We left the sleepy little town of Hazyview and drove a short distance to another small town called Graskop. You must pronounce it with a thick Dutch or German like accent. That’s how they say it. It is a touristy place within a short distance of many scenic sights.
We ended up staying at two different places while in Graskop. We went to a hostel that was highly recommended. We wanted to book four nights but they did not have a room available for the first night. They gave us a suggestion of a place to go to for one night and then we could come back for the following three.
Peacock’s Tavern, An Amazing B&B
We drove out to a more secluded part of Graskop to what turned out to to be the most fantastic Bed and Breakfast called Berlyn Peacock’s Tavern. We would have just stayed all four nights here, but it was a bit out of our budget. Nonetheless it was well worth the price.
It is set up in the mountains near Berlin Falls. The grounds are like a quaint English garden. You can sit and relax while listening to the fountains and watch the resident peacocks and their babies walk through the property. The buildings are beautifully decorated in a venetian style. Each room is thoughtfully decorated as well.
Anyone who goes here will love the owner. He is quite the character, and will keep you entertained throughout your stay. There is also another very lovable maintenance man named Charlie. The food was excellent. The owner even went out of his way to prepare us a fabulous vegetarian dinner. We were known as the crazy veggies from that point on. I would love to come back to this place someday and stay for a while. We can’t say enough about this place. It’s peaceful and beautiful and you get pampered by the staff.
The next 3 nights were spent at Valleyview Backpackers in Graskop. Another great place with a very friendly owner and staff. Chuck the caretaker is an up and coming musician who has a great voice. He sings traditional music from his country of Malawi. I totally fell in love with his little daughter Sasha. She is 18 months and is adorable. She was very shy. She had just started to warm up to us near the end of our stay. Valleyview is neat and clean with a great kitchen with everything you need to prepare your meals. You can also have meals prepared for a small charge.
An Emotional Evening Listening To Young Black African Men Talk About The Lifting Of The Apartheid And The Release Of Nelson Mandela
During our stay at the Valleyview Backpackers we met a lot of fellow travelers. One family was from Coquitlam, only a few hours away from where we live.
We got the opportunity one evening to sit and chat with four young black African men. It was so interesting to hear them tell us about the history of South Africa. We learned more that night than we will ever learn in any book. Everyone in the room got a little teary eyed as they spoke of their experiences of the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison. They were about sixteen years of age at the time. I can’t describe the passion they portrayed and the look in their eyes as they talked about that day.
They said it was like pure euphoria throughout South Africa. It was the day that changed the rest of their lives. It was surreal to hear how they lived prior to the lift of the apartheid. It is hard to believe that black people here lived so differently only a short twelve years ago. You couldn’t go into cities or places that you wanted without permission. Every black person had to carry a ID passport with them at all times or be thrown in jail. You’re choice of profession was limited to just a few options. Every aspect of daily life was segregated. They were beaten in school and unfortunately this practice still goes on in many of the rural township schools.
These young boys are so full of hope for their futures now. Many other black South Africans still suffer in great poverty, these boys were lucky enough to have gone to university. They told us there are fifteen of them who are very close friends. Out of the fifteen, twelve of them are self employed with some kind of business. The government has implemented many opportunities and programs to help youth start their own business.
These boys also told us that a lot of African people still use a witch doctor or Sugoma as their main medical doctor. They have great faith in them and still have strong belief in curses as well. There are hundreds of thousands of orphans just in South Africa alone from parents dying from aids, as well as other countries in Africa. These boys say they attend funerals due to the disease on an almost weekly basis.
We learned that the vice president of South Africa was just recently kicked out of office due to the corruption he was involved in. Along with crime, getting rid of the corruption in the government is a top agenda. There is still a lot of bribery that goes on through all levels of the public offices in South Africa, anything from police to government office workers. In some African countries young elementary school children have a class on corruption as one of their school subjects. The hope is to bring up the next generation with a new way of thinking. It was a mind opening opportunity to get to spend the evening talking with these boys.
