This week, we continue our journey from Underberg to Mbotyi. The roads are wonderfully scenic – but your attention needs to be firmly on the road! Cattle, people and the ubiquitous potholes all share the tarmac in this part of the world.
Incredible scenery… Image © Jacqui Ikin
Once you leave Underberg, you need to take distance vs time into account. Whilst 266km seems like a reasonably short distance, you will be surprised at how long it can take. Especially when navigating Flagstaff on a SASSA grant’ pay out day!!
Going nowhere slowly on SASSA pay out days… Images © Jacqui Ikin
People come from far and wide to get their grants and do their shopping. It is utter chaos…
Many take full advantage of the shopping day and consequently your speed is also significantly reduced… Images © Jacqui Ikin
The roads aren’t bad at all, but there are regular spots where you are endeavouring to avoid potholes for long stretches at a time. There are also STOP /GOs at the moment to take into account (on the plus side, at least they’re repairing the roads!!). Always give yourself enough time in the morning, so that you’re not driving into the sunset – these roads are not the kind of roads you want to do in the dark! Soon, however, you find yourself through Lusikisiki, and starting to descend into a tropical paradise!
The road runs through the Magwa Tea Estate, but more about that next week… Image © Jacqui Ikin
You wind your way down a lovely forest road… Image © Jacqui Ikin
… and the final stetch is a steep concrete road into the resort (remember to disengage 4×4 – before the concrete road- if you don’t have a centre differential or damage can occur). On arrival, you enter the beautiful lodge estate through sturdy gates, and park under some lovely trees in close proximity to the reception.
Even your car has a nice comfortable spot to rest during your stay!!
The first sign that you’ve arrived at one of those wonderful, traditional family hotels is the welcome board to the reception wall…
The second sign is when you are met in the car park by the super-friendly Alex Brett (GM of Mbotyi River Lodge). You’re welcomed into the reception area to do the relevant admin (an experience complete with little canapes and a delicious little cocktail), and thereafter the staff take your luggage to your rooms. We were lucky to have sea-facing wooden chalets – the views were incredible!
Comfortable rooms, immaculate linen, the choice of aircon, fan or open windows, and an amazing view…
What more could you possibly ask for? Images © Jacqui Ikin
The afternoon was spent catching up as we had been on the road for quite some time, with very few comms (and daily life does go on, even when you’re out of town). Slowly the sun headed towards the horizon, and at some point you just relax into all the beauty. As the light becomes gold, you take the time to look up and just absorb the beauty and the peace of the environment in which your find yourself.
Later that evening, we realised that it was full moon, and celebrated with a perfect bottle of red wine… Image © Jacqui Ikin
Dinner was served in the main hotel dining room, and presented on a lovely menu – created specifically for that evening. A delicious starter of a Haloumi Stack was followed by Butternut Soup, served with Xhosa Sweet Bread. You had a choice of Roast Sirloin or Chicken Schnitzel with Pepper Sauce (accompanied by fresh vegetables), and a delicious Caramel Tart for dessert. All cooked to perfection and beyond delicious… As I walked back to my room, I reflected that, for all of South Africa’s challenges, life doesn’t get much better than this!!
Sunrise the next morning was spectacular… Image © Jacqui Ikin
I awoke even before the sunrise the next morning, beyond excited for what the day held. We were going to go explore the Magwa Tea Estate, and three waterfalls in the area. But I get ahead of myself – that’s next week’s story ????.
Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team
Office: +27 (0)39 253 7200/1
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 674 1064
Alt. number: +27 (0)61 020 1455