some bookings made for SA in May

Mar 16th, 2004, 08:33 AM
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some bookings made for SA in May

Well, it's official! I've bought the airline tickets, and made bookings in Kruger and Umfolozi! Other bookings still to be made.

Our plan is to arrive in Jo'burg on Monday, 17 May, then drive to the Magoeboskloof area where we'll spend about 3 days; drive through Venda and enter Kruger at Punda Maria. In Kruger we're booked for 2 nights at Shingwedzi, 3 nights at Satara, and 2 nights at Lower Sabie in the safari tents! We've never been to the northern part of the park, so that will be new to us. We're really hoping to see leopard near Satara, but that's as may be.

After leaving Kruger, we'll spend a couple of days going through Swaziland, another couple at St. Lucia. Then 3 nights in Umfolozi. The tents at Mpila are full, alas, so we're staying in a hut there.

Then I think we'll take two days to get back to Jo'burg, stopping overnight in either Newcastle or Volksrust. Then 4 nights in Jo'burg seeing friends, shopping, and eating. Following a suggestion here, we're planning to go to the Cradle of Humankind.

I'd appreciate advice about things to see in the Magoesboskloof area, since we've never been there, and also about Newcastle or Volksrust as interesting stopovers on the way from Umfolozi to Johannesburg.

(I always get a surge of excitement when I make the first booking of a trip I've been planning so ardently! Do other people feel that way?)
Celia is offline  
Mar 16th, 2004, 09:22 AM
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Shame we probably won't overlap but I'll email my itinerary and dates to you just in case...

Woo Hoo Celia! Happy trip planning!
Kavey is offline  
Mar 16th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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Hello Celia,

I know exactly what you mean about the surge of excitement when you've made the first booking for a trip. I feel excited for you, and it's not even my trip!

Generally speaking, Magoebaskloof is situated in an attractive area, but I'll refresh my memory before I comment on what there is to see around there.

When it comes to Swaziland, I recommend an overnight stop in or near Piggs Peak. It's situated in Swaziland's hill country, and is an attractive location. It also is home to an interesting cottage industry in the form of hand woven mohair fabric (made from the hair of the angora goat). Coral Stephens introduced this craft to the local people some 50 years ago, and her original business is still going strong, but other local businesses (such as women's cooperatives) have sprung up and make similar products.

The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands scenery is very pleasant, and the nearby Drakensberg area is even more dramatic. Aside from the natural beauty, the region appeals to me because of its human prehistory and history.

There are fascinating San (Bushman) rock paintings in the area.

KwaZulu-Natal also is rich in Zulu War and Boer War battlesites. Newcastle and Volksrust, for example, are close to Majuba Hill, where Boer forces imposed heavy losses on a British regiment during the Transvaal's First War of Independence in 1881.

(My husband's great grandfather escaped the fate of his fellow soldiers by deserting from the British army and changing his last name days before that battle. I always chuckle when we receive unsolicited mail offers of genealogical assistance in tracing our family name. We don't need any help in tracing the name. We know exactly when and where we acquired it.)

Here are websites I found by doing Google searches for Newcastle and Volksrust:

The Newcastle website told me something I didn't know before. Apparently the town has the largest domed Hindu temple in the southern hemisphere.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Mar 16th, 2004, 10:22 AM
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Hello Celia,

I searched Magoebaskloof on Google, and the results confirmed what I thought. Magoebaskloof is situated in pleasant scenery. The area has other towns, such as Tzaneen, that also are located in pleasing hill country.

One can hike in lovely forested gorges (kloof is the Afrikaans word for gorge), and there is a waterfall nearby. The area is great for birding (as is the Kruger Park, for that matter!).

The northernmost part of South Africa also has the baobab trees that are so prolific in Zimbabwe. (They look like upside down trees, as their branches look like roots.)

All that said, I wonder if you would benefit from shaving one of the three days you were thinking of devoting to Magoebaskloof and spending it in the Newcastle / Voksrust area instead.

