Uncovering Lows Creek & the Wild Frontier
Part of the Wild Frontier Route takes you along the N4 from Kaapmuiden to Komatipoort, travelling along the route a number of things stand out. The breath-taking scenery, the iconic wildlife and the vast array of things to do, but perhaps most notable of all is the fascinating characters you meet along the way.
Stuart Jensen and his wife Ann are two such characters. Owners of the beautifully unique Boondocks Mountain Lodge and creators of the mystical labyrinth, Stuart and Ann are as interesting and as charismatic as the place they call home. They might not be born and bred Lowvelders’, but from the moment they stepped onto the Boondocks property they knew the Lowveld was where they were meant to be.
In Stuart and Ann’s company time seems to stand still and fly by all at once. Their openness and warmth makes you instantly at ease, whilst their passion for the Lowveld and all it has to offer is contagious. Half a day with them left me with a whole new list of places to see, people to meet and attractions to visit. Reinforcing my decision to feature them in this blog, as their knowledge and love for the Lowveld is hard to match making them the perfect people to help uncover the Wild Frontier.
What makes the Wild Frontier special?
Mpumalanga’s Lowveld has wonderfully mild winters that provide the perfect escape. The climate here is a real bonus as we never get frosts and even in winter there are very few days when we need a fire. There are also plenty of hidden gems for people to uncover, like Nukain Mabusa’s painted stone garden that is just a short distance from Boondocks.
Nukain’s story is a fascinating one and he has left the Lowveld an incredible legacy. He is named as one of South Africa’s two recognised Outsider Artists along with Helen Maartens from the Karoo. That is a great achievementwhen you consider he was a farm labourer, with no formal training, who spent the majority of his money on paints and brushes so he could create his colourful stone garden. He painted it in the 70s and his garden soon became a tourist destination and still is, long after his death. What’s more his rocks have been the inspiration for the Barberton entrance gates, so his art is clearly still having an impact now.
If we had one day, where would you take me and why?
There are so many wonderful places to visit along the Wild Frontier Route. One place we keep saying we should visit is Adam’s Calendar.
Adam’s calendar is a 75,000 year old stone calendar which was recently re-discovered in an area called the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ between Machadodorp and Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga. It is believed that there are over a million stone ruins throughout the mountains of Southern Africa and Adam’s Calendar is considered to be the flagship amongst them.
It is aligned with the North, South, East and West cardinal points, the solstices and equinoxes, and is still accurate as a calendar by following the shadow of the setting sun. It is really special because it is quite possibly the only example of a functional, mostly in-tact, monolithic stone calendar in the world, making it truly unique.Numerous scientific evaluations have been used to date it and these have shown Adams Calendar to be at least 75,000 years old. This makes it quite possibly the oldest structure linked to human origins on earth!
Where is the best place to grab a bite to eat?
Our favourite restaurant is Hamiltons, which is just before the Malelane Gate to Kruger National Park. The food there is always great, the menu changes often and the prices are very reasonable. The setting is truly spectacular, with their deck looking over the beautifully landscaped gardens. While all their food is great, I love the roast pork belly. It is simply exquisite. The prawn starter is also a favourite. [Contact Hamiltons Restaurant on: +27 (0) 13 790 3421 | email@example.com]
What are the top 5 things to do or visit in the Wild Frontier?
It is really hard to limit it to five!
Nukain Mabusa’s Stone Garden and Adam’s Calendar are definitely two for the list.
The Geotrail would also have to be one, as it is a world class heritage site. There is only one other place in the world where rocks like these can be found and that is totally inaccessible, making the Geotrail not only unique but of huge scientific and geological importance. The trail has been really well put together. The cleverly produced information boards, stunning guide book and picnic sites along the route that have the some of the best views in the province make it the ideal day out.
Kruger National Park is an obvious choice, with both Crocodile Bridge and Malelane Gates situated along the Wild Frontier Route. The southern section of the Park is really beautiful and a must see tourist attraction.
Finally, I would have to add Boondocks to the list. The Labyrinth here provides a different kind of attraction to the others I have mentioned. It is more of a spiritual experience, as it is designed to assist you with contemplating whatever is going on in your life. Then there are the bush walks, mountain hikes and bird life for the nature enthusiasts and the splash pools and natural dams for those who simply want to sit back and watch the world go by.
What makes Mpumalanga stand out from all the other Provinces?
Mpumalanga has a sharp change in altitude between the cool grassy slopes and rocky escarpment of the Highveld and the warm wet Lowveld. This has resulted in the incredible abundance and diversity of plans and animal species that Mpumalanga is famed for. Barberton is a perfect example of Mpumalanga’s rich diversity; there are a huge number of plants and animals that are unique to this area. So for me it is the wildlife, plant species and climate is what makes Mpumalanga really stand out.
Contact details for Stuart and Ann’s Top Five:
Nukain Mabusa’s Stone Garden: Open 365 days a year, Nukain’s stone garden is situated on the R38 about 5km past the sign for Boondocks on the left. The garden is not signed so you will need to drive slowly and keep your eyes peeled. Winter is the best time to visit the garden as the thick grass that envelopes the stones during the summer months has died back. For more information contact Astrid at the Barberton Tourism Office (firstname.lastname@example.org | 082 959 6670)
Adam’s Calendar: Daily tours can be arranged via Michael Tellinger’s website (www.michealtellinger.com |+27 (0) 79 041 9012 | email@example.com). The cost is R230 per person and the tour takes approximately 3 hours to complete. Visitors meet at the Groove Café in Kaapsehoop and need to have their own car with high ground clearance.
The Geotrail: Open 365 days a year, it starts in Barberton at the intersection of the R40 and R38 and goes all the way to the Swaziland border. Admission is free for those self-driving. Guide books can be obtained from the Barberton Tourism Office. Alternatively contact David (firstname.lastname@example.org | +27 (0) 82 923 5366) or Tony Ferrar (email@example.com | +27 (0) 72 376 2581) for a guided tour.
Kruger National Park: Open 365 days a year (advisable for day visitors to pre book on busy days of the year as the Park does reach capacity). Admission fees: SA Citizens and Residents: R66 per adult and R33 for children, SADC Nationals R132 per adult and R66 for children, Foreign Visitors: R264 per adult and R132 for children. For booking enquiries visit the SANParks website (www.sanparks.org).
Boondocks Mountain Lodge and Labyrinth: Open 365 days a year, but call first to ensure the venue has not been pre-booked. Boondocks is situated about 4.5km down the R38, after you turn off the N4 just after Kaapmuiden. Admission for day visitors is R100 per person. This includes the labyrinth, walking trails and access to the pools and dams. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic and make a day of it. Contact Stuart (firstname.lastname@example.org | +27 (0) 73 083 8457) or Ann (+27 (0) 87 807 9880) or visit the Boondocks website (www.boondocks.co.za) for more information.