Where the heck’s Himeville?

Posted by Fatima Anter on 8 March 2011


“˜You could be in and out of this area in three hours,’ I was told after asking if four days was enough to explore Himeville and Underberg. But I discovered that simply admiring the scenery will set you back at least one day, so come with time on your hands.


Underberg is a small village among the foothills  with spectacular views of the Drakensberg range. As you descend to  the town, you’ll be welcomed by tree-lined streets and beautiful landscapes with a rugged backdrop of peaks and passes. Just five kilometres from Underberg, with a gorgeous row of oak trees greeting you, is the even smaller town of Himeville, gateway to Sani Pass.

It’s tricky to know the truth, because  the history of Himeville and Underberg, till today, has many versions. When you’re not listening to stories of how the towns came about, keep your diary open, because there’s lots to see and do. Even when you’re not doing anything, the beauty of the area will dazzle you.

Admire art


The Underberg Studio showcases work by South African artists and also features work by the owners, Lawrence and Catherine Brenno.  Tel 033-701-2440, e-mail [email protected], web www.underbergstudio.co.za.

Do it yourself


Take art lessons with Timothy van Vuuren while you enjoy beautiful scenery.  The first class is free and thereafter it’s R75 for a three-hour class.

Tel: 033-701-2183
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.oilandclay.co.za

The big cheese


At the Underberg Cheesery at River Glen Farm, you’ll find a selection cheeses from cheddar to Parmesani (named after Sani Pass). You can watch the cheese making process, see the maturation room, buy and sample a variety of flavours.

Tel: 033-701-1926
Email: [email protected]

Get high


Take a trip up Sani Pass with Rudi Botha of  Kingdom in the Sky, a 4×4-adventure and Lesotho tour company in Underberg. The day tour includes a stop at Sani Top Chalet,  at 2#874 metres it’s the highest pub in Africa , “˜only because Kilimanjaro doesn’t have a pub,’ Rudi jokes. You’ll also visit a traditional Sotho village and enjoy the hospitality of one of the local families, before heading back down the pass for a thrilling drive. Warm clothes and passports are essential. The day trip is R460 a person including pickup in the area.

Tel: 072-981-3077
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.kingdominthesky.co.za

Gone fishing


The trout fishing around here is said to be one of the best in the country. You can fish at many of the dams or rivers in the area and a day permit (available at The Highlander or NUD Sports and Saddlery) is R120 for each rod. A number of B&Bs also have  their own dams for guests to use.

Tel: 033-701-2302
Email: [email protected]

Bushman art and birding


Join Stuart McLean of Birds and Beyond on his five- to six-hour hike into the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park to see bushman paintings. Stuart offers natural history tours in the Southern Drakensberg area.

Tel: 033-702-1761
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.birdsandbeyond.co.za

Time to reflect


Kenmo Lake is an ideal setting for a picnic, reading a good book or just relaxing and taking in the beauty. A great time to see the lake is autumn, when the trees are shades of browns, reds and orange and the leaves form a golden carpet over the green grass. A step back in time

The Himeville Museum is housed in the last wagon fort built in South Africa, which later became a prison. After the prison was closed the historical society took over and the museum opened in 1981. There are gadgets, agricultural machinery, fossils, armoury, bead work and rock-art tracings. The curator, Michael Clark has been there for nine years and has a wealth of information so make time for a chat with him.

Tel: 033-702-1184.

Go pony trekking


Khotso Horse Trails offers pony rides  to the Drakensberg foothills and overnight treks in Lesotho. Beginners are welcome as professional guides will brief you and accompany riders on trails. Mmore advanced riders can join an adventure trip that involves cattle roundups and a cross-country track. A three-hour trail including lunch is R350. The two-night Lesotho trek is R900 a person a day.

Tel: 033-701-1502
Email: [email protected]

Wet and wonderful


Tubing and canoeing is great in summer when the rivers run strongly. You can hire a tube at The Highlander in Underberg or contact Dundidit Tours for organised river trips including all safety equipment, refreshments and transport.

Tel: 033-701-2405
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.dundidit.co.za

Take a hike


There are many walks ranging from two-kilometre gentle strolls to harder multi-day hikes. The mellow Jacob’s Ladder Trail follows the Lotheni River and leads to the namesake waterfall.

If you want to hike Sani Pass, park at the border post and walk up. It’s eight kilometres each way (about three hours up and two hours down). The South African border post is open from 06h00 to 18h00.

Get on your bike


Sani Spoors offers five scenic routes ranging from easy rides along the Umzimkulu River (three or seven kilometres) to forests with awesome views. Tel 033-701-1111, web www.sanispoors.com.  Mountain bikes can also be hired at The Highlander (including safety gear).