Sorry if I'm messing with your mind, Celia. Sometimes when I've re-written an itinerary a gazillion times, I just can't stand one more suggestion, and I feel like telling people to leave me alone. So, if my recommendation is too overwhelming, please ignore it. If you spend three days in the Magoebaskloof area, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

If the Kruger, Swaziland and Umfolozi parts of your itinerary are not yet written in stone, if you like history, and if you think the San rock paintings and Boer War battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal may be of interest, then you might consider adding a day in that part of the world.

If you're curious to know what Mpumalanga Province (where the Kruger Park is now) was like in the 19th century, you might read "Jock of the Bushveld" by Percy Fitzpatrick (if you haven't already read it).

Fitzpatrick operated an ox-drawn wagon train that transported supplies from Maputo at the coast to Johannesburg in the interior before the advent of the railway. The book, ostensibly about his beloved dog, Jock, gives many insights into the life of the time.

There are parts in which the book is shocking to a 20th or 21st century reader. For example, I recall a passage in which a white supervisor whipped a black worker, and this was mentioned as if it was no more significant an event than sunrise or sunset. I found it chilling, but the book is a record of the time, nonetheless.

If memory serves me correctly, the gravesite of Jock (Fitzpatrick's dog) is a place that people actually visit in the Kruger National Park.

Celia, I know you've been to Africa, and I'm sorry if I'm telling you all kinds of stuff you know already. Even if you know it, I hope other readers of these posts may find out something new.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Mar 16th, 2004, 04:24 PM
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Hi Celia

Sorry I must have missed your original post!

I really don't know of anything worthwhile around Magoeboskloof area but Venda has tons to do:

The following info comes from Pafuri Rivercamp close to the Pafuri Gate of KNP and I think well worth a visit:

Venda, the Land of Legend. Pafuri Rivercamp is situated at the top end of the former homeland Venda. Although it has now been incorporated into the new South Africa, Venda remains a unique area, with an intriguing culture and a diverse landscape. Most of the land around is communal, so one is free to explore without the fear of trespassing.

South of the Soutpansberg, the high rainfall supports thick forests, tea, coffee and tropical fruit plantations. It feeds many waterfalls, rivers, dams and the sacred lake of Fundudzi. In contrast the North is generally arid with the exception of the river valleys and areas surrounding the natural springs.

Places of interest include: Mavhilani potholes; Makuya park; Kruger park; Nwanedi park; The Big Tree; The cycad forest; Lake Fundudzi; The Sacred forest; Limpopo valley; Tshiovhovhovho falls; Dzata ruins; Local arts and craft markets; Fruit markets; Local shebeens; Thula Mela; Dambali caves and Bushman paintings;Sagole hot spring.

Hikes: Use us as a base, a start or finishing point. A beautiful area for the more adventurous hiker. There are no marked trails, but you are free to roam the area and camp almost anywhere. We have excellent maps of the region and can advise you on routes.
Canoeing: (seasonal) We will drop you up stream as far as you like, so that you can easily paddle back to camp. The boats have plenty of space for a cooler or your birding gear.
Mountain Biking: Once again marked trails are not our style. The varied terrain combined with the freedom to move where ever you want, makes this area ideal for biking.
Climbing & Abseiling: If you have your own gear, there are countless virgin rock faces to be conquered. We will show you where, we will help you get there, you do the rest.
Relaxing: What most people do once they get here. Why don't you try? Come live in the bush for a while!
We offer a variety of guided trips in our Landrover including :

Full and half day fishing trips including drinks and a braai.
Full and half day scenic trips to the Potholes, Big Tree, Bushman Paintings, Local ruins and Venda forests, including drinks and a picnic.
Shebeen tours, the genuine thing, unlike those commercialised Jo'burg attempts.
Sunset trips to Tshamatemba

Rates until February 2004
Prices based on R230 per person sharing.
Site Description Total price

