Saturday, 20 February 2010

Day 11: Sabie, Blyde River Canyon and Pilgrim's Rest

Thursday 6th August 2009

After driving the whole of the previous day, we decided to take things relatively easy and just potter around the local tourist attractions. As always I was up early, so I wandered around the Jock Sabie Lodge grounds until the others woke up. Like many residential areas in South Africa, the Lodge was pretty well fortified, being surrounded by tall railings and an electrified fence. There was also a single entrance with a motorised gate which was guarded 24 hours a day.

First stop on our sightseeing tour was God's Window (the South Africans are not known for their modesty when it comes to naming interesting locations). The "Window" was actually a lookout at the top of a hill which had spectacular views into the Blyde River Canyon below. Given the altitude and topology, the top of the hill is shrouded in cloud for some of each day, so supports what amounts to a tropical rainforest vegetation. On the day we visited the view was rather hazy, but it was impressive nevertheless. It's difficult to get a sense of scale, even with Harriet in the picture.

Once we'd finished looking through God's Windows, we moved on to another place with an understated name: Wonder View. Again it was very hazy, but the rolling hills receding into the distance were very impressive. It's lucky we were there in the middle of the day, as apparently the view disappears at 17:00...

Our third and final natural wonder of the day was the rather more subtly named Berlin Falls, which were less impressive than they could have been owing to the lack of water (it was the middle of the dry season, after all). Much more interesting was the market which was set up in the car park.

There's only so many natural wonders it's possible to take in, and by this point we were all getting tired and hungry. We decided to go to a place not far away called Pilgrim's Rest, which was an old mining town. It's been restored as a tourist attraction, and unsuprisingly had lots of items available for sale. One of the most interesting was a chap making life-sized sheep out of wire and beads. On closer inspection it was clear he was in a world of his own, listening to whatever was playing on his iPod.

Hopefully nobody will want to use the Post Office in Pilgrim's Rest, however, as it didn't seem to be terribly up-to-date...

Other highlights were a dancing boiler suit (which turned out to contain a boy aged about 10) and a couple of Zulu women who were sitting under an awning making bead work. The invited Harriet to have her picture taken with them, and then charged 5 Rand for the privilege.

By this time we were touristed out, and decided to go back to Sabie. Unfortunately we had to pay a "ransom" to get our car back, as apparently we'd parked in an area which guaranteed it would get washed. We had to do some surreptitious research to find out what the going rate for a car wash...

Back at Jock Sabie Lodge, Izzi went in search of an internet cafe while Harriet and I did some shopping. Back at the Lodge, Harriet read a book, Izzi plonked herself in front of the television and I wander around taking photographs as the sun set. Then it was another braai (fillet steak and Boerwors) followed by an early night.