Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster
So here is my ‘top ten’, my ‘bucket list’, my ‘what to fill up your weekends with’! My recommendations for anyone thinking of visiting this fabulous part of Mpumalanga, so in no particular order:
1): Millys of Macardo!
Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster
If you have driven on the N4 from Gauteng to Nelspruit and you haven’t stopped at Millys you are doing something wrong!
A farm stall, a restaurant, a boutique shopping experience and great overnight stop all rolled into one, Millys is the one-stop N4 shop. It is also a tourist mecca, with people flocking from miles around to try out one of their legendary trout pies, again a Highlands Meander must.
It hasn’t always been this way. In 1974 Millys was a much more humble abode, a simple wooden trout stall next to the N4. Belief and the knowledge that their fresh trout would lure motorists in, the name Millys started to spread. Four decades later they are still associated with fabulous food, great service and of course the trout.
When it comes to eating at Millys, while everything sounds mouth-wateringly good there is one special dish that you simply must try. Their flagship trout pie! How they get the pastry so rich and buttery or ensure the trout is perfectly cooked and seasoned every time is anyone’s guess. I like to think it is a result of hard work, passion for good food and the result of an age old recipe, Millys secret passed down through the family.
Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster
All I know for sure is every bite is tastier than the last and Millys will always be my number one pit-stop on the long road between Gauteng and the Lowveld.
2): Flap-a-Fly in an Attempt to catch a Fish
Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster | Image credit: Michele Meacher
Standing waist-high in icy cold water, pitting my wits against a fish that has outsmarted a 101 other anglers patiently caressing their rods while flicking their flies against the water, wasn’t my idea of fun -until I tried it.
My view was that fly-fishing, along with pipe smoking, stamp collecting and sherry drinking was a hobby taken up by men of a certain age. How wrong I was, probably on so many accounts! As I wandered begrudgingly down to the dam, without a pair of waders in sight but clutching my personally selected flies (based on how pretty I thought they were and no science at all), I was shocked by the broad spectrum of fellow fishermen and women. All races, religions, sexes and ages were represented, a brotherhood of fellow fishermen on a mission to outsmart a trout. The only thing that set some apart was the way they flicked their rod.
Graceful, rhythmic, measured. I soon realised that in the hands of a master a fly-fishing rod is a thing of beauty. In my hands it became a weapon of mass destruction, threatening to hook everything and anything that was not a trout. Was I graceful, elegant, or any good? No! Did I catch anything? Of course not! Did I have an amazing day and meet loads of new and interesting people? Yes! Will I be doing it again? You bet, I’m hooked!
For more information about fly-fishing visit:
· The Village Angler, Dullstroom: www.thevillageangler.co.za | 013 254 0045 or 072 100 9228
· Mavuugana Flyfishing Shop, Dullstroom: www.flyfishing.co.za | 013 254 0270
3): A Selfie with Old Joe
Image credit: Wouter de Witt
He has been a Springbok, a Galito’s chicken, a puma, a rhino with a missing horn, even the Virgin Mary. Yet, to everyone who has ever travelled the N4 between Gauteng and Nelspruit he will always be ‘Old Joe’.
The Guardian of the road since the rock was erected in 1927 by the Schoemanskloof road crew in honour of their foreman Johannes (Joe) Barbas. ‘Old Joe’ is as much a landmark of the road as Paul Kruger’s head is a landmark of the National Park that bears his name.
While early paint jobs were a bit hit and miss, in the last decade Old Joe has been given a bit of a make-over thanks to local artist Wouter de Witt, aka ‘Ghost’. Wouter’s ability to envisage Joe as all number of things, and not just an ample man standing upright, has led to ‘Old Joe’ gaining celebratory status and people flocking from miles around to see his latest reincarnation.
This is a Highlands Meander must and a great way to mark either starting the route, or leaving it behind you. Just make sure you post it on Instagram and tag us @mpumalangatourism or us the #mpumalanga, as we love to see who’s been hang out with ‘Old Joe’.
