Any excuse for a festival in Haenertsburg

Posted on 13 May 2020

Haenertsburg gets festive four times a year – and you might well meet a curry queen, gardening guru or even the finance minister at one of them.

Words by Bridget Hilton-Barber

From books to bread pans to miners’ tools, get to the Pennefather Complex. Image: Lauren Dold

Like many little dorps in South Africa, Haenertsburg is delightfully eccentric. The local people are fond of going up to the cemetery for a drink. They visit it all the time – happy hikers, grieving relatives, drunken lovers, curious historians, late-night teenage revellers, day trippers, weekenders, the heartbroken.

The cemetery is set among ancient trees on a hill with far-reaching views – views to die for, in fact – and a palpable poignancy. There are groves of ancient hard- woods and exotic pin oaks, tangles of jasmine and plump hydrangeas.

Everything in Haenertsburg is mountain fresh, the produce, the beer and even the fuel! Image: Lauren Dold

Gaze philosophically out to the Iron Crown, the district’s highest peak, and the Ebenezer Dam beyond the grasslands. Or browse the graves. There lies he who started the first sawmill, she who made the most beautiful garden and once walked all the way to Louis Trichardt when it was still bushveld. Pioneers, adventurers, traders. That one was the last Duke of Atholl, that one over there was once married to that one back there, and, ja, that caused some kak. Aah that one, head on with a kudu; that one, drank herself to an early grave.

the beer and even the fuel!; Wegraakbosch organic cheese farm’s Aubrey Matswalela and his freshly milked cows. Image: Lauren Dold

There is of course, lots of life outside the cemetery. Over the past few years Haenertsburg has changed from an isolated rural hamlet to the friendly hub of the Magoebaskloof mountains. There’s a variety of things to experience, from slow food to zip lining, from romancing to fly fishing. And it’s not just Outdoor Central. Another great thing about the area is the amount of healing on offer – massage, aroma- therapy, reiki, tarot reading and crystal healing. In fact, the village dedicates one of its four festivals to holistic living – along with berries, food & wine and spring.

Along with Swiss brown cows, Saanen goats provide the milk for Wegraakbosch’s cheeses. Image: Lauren Dold

The village itself still has only a few hundred houses and is often completely quiet, but on a good day, a weekend and a holiday, the high street – there’s only one – buzzes with locals and visitors, cars, bakkies, bikes and dogs, horses and conviviality. You’ll likely encounter a host of interesting characters including gardening guru and ex-restaurateur Marloe Scott-Wilson, organic farmer and barefoot trail runner Nipper Thompson, curry queen Hloki Sebola and perhaps even Tito Mboweni, the Minister of Finance who has a small farm near here.

The Iron Crown has been feeding burgers to Haenertsburgers since 1985. Image: Lauren Dold

One of my favourite hang-outs in the village is the Pennefather Complex, which has charming accommodation, an Anglo-Boer War museum, village treasures like jewellery, gifts and clothes, but best of all, a second-hand bookshop. This emporium of deliciousness is the brainchild of born-and-bred Haenertsburger Linda Thom Changuion.

‘Caution pig crossing’, says the sign outside. It warns motorists of her pet pig Mathilde, the bookshop’s former mascot, now retired up the road. ‘Mathilde is a very well-read pig’, says Linda, ‘she likes historical romance.’ She’s also a symbol of the kind of chilled weekend you can enjoy at the Pennefather, pigging out on books, food and beautiful mountain scenery.

The cemetery with the best views in Limpopo. Image: Mia Louw

The mountain, as Magoebaskloof is dubbed, has also become the wedding capital of Limpopo, offering an astonishment of romantic ways to say ‘I do’. (Linda Miller is the go-to person for all essential wedding planning information, 082-575-5738).

The development of two popular annual sports events has put Haenertsburg firmly on the action map. The Ebenezer Mile swim is a family day out and takes place this month. The good news is you don’t have to swim a whole mile (1,6 kilometres) – there are 500- and 300-metre options too. Then there’s the Magoeba Trek, a three-stage mountain biking event in August through this off-road bikers’ mecca.

Zwakala offers patrons more than just craft beer – barman Reuben Pople serves up sweet treats too. Image: Lauren Dold

But probably the biggest game changer for tourism here has been the establishment of Zwakala, the province’s first organic craft brewery. It’s a great place for families and groups to stay and play on a beautiful farm outside the village. Enjoy a beer and burger or local G&T in a gorgeous mountain setting, and the property also has great walking and mountain-biking trails.

The name Zwakala means ‘come closer’ in Sepedi and such is the spirit here. It’s an inclusive and upbeat place, a positive symbol of the contemporary Magoebaskloof region.

Haenertsburg is ‘a wonderful mixture of mad hatters’. Image: Lauren Dold

‘The brewery has become a melting pot’, says Katherine Tooley, marketing brains behind the brews. She and her husband, Luca live in the village, and as they say, ‘It takes a village to raise a brewery.’ According to her, Haenertsburg is a neighbourly place, with ‘a gentle spirit, no fences, small quaint homes and a wonderful mixture of mad hatters’.

