Drive less than an hour and a half from Johannesburg and you can find yourself in some of South Africa’s most beautiful areas. We found nine gorgeous Joburg weekend breaks for our November issue: here’s a glimpse behind the scenes.
Also read: Top 30 weekend getaways near Johannesburg
So there I was, partnered up with yet another Europcar, music sorted and GPS sitting snugly on my windscreen merrily chirping directions, when my car gave an unexpected beep. I slowed, startled out of my happy driving reverie as I frantically scanned my dashboard for any emergency lights that may have come on. When everything appeared normal and my car hadn’t broken down – that’s the extent of my car knowledge right there – I started to suspect external forces. A quick glance into my rear-view mirror confirmed my suspicions: I passed my first E-Toll.
Now this may not seem like that interesting an event, but the Durbanite within me found this quite exciting. After hearing all the news and debate, to finally see the ugly creations towering like alien surveillance systems over the freeway was a a bit of an ‘ah ha’ moment.
Onwards I drove, the fascination with the automatic beeping of the E-Toll card on my car waning only slightly as the road moved me along to my various stops around Joburg. First was Celtis Lodge, where I wandered amongst the forest and dappled light, listening to birdsong and trying to entice the paddocked horses to my side.
The following night found me at Wolmaransstad, where Gert kept me fed (and watered with many a glass of wine) in the comfort of the dynamic Drostdy village. A chance mention of ‘golden wildebeest’ caught my attention, and dawned another first for me. Did you know you get ‘golden’ animals? Kudu, wildebeest, gemsbok… they all display this copper/golden colouring with careful breeding programs. Thanks to Pieter for showing this to me.
Mountain Sanctuary Park was next on the itinerary, where I met up with Jacqui MacGregor (Getaway’s Art Director) and Melanie van Zyl (our Gear Editor) to shoot our cover image and take an afternoon hike, punctuated by many a ‘I think we should walk more over in that direction’ between Mel and myself as we searched for the prime location. We found it eventually by the Slide Pools, which have a sweeping view down the valley.
And then Pilanesberg’s Thaba Lodge. What an incredible, relaxing place. Luxury itself with nothing but the quiet sounds of the bush around you as you fall asleep. I would visit again in a heartbeat.
After a night’s stay, we hit the bumpy road again, guided by Mel’s infallible sense of direction. De Kunst Huisje’s unusal decor refueled our creative energy, and was solely responsible for my impulse-purchase of a wildebeest skull on the side of the road. Antique car headlamps were used as light-fittings, inspirational words littered the walls and we all left well-rested and with ideas blooming about our next decor adventures.
Off I went, solo this time, to B’Sorah luxury tented camp. I was greeted by the sight of Natalie Durr’s rescued waterbuck and huge wolfhound as I pulled up to their house, and then the lady herself as she beamed an effervescent hello. The tented camps offer the best of both worlds; the simplicity and privacy of being outdoors and the luxury of having a wide, comfortable bed and deck on which to greet the next day, armed with coffee freshly made on the stove. You couldn’t feel further away from the city.
Old Willow houseboats featured next, and aided by the helpful directions from Lauren, I found myself on the edge of the Vaal River (another first), reading through material that would see me the proud owner of a temporary skippers license. Once you are sufficiently prepared, you’re helped into your waterbound home and are free to explore the river, with two distinct directions. Left takes you to more natural beauty, with birding and open river banks. Right takes you up past the restaurants and night activities, where you can dock and explore at your own pace. Early mornings on the river are special times, with the smooth surface of the water quietly lapping the side of your boat and morning sunlight filtering through the numerous willow trees lining the river. This was where our cover image was shot.
Curious? Find out what’s special about these spots – and get the rest of our recommendations – in the November issue of Getaway magazine, on sale now! (Click the cover below to read more on this issue).