Follow the coordinates: S 25° 23.096' E 30° 32.395', to find ‘Old Joe’
4): Observe the Floral Riot!
Image credit: Elsa Pooley | Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster
While the Highlands are beautiful all year round, the incredible transformation they undertake from November to January is just spectacular. As thousands of wildflowers from hundreds of different species, burst through the grassy blanket that covers this region of Mpumalanga and turn it into a riot of colours. It truly is a magnificent spectacle to behold and one that will bring you back year after year, especially if you take a tour with a flower enthusiast – check out the ‘A Riot of Colour’ blog.
5): A Whisky and Chocolate Pairing
Image credit: Steve Adams
Chocolate is one of those fantastic creations that simply seems to work with anything, whether it is paired with pork in a rub, strawberries in a fondue or wine at Spier! So the idea of pairing chocolate and whisky didn’t seem so farfetched. If anything it might soothe the after burn?
After becoming somewhat of a Whisky connoisseur (more an enthusiastic consumer if truth be told!), in the name of good journalism, I was quite happy to go back and try out their extensive pairing menu. A menu with eleven tantalizing options to choose from, but the toughest choice is which two to choose! I personally decided in the spirit of responsible journalism I would need to try more than two. So six chocolate and whisky combinations later, I retired to my bed happy and resolved to try the final five before I left.
This is one of those gourmet experiences that leaves you feeling totally satisfied and happy to be alive. Words like opulent, decadent and scrumptious are the right words to use here. So if you fancy a bit of a treat, even if you are not ‘Wild About Whisky’ to begin with, you will find it hard to not be after you try these taste bud treats!
For more information about Wild About Whisky contact: +27 (0)13 254 0066 | +27 (0)82 600 5388 (Dave) | +27 (0)83 765 7877 (Steve) or visit their website www.wildaboutwhisky.com Wild About Whisky is located on Dullstroom’s main road, their address is Auldstone House, 506 Naledi Drive, Dullstroom GPS Coordinates: 25°25'14.5"S 30°06'07.3"E
6): Raptors Up Close & Personal
Image credit: Dullstroom Birds of Prey Centre | Image credit: Michele Meecher
Dullstroom’s Bird of Prey Centre is responsible for bring the 7th ‘F’ to the town, FEATHERS! Renowned for its, Fresh air, Foods, Flora & Fauna, Fishing and Fireplaces, birds of prey are suddenly taking centre stage.
More than simply a showground for these amazing birds, the Centre is their sanctuary and a place for educating the public too. A charitable organisation, which rescues, rehabilitates and returns raptors to the wild. Every year hundreds of raptors are injured or orphaned. A few of these, the lucky ones, will find themselves here!
Flying them is an important aspect in their rehabilitation process and also provides a great spectacle that the whole family will enjoy. Just ask my two year old, whose shrieks of joy filled the air as the raptors flew past us. For me the thrill was seeing these birds up close and really getting a grasp of how truly enormous they are. You never really get a proper sense of their size when they are soaring in the sky but perched 2 meters away they can be quite intimidating.
Image credit: Michele Meecher
With large aviaries, release strategies and onsite veterinary facilities to ensure as many birds as possible are returned back into the wild. This really is an incredible Centre doing phenomenal work. The people who make it all happen? You and I do, by paying our entrance fees. So do it for the birds and make the Bird of Prey Centre a fixture on your next Highlands Meander trip.
7): Open Your Mind and Test Your Body, in Emgwenya (Waterval Boven)
Image credit: Michael Tellinger | Image credit: Gustav Janse van Rensburg
Very few places can challenge you both mentally and physically, but Emgwenya (Waterval Boven) will, because the area is home to some of the best rock climbs in the world and a stone circle that is the oldest manmade monument on the planet and could be proof of an ancient highly intelligent civilization.
A one night stopover in this quaint town with a heap of history will allow you to experience both. Start with booking a guided tour to Adam’s Calendar at the Emgwenya (Waterval Boven) Stone Circle Museum and Bistro. Where Michael Tellinger and his amazing guides will capture your imagination and open your mind with tales of ancient civilizations, military grade sound frequencies and the potential to gather free energy.
