The ultimate braaing holiday

Posted on 11 December 2012

Nine is a nice round number. A cat has nine lives. A very happy person is on cloud nine. A fancy person is dressed to the nines. But vastly more important, nine is the number of days you have at your disposal when taking leave for one week flanked by two weekends. It also happens to be the number of provinces in South Africa. Bearing this in mind, I pioneered a National Braai Tour across the country.

Day one saw me braaing with Fokofpolisiekar, Jack Parow and a TV crew at Pretoria’s Ridgeback Village pub in proper half-barrel braai drums surrounded by big-screen TVs.

A short drive on day two got me to Brits in the North West, where I braaied with the Rusoord Old Age Home. This is obviously not a normal braai spot, but I have a feeling most old age homes in the country will allow you to braai for their residents if you ask.

From Brits, a leisurely 90 minutes gets you to Bela-Bela, Limpopo. I bought supplies from Camo Meat, which specialises in venison; it was the first time I encountered such a butchery. We braaied and stayed at Mbizi Lodge outside of town.

As I’d braaied with an old age home, I wanted to braai with some kids so, on day four, I made boerewors rolls for 90 kids at a kindergarten in Witbank, Mpumalanga.

My fifth stop was a braai with the Griquas rugby team at the GWK stadium in Kimberley, Northern Cape. The braai was great, but the mammoth sevenhour drive from Witbank to Kimberley wasn’t. If you want to replicate this trip, skip Kimberley, go straight to Parys from Mpumalanga and tick the Northern Cape box by going to Sutherland on day eight or nine of your tour.

Parys in the Free State is surprisingly pretty considering its proximity to some of the less scenic parts of Gauteng. It’s also home to Olympia Butchery, one of the best I’ve seen in South Africa. Among other things, it features personal service by the owner. Make sure you sleep on the banks of the Vaal River – we stayed at SunWa River Lodge.

From day seven, driving would have involved covering long distances. So instead we made the 90-minute drive to Johannesburg and took a one-way budget flight to Durban. On a tip-off from a braaier with inside knowledge of the Durban scene I went to Continental Butchery, a Halaal butchery specialising in the spicy side of braai meat. As it was Friday the butchery was closed between 12h00 and 14h00, with the owners attending mosque, but waiting in the rain for an hour was worth it.

Next stop was Port Elizabeth Airport. It’s pretty small – what girls might refer to as cute. A rented tin box with four wheels got me to Crossways Country Kitchen on the Cape Town side of Van Stadens Bridge. I spent day eight cooking up a storm with Trevor Steyn, a chef who trained with Gordon Ramsay.

On the final day, I flew to Cape Town and rounded off my tour with a township braai at Mzoli’s in Gugulethu. My order there is always the same: lamb chops, boerewors, pap and chakalaka. Importantly, when you’re sitting in Gugulethu, order a quart of beer and stay in denial a little while longer that it’s back to office the next day.

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