6 perky padstals between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park

Posted on 4 May 2022

The journey from Johannesburg to Mpumalanga is a visual feast, particularly as the road dips down from the Highveld to the Lowveld, tracing the northern Drakensberg escarpment.

Thanks to all the padstals along the way, you can linger longer and feed your tummy, too.

Words & Photos Mia Louw

Zooming along the N4, past a grassland blanket pulled over the Highveld’s hills, Jozi’s buildings shrinking in the rearview mirror – on the four-hour stretch between the Big Smoke and the citrus trees of the Lowveld, route markers signal certain legs of the journey.

1. Millys Trout Stall

Just before eNtokozweni, it reminds me to keep my wallet nearby for the Machado toll gate, just before the R36 pulls away from the N4 and dips down into Schoemanskloof. Millys is also a great place to stretch your legs and pick up a trout pie for lunch.

The Cilliers family has been selling trout next to the N4 since 1974, when they erected a small wooden stall where the garage is situated today. Wimcar and his wife, Milly, would prepare fish in the early morning hours and place it on ice for people heading to Kruger National Park.

Visit millys.co.za

At Patatanek and the Old Joe painted stone 40km further, the R539 descends dramatically into the valley. Patatanek (sweet potato ridge) gets its name from transport riders who used to stop their ox-wagons here to give their animals a break and to cook sweet potatoes as padkos.

The next marker is the citrus trees following the Crocodile River down the valley. With 10 000 litres of orange juice squeezed each month, Joubert & Seuns Padstal is a good place to quench your thirst. Pull over, grab some OJ and get to know the farm stalls stretching from the Lowveld to the celebrated Panorama Route.

2. Joubert & Seuns Padstal

‘Some travellers feel claustrophobic in the kloof – especially if you come from open spaces like the Kalahari – but when I reach Patatanek and the mountain opens up in front of me, I know I’m home,’ Mariette Joubert explains.

Mariette’s father-in-law bought property here in 1966. Back then, ‘the road was still narrow and the landscape untouched’, but the Jouberts still see animals on the farm: leopard, caracal, genet, banded mongoose, aardwolf, jackal and samango monkeys up in the mountains.

The fruit was initially planted to stock four padstals managed by Mariette’s mother-in-law since the 1970s. ‘She would make fruit roll-ups while the children had to shoo flies away. While everyone sat down for lunch on Christmas day, the family would be harvesting watermelons.’

Today, Joubert & Seuns is a well-known citrus producer for the international market, while also specialising in earthmoving equipment and bespoke wooden tables. If you aren’t keen on strapping a table to your roof, you can stock up on snacks like fresh or dried fruit, juice, nuts, biltong, or their own orange peri-peri sauce.

‘Joburgers are extremely disappointed when they find out we don’t have a shop in the city,’  says Mariette’s daughter, Brumilde. ‘Well, sorry for you buddy… you’ll have to drive down to the Lowveld.’

Get more info: 083 625 7243,

joubertenseuns.co.za

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Kilmorna Manor

Up in the mountains – 7km from the Viva garage – an eccentric Irishman named Paddy Davies-Webb built a Tudor mansion to combine his love for English country elegance with the Lowveld bush.

R1 500 pp pn, including breakfast.

013 110 0327, kilmornamanor.co.za

3. Orchid Farm Stall

This roadside shop pops up on your right, 18km before Mbombela. As the name indicates, the farm stall’s biggest drawcard is orchids, but it offers so much more.

You can order a cappuccino and lunch in the outdoor coffee shop, or you can stock up on a year’s supply of birthday gifts in the beautifully curated shop filled with local artists’ paintings, decor, clothing, jewellery, handmade cosmetics, and ceramic pots, bowls and tiles.

The Orchid Farm Stall, as it’s known today, has been here for 10 years, but before that, it existed as ‘a little fruit stall with only a handful of plants’, Robby Stevenson explains. ‘My family has been here since 1867. My grandparents bought the farm as a trekplaas, or winter farm.’

They lived in Chrissiesmeer and used to move between the Highveld and Lowveld, something farmers often did to avoid the frosty Highveld winters and the scorching Lowveld summers, plagued with malaria.

Today the family farms macadamias, honey and plants such as orchids, cycads, succulents, bromeliads and tree ferns. ‘Most of the orchids come from my mom’s nursery across the road,’ Robby adds.

Before Urna and Robby took over 10 years ago, a saleslady would wait for customers while taking a nap, waking up every three hours or so to help someone on their way to the Kruger. They are much busier today, with a function area in the garden and a day spa under construction to pamper travellers with massages.

‘On Fridays, Joburgers are in a hurry to get to their destinations and crack open a cold beer,’ Urna explains. But on Sundays, everyone stops on their way back to the city, stretching that weekend just a little bit longer.

Get more info: 082 452 2348,

countrystall.co.za

Pottery and watercolour classes are hosted at the farm stall.

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LoerieRoep

There are five self-catering units at LoerieRoep, 11km from Orchid Farm Stall, but the little treehouse with windows as walls is a highlight.

R650 pp pn sharing for the treehouse.

072 565 2624, facebook.com/Loerieroep

4. Route 40 Farmstall & Coffee Cafe

On the R40 outside White River, Istell and Paul Carlin are ready to cook up a storm for guests heading to the Kruger National Park, with Numbi gate a mere 32km away.

As the Lowveld regional head of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (the international association of French gastronomy), travellers are in capable hands with Istell behind the stove. The Carlins have been running the farm stall and cafe for the past three years.