We do festivals

For a small dorp, Haenertsburg hosts more than its fair share of festivals, trotting out four every year. In February, there’s the Berry Festival when the raspberries and blueberries are in season. The local farms open their orchards for picking, tasting, touring, while the village green becomes a carnival of food, music, arts and crafts (berryfestival.co.za). In May, the Food & Wine Festival showcases local fare, craft beer, gin and wine (foodandwinefestival.co.za). June’s Holistic Fair focuses on healing, meditation, massage and more (084-087-8759 or 082-479-7285). And in September the Spring Fair celebrates the flowers, food and natural abundance of the area (springfestival.co.za).

Plan your trip

Getting There
Haenertsburg is about 60km from Polokwane on the R71, and roughly 36km from Tzaneen on either the R71 or the R528

Stay Here

* Art Gallery Guest House is one of the sexiest little spots in the village – a French-style double-storey cottage with romantic trappings, including a fireplace and gorgeous kitchen.
From R450 pp. 082-058-7011, artgalleryguesthouse.co.za

* Viewpoint Guesthouse offers stylish, spacious rooms and fabulous views over the village and mountains beyond in an artistic set-up. From R495 pp sharing.
082-513-0286

Meadow Cottage at Sequoia Garden Retreat. This self-catering spot for two is a charmer. Constructed from stone and wood, the cottage overlooks a dam in the forest. From R875 pp. 072-595-3511, sequoiastay.com

The Loft at Glenogle. This romantic soul spot is tucked into the pine forests overlooking a trout dam. Think decadent four-poster bed, high ceilings, French shutters and a fireplace. Also on the farm is The Stables, a self-catering cottage in Provençal style under the oaks. Meet the farm horses in the stable courtyard next door. From R775 pp. 083-259-8321, glenogle.co.za

Zwakala River Retreat has cottages alongside the river as well as a great campsite. It’s also home to Mina’s Art Café and Farm Venue in an old farmhouse. Mina’s is popular for weddings and parties and hosts a quarterly food market. Camping from R150 pp (for four) plus cottages from R450 pp sharing. 083-980-8433, zwakalaretreat.co.za

Enjoy walks through the curated gardens at Sequoia, a particularly stunning activity in autumn. Image: Bridget Hilton-Barber

Do this

Drive the Magoebaskloof Meander, out along the Cheerio Road, where you’ll find most of the out-of-town attractions as well as several public gardens.

Cheerio Gardens is famed for its spring spectacle of azaleas and cherry blossoms (079-193-3848).

– Next door, Sequoia Garden Retreat’s autumn show is incredible, as the ancient sequoia trees turn golden (072-595-3511).

– Further along the R71 towards Tzaneen is Kuhestan Organic Farm, for amazing gardens and great mountain views. (082-903-7593).

– Whizz through the treetops over deep gorges and kloofs on the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour. R660 pp. 083-866-1546, magoebas kloofadventures.co.za

– Ride one of several mountain-bike routes, from the easy Cheerio/Sequoia route, to 10 kilometres of black-rated, technical single track into the Letaba Gorge. magoebasklooftourism.co.za

– The Magoebaskloof area is known for its amazing hikes and walks. The 10-kilometre Louis Changuion Trail takes you round the village and up to the cemetery. Or hike in the indigenous Woodbush Forest which is home to the tallest bluegum trees in the country. Call the Mountain Company on 082-441-8088.

– Book a birding outing in the Woodbush Forest with local bird guide David Letsoalo. 082-200-4596

– Enter the Ebenezer Mile, rotaryhaenertsburg.co.za

– The Magoeba Trek mountain-bike event starts on 21 August (event may be cancelled or postponed due to Covid19). magoebatrek.co.za

Whether it’s a book, a bite or a bed you’re after, the quirky Pennefather Complex will meet your needs. Image: Lauren Dold

Eat Here

The Eatery on Rissik is a coffee shop, a bakery (be sure to try the sourdough breads), gin bar, deli and generally a good place to hang out. 083-640-4070

The Iron Crown. Grab a beer and a ‘Haenertsburger’ (don’t skimp on the avocado) at this high-street pub institution.

The Mountain Cafe at Blueberry Heights organic farm is a favourite lunching spot for locals. Their seasonal menu gives you a taste of the best local produce. 063-816-8206

Magoebaskloof Farm Stall adds a vibey roadside attraction (on the R71) and has the best pizzas and coffee in the area. 072-724-5529

Wegraakbosch Organic Cheese. Famed for its Swiss-inspired organic cheese, you can tour the factory – from cow to curd – and finish off with a lunch platter and wine. 015-276-1811

Zwakala Brewery for an excellent beer and burger combo, with a vegetarian option. Zwakala’s Limpopo Lager recently won a gold in the South African National Beer Trophy awards, and they do a Naked Ale, Mountain Weiss, Weekend Special and a Moringa Ale. 073-791-6797

Pause Restaurant is a new fine-dining spot with an imaginative table d’hôte menu overlooking the Kudu River valley – with the added attraction of giraffe wandering about. 083-277-5553

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