SA winter hideaways in the country

Lingering mists, crisp walks, bike rides, log fires, coffee, books and blankets – winter is definitely a good time to leave the city smog and hibernate in the country. Here are a couple of fabulous winter weekend getaways in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Penhill Farm –Toontjiesrivier

IMG_3240Winters in the Cape tend to offer lashing rain and heavy skies, interspersed with mild blue-sky days, where the countryside washed clean, glows verdant green. Tucked into the beautiful Nuy Valley outside Worcester, with its views of the Riviersonderend and Langeberg mountain ranges, with its whitewashed Cape homesteads and indigenous gardens, Penhill Manor completes this picture of pastoral bliss.

The farm is a great weekend retreat for families, couples or groups of friends. Originally built as a replenishment station, the Penhill manor house and adjacent four cottages are lovingly restored for guests. Early historical elements have been preserved, including “buite-kamer” doors, “stoep kamers”, gables and sash windows. The interiors have been modernized and include wi-fi, air-conditioning and sound systems. A great deal of thought has gone into the mix of old and new in furnishings with natural fabrics and woods defining the space as carriage lamps complementing downlighters, highlight simple objects d’art.  As tempting as it might be, don’t just spend your days lazing on the stoep here. You can choose to go trail running or hiking, ride mountain bikes, play tennis, or relax at the dam. Otherwise, enjoy an olive and wine tasting, then cozy up around a fire with a book or spend the afternoon playing boardgames and toasting marshmallows. And there’s the option of your own private Jacuzzi to ease your aching muscles after all the effort.

Koningsfontein – Stilbaai

k2Overlooking the GouKou river just outside Stilbaai, the cape thatch Koningsfontein homestead blends into a countryside of small farms, fynbos and sheep pastures.

Bring your friends and family because the house sleeps 12. Make use of the private river frontage to kayak, boat. Or simply go fishing. Head downstream, to visit the local fynbos gin distillery. Winters are best spent lazing in front of the fire on one of the deep leather sofas or cooking up a foodie fest in the well-fitted out kitchen.

Bloomsbury Cottage – Stanford

Situated in heart of the charming village of Stanford, Bloomsbury Cottage, with its vintage shabby chic decor offers a treasure trove of quirky collectibles.

IMG_9337Stroll down to the river or through the town, or simply relax on the vine covered veranda.  The house sleeps six and has a gorgeous kitchen, perfect for family meals. And if you don’t feel like cooking there are lovely restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the house.

 

Greens Camp – Dinokeng (Bobbejaansberg Valley)

Only 100km from Johannesburg, Greens Camp is a bushveld retreat that will make you feel as though you’ve been far far away for a very long time, and will rejuvenate you for weeks.

The rolling burnt umber and raw ochre veld, big winter skies, clean air and total stillness, except for the birdsong, will charm you. Enjoy the services of the property caretaker, Amon, who specializes in making bread and biscuits, and will fire up the pizza oven for an al fresco lunch on the patio, or light a fire for a braai as you watch the sun sink red between the Acacias. Otherwise, take a sundowner drive to one of the viewing spots to spot Giraffe, Wildebeest and Zebra from the hilltops. Greens offers colonial meets Africa luxury, with big sofas and lamps for relaxed reading and an open thatch boma with 360 views over the countryside. The perfect weekend chill space for friends to gather and retreat around wine, stories, games and books.

for more information contact Perfect Hideaways: www.perfecthideaways.co.za

Mapungubwe Dreaming – Botswana

The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun®  – A three day trail running safari adventure through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South African game reserves.

Day 2 – Crossing the Shashe.

Coffee, rusks, curried eggs and Maltabella porridge cooked over an open fire, fuel the second day of our trail running adventure through the wilderness of the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Park.

We start out through the cracked, swampy fever forests, stumbling over loose stones ducking  acacias,  thorns raking our arms and legs, as Golden Orb spiders lie in ambush for us.

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Over the first hill, the dry Shashe river bed and Botswana’s plains stretch out ahead.

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We scramble and jump down onto the sand, aiming for an island in the river bed.  Signing in through immigration, listing our mode of transport  as “Feet”,  we are rewarded by tea, biscuits and Niknaks, laid out by the ever present, knitting, SANParks honorary ranger stalwarts.

DSC01764Elephants slip in and out of sight, giraffe gape and we increase our pace, kicking up dust across the flat expanses, breathing the bush as the sun bakes the land. Time warps and becomes irrelevant, we are here.

