Next on the trip, up the road is the Piggly Wiggly Country Village. This charming selection of about 25 stores started as a single farm stall and quickly grew to various stores selling a variety of clothing, toys and arts. Looking for a little bit of entertainment for the young ones? You are at the right spot at the home of the biggest maze in Africa, not forgetting the rockventure golf. The original store sells a selection of cheese, jams, biscuits and rusks, homemade baked goods and chutney etc. My favourite-the chocolate mouse cappacino -oh my word so worth it!
As we head off in the late afternoon up the Midlands Meander route, we decide to look for a place to stay the evening. There are various lodges and country homes to stay at, ranging in price from R 500 per person per night to about R 3500 per person per night.
There is a selection of exclusive, world-class establishments such as Cleopatra Mountain House, Granny Mouse Country House and Hartford House in this area, all offering the very best accommodation and service.
These Mountain and Country homes boasts finely appointed rooms with exquisite decor, only the best linen and facilities, including fireplaces in each room for those chilly nights in the berg. En -suite bathrooms and the best views of the surrounding gardens and mountains. When it comes to the menu’s served, only the best will do of course. These establishments have massive herb and vegetable gardens and only serve the very best ingredients, with loads of flavour and local flair. The chefs at there hotels are amongst the best in South Africa. World class cuisine is served at each sitting.
The sweet and charing place we stayed for the night was Enniskerry Self-catering, about 6km from Michael House- one of the best private schools for boys in SA and very close to the Nottingham Road Hotel. All the units have place for 4 people to sleep (a loft bedroom upstairs) and a sleeper couch downstairs, a lounge, kitchen,downstairs bathroom (consisting of shower, toilet and washbasin), and a veranda and braai area overlooking the valley. The rates are between R 450 and R 650 per person/night sharing. There are only 4 units, making it ideal for families.
For dinner that evening, we decided to venture down to Il Postino, the best ever place for woodburning pizza. There is something great about sitting down for a fantastic pizza and the selection at Il Postino does not disappoint. The selection is large and can be tailor made to your taste. Add a bottle of Nottingham Road Lager from the Nottingham Road Brewery Company and its meal perfection!
The next morning, we headed further north, towards Nottingham Road, and took time to stop at one of the most amazing places along the route-Ardmore Ceramics.Ardmore Ceramic Art was established by Fée Halsted on Ardmore Farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Giving local artists the opportunity to study along one of the best ceramics artists of our time, the team at Ardmore captured the attention of the most descerning art lovers. The range now includes fabrics, furnishings and design objects.Some of the worlds most exclusive art
museums and private collections now include an Ardmore pieces. A ongoing tribute to the absolute iconic work of an amazing group of artists.
After a quick cup of coffee at Cafe Bloom, we headed towards Mooi River in the late afternoon, a little sad. In closing, 2 days is really not enough time to explore one of the most amazing routes in South Africa. With over 184 venue’s, shops and stops this is really a must for all tourists and locals alike to experience. Take the time, recharge the souls with peaceful moments and take in the best the Midlands Meander has to offer. Leave only with special memories and a promise to return.
Credits: Visuals taken from the websites of Ardmore Ceramics, Harford House, Granny Mouse Country House, Cleopatra Mountain Home and the Truth Museum site.