So, Hubby and I went on holiday and boy! did we have a good time! Big Bertha, our Mercedes ML, made the 1800 kilometre drive to our destination in air conditioned comfort...and, to our great pleasure, acquitted herself extremely well on the hundreds of kilometres of rutted dirt roads we encountered once we arrived.
The Natal Midlands is a slice of lush temperate rainforest dropped smack in the middle of KwaZulu Natal, and it is one of South Africa's most beautiful hidden gems. Driving south from Johannesburg along the N3, you see only the barest hints of the treasures lurking behind the thickets that line the highway. Once off the highway, I was hard pressed to remember we were not rambling along the verdant country roads of my native Oregon.
We booked into the Fern Hill Hotel at Tweedie, intent on doing the Midlands Meander. Five days later…and an alarming number of rands lighter…we checked out and headed for Durban and my mother-in-law’s surprise 60th birthday party.
The Midlands Meander is a network of crafters and artisans, shops and accommodations, located in the Midlands off the original twisting, winding road between Johannesburg and Durban. More than half of the shops that dot the area are on unpaved roads, many of them deeply rutted, badly marked, sharply curved, and quite a few at alarmingly steep elevations….just the kinds of roads we bought Bertha to navigate. Weavers, cheese makers, potteries…the first photo was taken at Dargle Valley Pottery in the Midlands…sculptors, glass shops, antique shops, quaint B&Bs…and kilometre after kilometre of the most gorgeous scenery you could ask for.
En route to Shuttleworth Weaving, located well off the beaten track at the end of a long, deeply rutted road, we came across this widowbird. He flew across in front of us, long tail floating in the breeze behind him like a ribbon, and perched delicately on this stalk. A thick morning mist clung tenaciously to the hillside, giving a kind of soft glow to the landscape. It was quite beautiful.
Roses grow wild by the side of the road in the Midlands. This is but one of the thickets of wild pink roses that grew in heaps along side the roadways. Sunflowers also grow wild along the verges, their golden faces turning with the sun as it moves across the sky.
Greenfield is an immense farm…a ranch by American standards…where they raise beef cattle. But that’s not all…Greenfield also boasts a B&B, a butchery (which is open to the public), a restaurant (the absolutely best food we had in the Midlands!) and this glorious old stable which has been converted into a linen shop…and at fabulously discounted prices, too! This building was put up in 1893 and is even more magnificent than this picture can show. Last is a picture of the Mooi River Valley taken from the steps of Greenfield. A beautiful place, don’t you think?
After leaving the Midlands we cruised on down to Durban where we celebrated my mother-in-law's 60th birthday. Amazingly, despite the fact that there were more than 60 confirmed guests, we managed to keep the whole thing a secret! After a night in Durban, we were on the road again, this time headed for St. Lucia ( http://www.stlucia.org.za/ ) where we met up with angry elephant, man-eating crocodiles, and the most delicious pineapples this side of Hawaii…which are, of course, the topic of my next entry.