Welcome to the first installment of our familiarization trips to Africa (fam trip) which started as usual at the Metcourt Suites in the Emperor’s Palace as they provide more than adequate accommodation with big if curiously laid out and decorated rooms very close to the airport. Their sumptuous breakfast (which on our first morning in Africa they were kind enough to include one of John’s favourite local cereals “Maltabella” by special request) gives an energetic start to holidays to Africa.
After a very welcome and much needed nights sleep we head off toward the pioneering town of Pilgrims Rest. Unusually for our fam trips to Africa, this one has had a mixed start as I awake to the realisation that I have left my ski jacket and my sun hat at home – bad move as it can get bitterly cold in the African bush in the early morning and late evening. Our morning ablutions are disturbed as John is assaulted by his roll-on deodorant with the roller ball shooting out like a champagne cork on being uncapped!!!! While all holidays to Africa are expected to be exciting, one doesn’t usually expect a simple toiletry to contribute to the fun – but it did give us a good laugh!
We front up to our pre-booked accommodation in Pilgrims Rest noticing that it is a lot less glamorous in the flesh than it appeared on the net! Our room is not ready for occupation until after 2pm – this, the faded décor and the less than alert receptionist, who expresses surprise that we have luggage, leave us quite unimpressed and free to scout around for alternative accommodation. After all the purpose of our bi-annual trips to Africa is to establish the suitability of hotels, lodges and other services before we add them to our list.
As well as being part of the pioneering history of Africa, Pilgrims Rest is close to the quite dramatic Blyde River Canyon and the aptly named Panorama Route. Most people planning holidays to Africa like to include a cultural and/or scenic interlude and since it is close to the Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sands, Manyeleti and Timbavati Private Game Reserves the Panorama Route is an ideal location for such an interlude.
On our way to our disappointing pre-booked accommodation, we noticed a lodge perched on top of a hill surrounded by pine forests. We are welcomed with open arms to the sprawling Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge. After notifying our now discarded booking, we relax on the veranda of our unit as the sun slips below a pink & lilac horizon to the sound of the homecoming birds. We gather information on the lodge as it would make a nice retreat for family holidays to Africa as it is well equipped with play areas for both young & old alike.
Still operating on Australian time, we are wide awake and ready to roll at 6am, so we head off on our scenic drive. Our first stop is the three Rondawels the other side of the Blyde River which gurgles its way thorough this vast canyon hundreds of feet below us. The heat of the day is building and so is our hunger as we were too early for breakfast and this, being a relatively sleepy part of the world, breakfast is hard to find. By the time we reach Graskop our stomachs think that our throats have been cut so we stop at the first guest house that advertises meals. Our revelation that we are Australians immediately creates a kinship with the couple who own and run the guest house as it appears their daughter-in-law is also an Aussie who, with their son, now lives in Brisbane.
After a lekker (lovely in Afrikaans) breakfast and a tour of their delightful guest house it is time to move on to the next stage of this latest of our fam trips to Africa and so we head for the bush resolving as we do so to include this lovely friendly guest house on our list for some wonderful Holidays to Africa.
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