Writers’ places: Harties

Posted on 28 April 2020

Words by Niq Mhlongo

A trip to Hartbeespoort always gives me a sense of great satisfaction. It cleanses, frees and heals my heart of a lot of aches. Every time I go, I feel as if something wonderful is reaching out and opening up for me to enter, wrapping me in its warm coils.

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As an author, being there cushions me from some of the challenges I face in my writing – those episodes of writer’s block. Being there makes me aware that there are certain things in life that should belong to me alone.

For more than two decades now, my friends, family and I have been visiting Harties. We have since renamed it our ‘Little Paris’. The name comes from my friend Xoli after he was invited to perform in
a theatrical production in Paris. Upon his return, Xoli showed us his pictures of the Arc de Triomphe, the iconic monument built to commemorate Napoleon’s victories. When Xoli visited Harties for the first time around 2001, he saw the replica of the monument on the wall that separates Hartbeespoort Dam and the Crocodile River. It’s not nearly as impressive as the one in Paris, but for us it gives Harties a unique dual identity that marries nature and modernity, urban and rural, France and South Africa.

Hartbeespoort offers me the silence of nature and opens my mind when I want to write. It’s also just 75 kilometres from Johannesburg where I live, making it easily accessible. This year alone I’ve been there with friends or family six times. I love watching the Crocodile River’s white-water rapids, taking a cruise on the dam or ascending the cableway to the top of the Magaliesberg, from where you witness the dreamy beauty of the Highveld landscape.

Every now and then as a writer I need to be left alone with my thoughts, and Harties gives me that escape into solitude. When I’m there, I find inspiration everywhere, even in the beautiful birds, ranging in colour from shimmering midnight blue to bright scarlet and molten gold.

My most recent trip to ‘Little Paris’ was a weekend with Xoli to a tented camp. Hiking in the morning was unforgettable and inspiring – bird calls filled the air and, being summer, the forest was vibrantly green. The trees stood tall, straight-trunked, topped by an umbrella of exquisitely shaped black branches. It was quite magical.

• Niq’s latest book is Black Tax: Burden or Ubuntu?

Stay here

Meerhof Lodge is my favourite, with luxury self-catering cottages by the dam. From R800 per cottage (sleeps two). 082-454-0095, meerhoflodge.co.za

A Glamping Adventures weekend package includes a boat cruise, hiking, pool party and all meals, from R1, 999 pp. glamping-adventures.co.za


This article was first published in the January 2020 issue of Getaway magazine.
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