They started catering for sit-down guests but soon realised people prefer picking something up along the way, like a pulled pork pie or baked goods.

Istell bakes pastries, scones, cakes and brownies, while making peri-peri sauces, pestos, jams and preserves. They also stock local goodies such as honey, macadamia products, dried fruit, free-range chicken and eggs.

The cafe doesn’t have a set menu; Istell offers two to three dishes, such as an open croissant with scrambled egg and bacon, with tomato and basil pesto relish, or eggs Benedict with bacon and homemade hollandaise.

As if the initial blow of the Covid pandemic wasn’t enough, a fire from the neighbouring shop gutted the padstal in 2020. Only an antique cupboard and a roll-up desk survived the ordeal and were lovingly restored.

The Carlins used to run a guesthouse in Mbombela years ago, and after living in Brazil and the Western Cape for a while, they have made their way back to the bushveld. They lived in Gordon’s Bay and managed two eateries in Riebeek Kasteel before returning.

‘We are bushveld people,’ Istell admits. ‘There are lodges with big five game towards the Karoo, but it isn’t the same. Early morning game drives and the smell of dust is different here.’

Get more info: 083 260 8955,

facebook.com/route40

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Eloff Guesthouse and Gallery

Artist Zakkie Eloff was internationally known for his wildlife paintings, while his wife René focuses on flowers and birds with colourful brush strokes. Their son, Phillip, makes bespoke wood furniture.

From R600 pp pn sharing.

082 464 9688,

eloffguesthouseandgallery.com

5. Pure Plaas Padstal & Aloe Nursery

The 140km section between White River and Pure Plaas offers countless possibilities for pitstops and picnic spots. If you are not behind the wheel, you can take a beer break at Sabie Brewing Co or visit one of the waterfalls and swimming spots scattered between Sabie and Graskop.

Pushing on after Pilgrim’s Rest, the old mining town and living monument, you climb up Robber’s Pass, named after two coach robberies in 1899 and 1912. Just 24km further, Pure Plaas Padstal lies on the left of the R36.

What grows behind the stall entices city slickers to stop and shop. Amanda and Dennis Brits have more than 3 000 aloes in their garden. ‘We have 15 varieties that are unique to the Ohrigstad area,’ she says. They also sell jams, preserves, vintage tins and grass baskets; from Fridays to Sundays they make vetkoek and pancakes.

Roadside living ensures that interesting and often famous characters pop in, but it’s their regulars who have made the past 40 years worthwhile. Visitors stop and ask them about Charlie, their beloved Jack Russell and the padstal’s mascot that died last winter.

‘Hearing truckers hoot as they whizz past is priceless. Families stop to update us on their lives, showing us wedding pictures or how their kids have grown,’ Amanda smiles. ‘This is a place where customers become friends.’

Bring some cash as the card machine sometimes loses signal in the Ohrigstad River Valley but Amanda and Dennis also trust their customers to do an EFT 13km down the road.

Get more info: 073 261 4793,

facebook.com/Pure-Plaas-Padstal-en-Aalwyn-Kwekery

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Mona Cottage

Mona Cottage in Pilgrim’s Rest was renovated in 2020, turning the historical house, built in 1907, into a luxury cottage with two bathrooms.

R1 800 pn for six people.

076 680 3996, monacottage.co.za

6. The Chubby Pig

Past the farming town of Ohrigstad, a photo opportunity awaits at a stall shaped like a giant shoe. Ron van Zyl built this place for his wife, Yvonne, in 1991. ‘A pumpkin was the first thing that came to mind, but Yvonne kept mentioning a shoe. We needed a beacon next to the road, and now our address is The Shoe on the R36.’

A further 2km along and the R532 turns off towards the Three Rondavels, a viewpoint over three round mountain tops, the Blyderivierspoort Dam and Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon and biggest green canyon in the world.

The Chubby Pig eatery, gift shop, nursery and accommodation lies closer to Graskop on the banks of the Treur River, which means “to mourn”. It was named during a Voortrekker expedition in 1844, when distraught relatives thought Hendrik Potgieter and his party were lost on their journey to Delagoa Bay, today known as Maputo Bay.

At Bourke’s Luck Potholes nearby, the Treur meets up with the Blyde River, which means “happy”. It is also named after Potgieter and his party, who, in the end, returned safely to their families.

Melody and Raynard Ferreira recall the Treur coming down in full force after the past summer rains, with the river pushing up close to The Chubby Pig. With all this water it is no wonder they farm peaches, apricots, apples, figs and pigs.

The eatery is a meat lover’s dream, and Melody makes jams, chutneys and hot sauces from their produce. In the gift shop she sells her own range of soaps, bath salts, sugar scrubs, CBD creams, leather bags, shoes and clothing under her brand, Melo.

“Mellow” is an apt description, with only fish eagles and otters as an audience while you munch on a pulled pork vetkoek. Sugarbush trees dot the slopes and further down the river there’s a cascade and rockpool.

The Ferreiras want their customers to feel at peace here. ‘I am thinking of putting up a sign,’ Melody says. ‘If you’re rushing back to the city, this might not be the place for you.’

Get more info:  078 406 6995, thechubbypigeaterygiftshopnursaryaccomodation.business.site

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Treur River Lodge

The Chubby Pig has five pet-friendly chalets at R950 per night for two people. Breakfast is included if you book directly with Melody. www.facebook.com/Treur-River-Lodge-106868914786463/

ALSO READ

5 lekker bush pubs up north

Road trip from Gqeberha to Joburg, one padstal at a time






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