If you come to Graskop you must have some pancakes. There are so many places serving them, but apparently Harrie’s Pancakes is one of the best. We were not disappointed. They do the pancakes here thicker than a crepe, but thinner than a regular pancake. They are cooked to perfection and served folded in half with your choice of dozens of fillings. I had banana and cream. Jack had liquor soaked black cherries and cream. They were delicious! They also have tons of meal type pancakes with veggie, meat and cheese fillings too.
We Take Back Our Car Rental And Go With A Much Cheaper Company
While we were staying at Valleyview Backpackers we were speaking to the owner about our travel plans for driving through South Africa. We had mentioned our car rental that we had arranged for two months and how we thought the price was quite high. He couldn’t believe how much we were paying per day. He was kind enough to get on the phone and talk to a lady he knew. She worked for a company that had an office that operated out of the nearby Nelspruit airport. She was able to get us a much cheaper rate. The company is called Around About Cars. They have many offices located throughout South Africa.
We were able to return the car we picked up in Pretoria to the Nelspruit airport and negotiate a better rate with Around About Cars. The longer you rent a vehicle the better daily rate you get. Since we were renting for two months we were able to get the rate down to less than $20 Canadian per day. We had to pay a bit extra to do a one way drop off at the Capetown Airport when we were done. The first car we got had a daily rate of almost double. Thank you to the guy at Valleyview for helping us out!
A Problem With The New Car Turns In Our Favour
The car we got was exactly the same as the previous one, a four door standard transmission Opel. Within an hour of getting the second car a problem with it ended up being a positive thing for us. The air conditioning had leaked a large amount of fluid all over the passenger side floor. We were told to bring the car back in and they would give us new one. Luck would have it that they did not have anymore standard transmission in that class of car. We were upgraded to a automatic at no extra charge. Although Jack has no problem driving a standard he was very happy to know he would not have to be constantly shifting gears for the next two months of driving around South Africa. There are enough other things to be concerned about while driving here other than concentrating on gear changes.
Getting Used To The Extreme Weather
We experienced an awesome thunder and lightening storm when we arrived in Graskop. One of many summer storms we are getting used to in South Africa. We are getting quite used to losing the power too. We went to the local grocery market chain Spar. There is Quick Spar, a regular Spar, and Super Spar. The latter having the most selection in it.
We had to sit outside under the awning for about ten minutes with many other trapped people. We could not even run a short twenty feet to our car, it was the hardest rain we have ever seen. I would imagine it was very much like a prairie storm back home. Then the hail started, we were afraid it was going to dent the car. Another day in Graskop after a rain fall we came back to our car to find it completely covered in snails. Our only explanation is the weird phenomena that we have heard about raining frogs, maybe it did it with snails instead??
You Have To Buy Electricity Coupons????
One morning at the Valleyview Backpackers the power all went out. We just figured it was another typical power outage, but then the caretaker said he needed to go pay for more power in town. We thought he was joking, but he wasn’t!
A lot of places here have a box in the house next to the fuse box. They have to go into town and prepay for an electricity coupon. You bring it back home and punch a code on the coupon into the keyboard on the box. It gives you power for the specified amount you paid for. If you let it run out they don’t mess around with the shut off, it is instant! The government implemented the system to force people to conserve electricity. Also because when they billed at the end of the month a lot of people could not afford to pay the bill. This way they can buy power as they have money.
Meeting More Travelers Doing Amazing Journeys
We met a couple, Katja who is from Switzerland and her boyfriend Chris from England. They are both well seasoned travelers. Katja has been traveling for eleven years now. She goes back to Switzerland for six months at a time to make money and then travel again. Chris does the same in England. They have been in Africa for over nine months now. In that time they have slowly traveled from Kenya to the middle of South Africa. They will continue to travel here for another five months. They are tenting it, so they are able to keep their costs down and a friend let them have use of an older jeep vehicle.