Then spend an exhilarating morning exploring some of the 700 plus climbs that can be found on the escarpment just outside of town, with the fabulous Roc n Rope adventure guides. Here you can test your physical strength and mental focus, scaling a range of different climbs that cater for everyone from the novice climber to the rock gurus.
It is a great way to spend a weekend that will leave you feeling empowered, invigorated and if you are like me, wanting to know more!
Tours to the Stone Circles, the Museum and Adam’s Calendar can be booked at the Stone Circle Museum in Emgwenya (Waterval Boven): Address: 17 Zasm Road, Waterval Boven | 013 257 0479 |www.michealtellinger.com| firstname.lastname@example.org
8): A Divine Night in 5 Star Accommodation
Image credit: Michele Meecher
When it comes to being spoilt, the Highlands Meander has it covered, offering a range of charming, luxurious and unpretentious accommodation to suit every budget and taste. For me, however, one place combines the look and feel of the Highlands and luxury like no other.
The beautiful, alluring and somewhat opulent, Walkerson’s Hotel and Spa, is a tribute to all things Scottish. Built over 20 years ago from natural stone, this charming Scottish manor has everything you would expect for a truly Scottish experience. There are the countless nooks and crannies that make the building interesting to explore, the views over misty grasslands and the essential dams that are simply teeming with trout. Then there are the terraces, lawns, hidden pools, 5 star dining and of course Peggy’s Bar.
So if you are looking for somewhere to spoil yourself, where you can enjoy every luxury while soaking in the area’s Scottish charm. This is the place to be.
9): The Juiciest Bag of Oranges You’ll Ever Eat
Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster
The citrus valley of Schoemanskloof will set you senses alight! Whether it is the vibrant oranges of the fruit laden trees that brighten up the surroundings when all the other natural vegetation has died back, or the strong sweet scent of the orange blossoms in September, it is impossible to drive through the valley without appreciating the oranges.
However, the sense that really comes alive when confronted with a freshly picked fruit is your taste. As nothing is as sweet, juicy and delicious as an orange that has come straight from the tree into your car! Not that we are suggesting for a second that you jump the fence and pick one yourself, there are much simpler ways to get your hands on these incredible fruits. The best by far would be to stop at Joubert en Seuns farm stall on the Schoemanskloof road, where during the harvesting season, between May and September, you will be able to get your hands on some of the best oranges in the province. The only issue is making sure you don’t eat them all before you get home!
10): Over Indulging on the Five F’s
Image credit: Steve Adams | Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster
If fine foods sets your taste buds alight, you yearn for fresh air and fabulous flora and fauna, fishing is your passion, or you dream about long nights curled up in front of a fireplace, then Dullstroom should be your final destination.
Whether you want one, or want it all – a day, a weekend or even a fortnight vacation in Dullstroom is never enough. There is simply so much to do and the more you achieve the longer your list of ‘must try’, ‘must see’ or ‘must buy’ grows!
There is always another quaint B&B or Self-catering unit offering rustic charm, luxury living or modern style. All with the mandatory spectacular views, great food and wonderful linen! Every meal out is a struggle, first choosing where to eat and then what! With so many gourmet options to suit every budget, Dullstroom is a town where no-one goes hungry. Then there is the fishing. The industry the town was based around and which draws in tens of thousands of people every year. Brown or rainbow, river or dam, catch and release or keep – whatever your fishing adventure requires Dullstroom has the perfect spot for you. So pick your spot, choose your fly and test your wits against this mentally taxing fish!
After you have seen the sights, caught the fish, browsed the shops, eaten till you can’t eat any more, retire to your room and enjoy an evening in front of a crackling fire musing over how truly fabulous life in this Highland town can be.
So there’s my ten, I would love to know yours!
Tweet us @mtpatourism with your top Highlands Meander attractions and tell us about any we might have missed out. If you do try any of our top ten please make sure you put some photos on Instagram and tag us: @mpumalangatourism or us the #mpumalanga. We love to see what you have been up to.
The only question now is. What to do first?