Left our nice little house this morning and went down the road, into Graskop town, and availed ourselves of one of Graskop's well-known pancake breakfasts. Very nice, thankyou! Across the road from where we were having breakfast on an outdoor verandah, were several touristy shops including an ‘African Silk’ shop. We went in there after eating because I was interested in seeing it having been around several silk weaving places in Thailand and Vietnam and we were given the full tour of what turned out to be a very large place behind the store front. We were shown the silkworms which mostly feed on marula (which also makes a very nice cream liqueur) and mopani and there were ladies in the back of the shop who were spinning and weaving. I loved their silk duvets – it’s something that I’ve been thinking about switching to (nstead of down) – but I didn’t want to pack one back from here.
We carried on up through the Blyde River Canyon where there are some spectacular cliff faces – all bronzed and covered with green lichen – and we pulled into a number of the stops of interest. There’s a fee for each entry that ranged from 5 to 50 Rand (for the car) which is very reasonable and it means you have secure parking for your vehicle and decent washrooms. At the stop called ‘God’s Window’, which is a high vista through a cut in the cliff face, I bought my single 'souvenir of Africa' (see photo above). Lord knows how it’s going to work getting it home, because it’s a wood carving (not huge, but heavy) – but I’ll work it out somehow!
After God’s Window we stopped into the Berlin Falls, then on to Bourke’s Luck Potholes. (Bourke did pretty well out of goldmining here decades ago.) The Potholes were really neat with a deep canyon at one point over which you can walk on narrow footbridges, then other parts you can just hop around on the rocks. There are small waterfalls here and there. Our final stop on the Blyde River Canyon route (there could have been others) was at the Three Rondavels – three monolithic outcroppings that look as though they simply rose up out of the ground, complete with their grassy tops. They are named (from left to right) Magabolle, Mogoladikwe & Maseroto, the names of three of Chief Maripi's wives. A larger hump to the right (and, naturally, overlooking his three wives!) is named Mapjanenge after the Chief himself (although I couldn't find anything to tell me why he is called Maripi, but the hill is Mapjanenge). We had a tail-gate lunch (cheese and crackers out of our cooler) at the Three Rondavels then traveled on down (from about 1300m up) to the Low Veld via Ohregstad.
We decided to backtrack a little bit to an old town called Pilgrim’s Rest (which was close to where we had started our loop up and around the canyon) because we were told it was historically interesting, which meant we then had to go back up to about 1700m again. That’s where the rain found us. Heavy, heavy rain and rivers of water sheeting down the steep, downhill, sharply curving road. As it turned out, we didn’t stop at Pilgrim’s Rest but simply drove through. There was a collection of tourist shops in old houses and You-know-who doesn’t care to do any such browsing.
Our route to Lydenburg (which means something like 'place of sadness' due to the great number of people who died from malaria in the area's concentration camp during the Boer Wars, was confusing because (as navigator) I kept losing signs for Lydenburg and seeing, instead, signs to Mashishing. It turned out that Lydenburg and Mashishing are basically one and the same (as with Polikwane and Pietersburg) and we decided to stop at Lydenburg/Mashishing that night. We were directed to the iCentre which was supposed to be at the Museum, but when we got there we found the Museum didn't look as though it had been open in a long time. The main gate was wide open but there was no-one around and the road was a bit overgrown with grass. Anyway, we backtracked towards town and found a nice self-catering chalet (Uitspan Caravan & Camping Park on Viljoan Street which is the main R36 to Dullstroom) with thatched roof for only 360 Rand that was, again, on a main road but the noise died down fairly early in the evening. Very nice people running this place, too, who seem to really care about it: a lady called Esther, her husband, a fully-conversational parrot & assorted dogs and cats. We stopped to buy our dinner supplies on the way in and bought two large T-bone steaks for only 29.40 Rand (that’s roughly $4 Canadian!!). Bruce was working it out later on: we’d bought meat, fruit, milk and 5 bottles of wine (trust me – FOUR of the bottles were to take with us back to our hosts at Bela Bela!) and the total bill came to just under $40 Cdn. Would that we could eat and drink so well for so little back home!