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Don’t Fly Past the Bypass!

 
09 January 2017 by Katy Louise Johnson

One of the biggest mistakes to make with the Highlands Meander is to believe it is nothing more that the route from Gauteng to Kruger and the Lowveld. A seemingly never-ending road, that just goes on and on and on, as you make the ‘great-trek’ from the traffic and smog of the cities, to the warmth and freedom of the Lowveld.

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

People who do this are guaranteed to be missing out, as the Highlands of Mpumalanga are home to a wealth of treasures just waiting to be explored. Whether it’s scaling the best rock-climbing cliffs in South Africa, having a fly-fishing experience to beat all other, finding oases of tranquillity, or sipping on some of the Southern Hemispheres biggest whisky collection. That’s before you get to the incredible wildlife and spectacular scenery! There really is something new and fantastic to be explored around every corner.

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

Of all the Highland Meander towns, the agricultural region of Schoemanskloof probably gets the roughest deal. The official alternative to the often traffic logged Emgwenya (Waterval Boven) route, the N4 Schoemanskloof highway is better known to locals and tourists alike as ‘the bypass’. But look a little harder and you will see there is far more to this beautiful agricultural region that simply being a quicker route to the Lowveld.

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

“The bypass” isn’t about skipping the urban sprawl or avoiding of clogged junctions, it is a route through magnificent forests, cascading waterfalls, gorges and of course the subtropical scenery! Spend some time in this relatively unknown corner of Mpumalanga and you will discover the areas unique appeal and authentic beauty that will ensure you make this a regular stop over spot on route to either Gauteng or the Lowveld.

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

One great reason to stop for a while here is the wildlife, which is abundant. There is of course your host of Lowveld species you would expect to see and then there are the Schoemanskloof specialities. Things you need to be on foot to see, but will surely tick off a few of your ‘bucket list species’. Perhaps one of the most special is the two rare cycads found on the grassy mountain slopes and the prolific range of birdlife that will bring joy to any avid birdwatcher. Species like the crowned eagle, a farmer’s best friend, which is often seen roaming the skies in search of the vervet monkeys it enjoys so much. Or the brightly coloured Narina Trogon and Purple-Crested Loerie, two wonderful additions to any bird enthusiasts day.

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

The valley was named after the Schoemans who arrived six-generations ago and have been farming the land ever since, however it is another family that really made it big here. The Joubert en Seuns citrus farm has made its mark on the whole valley, filling the air with the beautiful smell of orange blossom in September and bringing a splash of orange to the valley during the winter months. Their Farm Stall along the road is one of the ‘must stop’ destinations along the highway, especially during orange season (May-Sept) when you can pick up a packet of the most juicy oranges or naartjies, freshly picked and a fraction of the prices you will get in the shops.

Image credits: Mountain View Golf Course

One of the better known attractions in the Kloof is the Drakenzicht 9 hole/18 tee Mountain Links Golf Course. This privately-owned golf course has some of the best views of any course in South Africa, set high up on the mountain top, right on the edge of the Drakensburg Escarpment. This really is where Highveld grasslands meet the Lowveld savanna and produce some of the most captivating greens to hit a golf ball around – for once it really will be about the walk! For non-golfers never fear, you can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of the club house, while enjoying a great breakfast!

Image credits: Old Joes Kaia

Then there is the Labyrinth at Old Joe’s Kaia, the ultimate place to unwind. Set amongst some of South Africa’s most fabulous indigenous trees, the circuits of the labyrinth were designed to take you on a journey of discovery to the centre. Aimed at giving walkers the time to reflect, this is a lovely way to unwind and take a break from reality for a little soul searching. The Kaia itself is a lovely place to spend a night in a tranquil setting, where you can make the most of the beautiful surrounds. While you are here don’t forget to meet the stone also named after ‘Old Joe’ the stout Dutch foreman from the original road construction team. Since the stone’s erection in 1927 ‘Old Joe’ has been given many different coats, but it has been in the last eight years when the incredibly talented local arts ‘Ghost’ has been painting Old Joe that he really has become the landmark you simply must take a ‘selfie’ next to.

Image credits: Lowveld Canoe Club

For those wanting to push themselves a little harder, the Lowveld Croc Canoe Marathon is definitely more suited to those crazy individuals who love to challenge themselves physically! Considered an A+ grade race, the thrilling combination of technically difficult rapids and weirs mean you really need to know how to paddle, but the beautiful setting means spectators will have an enjoyable time too whilst following the action down the river. Schoemanskloof is the start point of this fabulous event that keeps canoeists coming back year after year!

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

Remember this not just a “bypass” around, it is truly a road to places of enjoyment, tranquillity and beauty that deserves to be travelled in its own right for the pleasure that can be found along its way.

SOME MORE INFORMATION:

Drakenzicht 9 hole/18 tee Mountain Links Golf Course: www.drakenzicht.co.za |

Labyrinth at Old Joe’s Kaia: http://oldjoes.co.za/ | info@oldjoes.co.za | 083 229 3751 | GPS: S25 23’ 5.482” E30 32’ 24.0”

Lowveld Canoe Marathon: http://www.lowveldcanoe.co.za/lowveld-croc.html| wikusl@mgb.org.za or admin@lowveldcanoe.co.za