Tel: 033-701-1111

Play Robin Hood


If you stay at Amazian Mountain Lodge just outside the main centre of Underberg, you can get archery lessons. Classes are also open to the public.

Tel: 082-444-4235.

Treat yourself


The new wine gallery at Amazian Mountain Lodge has a selection of award-winning wines, delicious cold meats, imported chocolates and cheeses. Order a platter of any selection and quantity you’d like, and enjoy an afternoon of good music, tasty treats and breathtaking views.

Tel: 082-444-4235

Curious curios


Speckled Hen sells bags, mugs, jewellery and a selection of hats and ornaments.

Tel: 033-701-2767.

At Move On curio shop, Alex Kiguru makes beaded jewellery and sells these along with local artworks.

Tel: 082-831-7346.

The Funky Cow has quirky chandeliers, furniture, antiques, jewellery, candles, coats and all sorts of crafty creations.

Tel: 083-654-4767.

Village Vintage is an antique shop that sells collectables.

Tel: 082-931-0844

At Oak Tree Trading there’s beautiful glassware and décor and some framing and gifts.

Tel: 033-701-2619.

At Odds “˜n Sods you’ll find all sorts of secondhand goods.

Driftin has a range of crafts, gifts and some clothing.

Tel: 033-701-1070

Where to eat

The Grind Café makes good wood-fired pizzas and also has a pub (The Woolly Bugger) next door.

Tel: 033-701-1571.

Lemon Tree Bistro is a cosy, country-style restaurant offering  delicious meals and great cappuccinos. The restaurant also has a bookstore and a shop that has preserves and other gifts. In the bookshop you’ll find some of the owner’s photographs for sale. They’re open daily but don’t serve dinner on Mondays. You’ll find it at the clock tower.

Tel: 033-701-1589.

At the Duck and Dolittle the kids can play and feed the animals on the farm and you can enjoy breakfast or light lunches. They also have a big range of toys, gifts and jewellery for sale. It’s open from 09h00 to 16h00 daily except Tuesdays.

Tel: 033-701-1176.

Enjoy pub dinners at the Himeville Arms Hotel, where the cosy fireplace will keep you lingering longer with the locals.

Tel: 033-702-1305.

Pucketty Farm Stall, up a short dirt road before you reach Underberg, sells preserves, “˜big fat packets of rusks’, homemade bread (baked daily) and clothing and gifts. It’s a quirky little spot with a picnic area where you help yourself to the treats on display, write down what you’ve taken and pay when you leave. While you’re there, check out the art gallery with works by local artists.

Tel: 033-701-1035.

Temptations has light meals, jewellery and clothing in an adjoining shop.

Tel: 033-701-1615

The Moorcroft Manor Country Hotel has light lunches and dinners. Booking essential.

Tel: 033-702-1967
Web: www.moorcroft.co.za

Mike’s Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and supper and has a bar. Tel 033-701-1565.

The Old Hatchery, overlooking a waterfall and trout dam, serves lunch and dinners for  bookings only. Tel 082-602-7020, web www.theoldhatchery.co.za.

Where to stay

Cedar Garden B&B, set in beautifully maintained gardens, is a walk away from the main road in Underberg. From 225 a person a night for the self-catering cottage (sleeps six) and R310 a person a night in the en suite room.

Tel: 033-701-1153
Web: www.cedargarden.co.za

Albizia House B&B, in Himeville has three en-suite bedrooms all leading onto a patio overlooking the immaculate grounds. R320 a person a night sharing. Tel 033-702-1837, web www.africaalbizia.co.za.

Amazian Mountain River Lodge just outside Underberg is secluded and has great views and luxury accommodation. R920 a person a night on a DB&B basis.

Tel: 082-444-4235
Web: www.amazian.co.za

Sani Valley Lodge is a luxury private game and fly-fishing lodge a 260-acre lake. Rates are from R400 for basic self-catering to R1250 a person sahring on a DB&B basis.

Tel: 033-702-0203
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.sanivalley.co.za

And if you’re interested in that history bit:

Underberg came about when a store was opened to serve the first settler farms in the frontier times of 1886. The store was  expected to become the hub of a village but the government felt that because the area was overlooked by a hill and it was privately owned, it would be defenceless in an attack.

Himeville was then selected as the district centre and in 1902 it was granted a magistrate. Rivalry arose between the two villages and this was aggravated again in 1907 when a railway was built to serve the area, but for an unknown reason (and lots of speculation) the rail stopped at Underberg, not reaching Himeville.

The oak lane  joining the two towns was  planted by locals after residents Kenneth and Mona Lund offered to give a tree to any person willing to  plant  it along the road to connect the two towns. After the trees were planted fallouts and rivalries were soon forgotten.

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