The Panorama Route

We were again up early (6am) and off on another adventure. This time we were leaving the park and exploring the “Panorama Route” nearby. This route runs from Sabie to Hoedspruit along the Blyde River Canyon. We headed out the Orpen Gate then south to Hazyview. The road is a good quality tar road but the area of Bushbuckridge which we drove through was something else. It is a town… but! The houses here are built of brick and some are actually quite substantial, unlike the tin shanty townships we saw in Cape Town. But there is no infrastructure so any side street off the main road is dirt. The buses are not large ones like we know them but small vans which whizz along picking people up along the way. There are no bus stop signs and no signs on the buses so how people know where they are going is beyond me. The bus drivers just seem to stop when they see anyone on the side of the road & I think it must all be sorted at that point!?!?

There are large shopping malls but then along side those are ‘markets’ where they appear to be cooking food as there is smoke billowing out. It’s so hard to describe, you really have to see if for yourself. This went on for miles & miles with hoards of people walking along side the road. Not like driving through Bathurst where it takes you 15 mins max to get from the start to the finish… this seemed to last for ½ an hour.

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Once we were out we reached Hazyview which was a bit similar but we pulled into a tourist area as we wanted to get some brunch and see if we could get a map for the local area. There was an information centre there which solved half the problem and a great little café which solved the other half. We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch even though a tour bus pulled up outside and out poured about 40 Aussies on an Evergreen Tour.

With map in hand we proceeded onto Sabie through some quite lovely hilly countryside full of orange & avocado crops and plantations of forest and bananas plantations.

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The weather had turned on us. It was suddenly cold and as the day wore on the rain set in as did the fog. However that didn’t deter us and we set out to visit the few waterfalls and points of interest between Sabie and Graskop which was our stop for the next two nights.

The waterfalls we visited included Horseshoe & Bridal Veil. The roads in this area are incredibly bad. Full of potholes everywhere so we slipped & slid as we avoided them. Luckily there isn’t much traffic around but clearly there is little or no money spent in upkeeping them. This is quite amazing considering the area is rich in agriculture. I’d say a sign of corruption or mismanagement somewhere along the line.

The falls were lovely but not a patch on those we looked at in Victoria when we were there last year visiting the Grampians and Great Ocean Road. We also visited Mac Mac Falls and Mac Mac Pools which were lovely & looked like the Scottish Highlands!

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We reached Graskop and our B&B “Dar Armane” at about 3pm so checked in. What a funny little place. You have to ring a bell to get them to open the large gate into the driveway. Then once you are in, you have to call them to come and let you out! I felt like I was in a prison! The room we had was actually two rooms and a balcony. Both rooms were the same size. The first was the bathroom (huge with a massive bath in the middle and the toilet behind a screen) which you walked through to the bedroom which was comfortable with a TV and two lounge chairs.

There were no windows in the bathroom & only two windows in the bedroom which were covered by thick curtains so there was little to no natural light. You then had to open two huge doors onto the balcony & I couldn’t even reach the upper locks! But it was clean and very comfy bed & pillows.

We headed out quickly again to visit ‘Pilgrim’s Rest’, a small historical town 15 minutes away which was originally established during the gold rush & the buildings have been maintained beautifully. We had a look around at the buildings and various shops then headed back to our quirky B&B to freshen up & headed out to a local African restaurant with a Mozambican bent for dinner… ‘Canimanmbo Restaurant’. This was a very pleasant surprise. The atmosphere was nothing much but the food was excellent.

The next morning we woke to a misty cold and wet morning. We were served a funny sort of breakfast on our veranda which consisted of cinnamon pancakes and bread with jam. I wouldn’t want to stay here if I was gluten intolerant!

We headed off north & the first stop was “God’s Window” which is supposed to be an amazing view out through the cliffs over the valley below. The problem was the fog was so low we weren’t going to be seeing anything so we decided to skip this section & view the waterfalls instead. Berlin Falls were lovely and the funny thing was while we were there sightseeing a helicopter flew over very low & down over the falls. We then headed to Bourke’s Luck Potholes which were quite wonderful. There are cascades & waterfalls and fabulous “holes” pitted into the rocks. We had a wonderful time hopping the rocks and just sitting taking in this lovely place.

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By this time the weather was clearing and the temperature rising. We stopped & grabbed a drink then headed onto the next viewpoint which was over the Blyde River Canyon. Can I just say this was absolutely spectacular & we could see why they say it’s the greenest canyon in the world. We sat for ages just taking in the views.

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Blyde River
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The Three Rondavels

To get back to Graskop we had the choice to drive back the way we came or take the alternative route around, which of course is what we chose. We drove through massive orange tree orchards & followed a ute which was full of workers & stopped at a pass & ate our bread rolls we’d prepared while taking in the wonderful views. After stopping back into look at God’s Window we then headed back to our B&B to spend some time downloading photos and writing up the diary. We also watched a bit of TV which we hadn’t done since Cape Town. We enjoyed dinner at the ‘Glass House’ which was good but not as good as the previous night.

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