Back across the mighty Shashe plain, our feet sink into soft deep sand, the flood plain glare is broken by  a fleet footed jackal, a donkey and a herd of elephant lazing in a far off pool.

Back into Zimbabwe and the Maramani community land,  we pass huts in immaculately swept empty dirt yards, fringed by staked fences to ward off elephants and other marauders. Ilala palms, acacias and shepherd trees offer scant shade to goats and donkeys. Afternoon heat crystallises salt onto our skins and saps our energy. Maroela scrub and Baobabs fringe the road back into the reserve.

Finally into the Maramani Community Base Camp, cold showers, lunch and improvised loungers sporting beers on the beach, call us to watch the late afternoon. Day 2 is done and dusted, we celebrate.

That night we go down to the river with torches,  gloating eyes float back at us from the bank, elephants cross and hyena prowl, the stars burst across the night sky.

#wildrun #‎ExploringWildPlaces‬

For more information visit: www.wildrun.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapungubwe Magic-Zimbabwe

The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun®  – A three day trail running safari adventure through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South African game reserves of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Day One – Running in Zimbabwe.

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As Kipling once said,”Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.”

I stood, barefoot, mud slurping through my toes, with my Wildrun kit bag heavy on my shoulder, as I contemplated the crocodiles and the knee-deep crossing from South Africa into Zimbabwe. On the other side, a table of crisply epauletted officials waited to welcome me.

It was the start of a great adventure – three days of trail running over 90km through the great wilderness areas of three countries. The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun® was a world-first, allowing a group of runners to traverse the Big 5 territories of the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa, Sentinel Ranch in Zimbabwe and the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana. Months of negotiations and diplomatic bureaucracy by event organisers Boundless Southern Africa and Wildrunner, had paid off and we had the privilege of skipping the formal border posts and literally wading or running from one country to the next.

Camped under the massive Mashatu trees chattering with vervet monkeys, in the Maramani Community Base Camp on the banks of the Limpopo River in Zimbabwe, I watched the sun stretch over the horizon, as the the community cattle clattered up the beach for the night. The campfire drew us in and runners and crew settled into the crackle and smoke of evening banter.

“Run as a herd, stick together, keep your eyes open, the rangers will be at the front and the back – listen to their instructions.”

Day One saw development runners from local villages, immigration officials, and kitted out eager trail runners, lined up at the start, forming an egalitarian group, united by the thrill of running in the wilderness of Zimbabwe’s Sentinel Ranch.

We gathered to the drums and ululations of the kitchen and camp staff, clapping and gyrating as we set off across the veld. Acacia thorns, red dust, cattle dung, elephant dung, grass seeds catching our socks, we soon found animal paths and bounded out, adrenalin rushing, aware of the openness and our vulnerability.

“Watch out for the Baobabs.” Scratched and scarred by elephants, these upside down trees defined the landscape. We hugged and played  and climbed around them measuring their girth with arms outstretched hands clasped to each other.

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Zebra, antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, impala  and troops of baboons startled and stared.  Leopard and lion spoor marked the previous night. We raced laughing up hills, clambering to rocky viewpoints, striking yoga poses and pulling faces for selfies.

An oasis of 4×4 khaki clad SANParks Honorary Rangers appeared on the next hill, tables laid to serve us tea, coffee and rusks, with a buffet of snacks and water,  all managed with military precision.

As we sipped tea, we learnt the legacy and ancient history of Sentinel Ranch. The sand and mudstones of Sentinel were laid down by geographical forces over 200 million years ago -a time of dinosaurs and fanged crocodiles predating the continental shifts. Fossils of the late Triassic prosaurapod, Massospondylus (210-190 million years old) lie curled up and resting  in the stones from the time of Gondwana.  Hunter gathers later marked their rituals on rocks, and cattle ranchers tried and failed to conquer the wilderness, eventually capitulating and allowing the reserve to become a conservancy.

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The heat settled into the afternoon, and we ran on, down into riverine forest, stalling at the sounds of cracking branches and elephant stomach rumbles, we stepped cautiously through thick undergrowth, thrilled and pumping.

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Finally through a swamp of cracked mud, Fever trees and deep elephant footprints, we scrambled up a sandstone hill and slid down over rocks back onto the edge of the great river, to complete the loop into camp.

Cold showers, lunch, massages, Zimbabwe beer and the sunset gin bar beckoned, as we whooped sweat encrusted dirty happy to the finish of Day One.

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#‎Wildrun‬ ‪#‎ExploringWildPlaces‬

www.wildrun.com