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Peeking through God’s window in Mpumalanga

by Jessica Pook | 02 May 2018

There are some places in the world that have the ability to make you feel insignificantly small. Looking out across the endless vistas of the Panorama Route in South Africa, I realised had found one of them.

I had an inkling that the first leg of our journey with South African Tourism wouldn’t disappoint. Mpumalanga itself translates as ‘the place where the sun rises’ in Zulu. And with phrases like 'God’s Window' and 'Paradise Country' being thrown around, it didn’t take long before snaps of family and friends were sacrificed to make room for more photo storage.

Bordered by Swaziland and Mozambique, Mpumalanga is sculpted by plunging canyons, cascading waterfalls and the seemingly endless Lowveld plains. Visitors that are prepared to tear themselves away from Kruger National Park will discover the stunning Panorama Route, which maps out some of nature's most dramatic terrains. From the Blyde River Canyon, to Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and the appropriately named God’s Window, each offers a new frame for the beautiful Drakensberg Escarpment.

God’s Window

The ear popping should have been a giveaway of how high we were, but as we climbed ever closer to the heavens I was still unprepared for what awaited me at God’s Window. The vista ahead seemed to stretch to the edge of the earth. Several viewing spots scattered among the cliffs made for panoramic platforms and looking down to the forest-clad ravine 900 metres below, I was struck by the patchwork of green that lay before me. It really was a scene worthy of the name.

Blyde River Canyon

Up-scaling such a view seemed near impossible, so with a slightly indifferent attitude we ventured on to the Blyde River Canyon. How naive we were! It's one of the world’s largest canyons, extending for 31.07 miles, and is home to the Three Rondavels, a trio of pillars that tower 1,600 metres from the ground.

“The peaks represent the chief and his three wives,” our friendly Springbok guide tells us. “The flat-top is chief Maripe who beat off attacks from the Swazis, and the three round turrets represent his troublesome wives – Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto.“I think we can guess why the wives may have been troublesome,” he laughs.

Mac Mac Falls

These could be heard before they came into view. Although there are more waterfalls around the Sabie area than anywhere else in South Africa, Mac Mac Falls is by far the most impressive. The noise from the relentless pounding of water on rock draws you closer to the source, until you see the magical 70-metre waterfalls in their entirety.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

We rounded off the route with a visit to Bourke’s Luck Potholes. A strange moon-like surface formed over centuries of water erosion from the conversion of the Blyde River and Treur River, has resulted in big cylinder potholes, all connected by a network of tunnels and whirlpools. The craggy red sandstone cliffs make a great contrast against the deep blue swirling water below and offer a toe-dipping opportunity too tempting to resist.

South Africa taster

I left feeling content that I’d got a good taster of what South Africa has to offer. Everything so far had exceeded my expectations and proven how natural and authentic this part of the world was, which is why I was a little surprised when we parked up outside Harrie’s Pancakes.

When I think of South African cuisine, a pancake house is not something that springs to mind. Nevertheless, it seemed a stop at this renowned restaurant was a staple part of exploring the Panoramic Route, which was confirmed by the amount of tourists eagerly awaiting tables.

The menu presented both sweet and savoury options, some of which included the popular South African staple of biltong and bobotie (a cheesy meaty ragu). I was drawn to the biltong and was curious when my pancake arrived packed with dried, cured leathery-looking meat – it was surprisingly flavoursome and a relatively tame introduction to South African cuisine as I would later discover…

Read about Limpopo next Thursday

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