Sausage tree Single treehouse with two beds, private toilet, communal shower, private kitchen and private braai area. R460
Leadwood Single treehouse with two beds, private toilet, communal shower, private kitchen and private braai area. R460
Knobthorn Single treehouse with two beds, private toilet, communal shower and private braai area. R460
Jackalberry Single treehouse with two beds, private toilet, communal shower and private braai area. R460
Nyala tree Two treehouses with four beds, private toilet, private shower, private kitchen and private braai area. R920
Poison pod Three treehouses with six beds, private toilet, private shower, private kitchen and private braai area. R1380
Raintree Four treehouses with eight beds, private toilet, private shower, private kitchen and private braai area. R1840
Dinner : R70 Breakfast : R40 Lunch : R30

safarinut is offline  
Mar 17th, 2004, 10:51 AM
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Thank you, Judy and Safarinut! The things that we intend to do in the Magoeboskloof include enjoying the scenery, visiting the silk farm at Hoedspruit, and also a place called Monsoon Gallery (supposed to have great art objects) and maybe the Endangered Species Foundataion. Do you know anything about it? The cycad forest is of great interest to us too. Is it the same place as the Lowfeld National Botanical Gardens near Nelspruit, or are they two different places?

Safarinut, I will definitely look at the place you mention (Jim the fisherman may insist on stopping there!), and the web sites you found, Judy.

We've spent time in the Drakensberg before, so we weren't planning to do any more than just drive through this time on our way from Umfolozi to Johannesburg.

We will be in Kruger at Lower Sabie before we go to Swaziland. Which border crossing point would you advise using? I know we will want to stop and visit one of the mohair places. I have a beautiful wall hanging made in Swaziland which I bought in Jo'burg many years ago, and on a previous long-ago trip to Swaziland we visited a weavers place and watched the work going on. It's fascinating to see the landscapes emerge from strands of yarn; I definitely want to see more of this on this trip.

I know of Jock of the Bushveld, Judy, but have never actually read the book. It must be the only widely-read SA-related book that I haven't read. My local library doesn't seem to have a copy, so maybe I'll break down and buy it. (Although I keep swearing not to buy another book until I buy another room to keep them in!)

Kavey, we changed our dates -- we were originally planning to leave around May 3 or 4. But Delta Airlines (an SAA partner) begins flying from our home town on May 14, with easy connections to Atlanta and then to South Africa, so we are taking advantage of that and leaving 2 weeks later.

Thanks for all the advice, and I welcome any more anyone has to give me.


Celia is offline  
Mar 18th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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Hi Celia

Re Volksrust vs Newcastle

As luck would have it I just spent the weekend in Wakkerstroom which is about 20km from Volksrust. Friends have bought a house in this sweet little town and renovated beautifully so I had to go see. It rained for almost the entire weekend so we spent most of the time cooking up a storm or sitting in front of the fire drinking too much red wine, but did take some time to drive around the area and went through to Volkrust.
Volksrust does not have that much going for it (and neithter does Newcastle), it functions mainly as a provisions town for the farming community and to be kind is not at all picturesque.
My suggestion is to drive the short distance to Wakkerstroom and rather spend the night there. There is a lovely little resort on the edge of town.
The town is also very scenic and quaint, a number of the old buildings have been bought up and are being/have been renovated. Wakkerstroom is gaining in reputation as a birding town due to the wetlands, and in addition to the geese, ducks and peacocks our friends have, we spotted plenty of different birds without much effort, even through all the rain.
And I wager that no-one you know will ever have been to Wakkerstroom.
traci_local_in_sa is offline  
Mar 18th, 2004, 09:20 AM
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Aha, Wakkerstroom is on my map, just a bit to the right of Volksrust! We'll definitely look into it, Traci, thanks!

I'm glad to know this sort of local stuff about Newcastle and Volksrust. Even though we're only passing through, we don't want to stay in someplace less than interesting.
Celia is offline  
Mar 18th, 2004, 11:12 AM
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Here are our dates just incase:
23-May 1 nt Ballito
24-May 2 nts Umfolozi (Mpila safari tents)
26-May 1 nt Hluhluwe (actually Ubizane)
27-May 3 nts St Lucia (TBC)
30-May 2 nts Ndumo (Ndumo Wildneress Camp)
01-Jun 3 nts Ithala (regular rondavel/ chalet)
04-Jun 1 nt Berg en Dal (perimeter bungalow)
05-Jun 3 nts Olifants (riverview)
Kavey is offline  

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