From Pretoria we drove to a much more scenic part of the country. We were headed to Hazyview, a small picturesque town in the province of Mpumalanga. The 100km area surrounding the town is where over half of South Africa’s bananas are grown. It also has a large amount of farms producing avocados, mangoes and macadamia nuts.
It was a much cooler temperature when we arrived. It was the end of December and when we called home to Vancouver Island we found out that it was the same temperature there. It was a case of two extremes. They were having unusually warm weather at home and lower than normal temperatures were being experienced where we were in South Africa.
Our Luxury Farm Bed And Breakfast
While in Pretoria we went to a travel agency and asked if they knew of a nice place we could spend Christmas. They booked us into a place called Idle And Wild Bed And Breakfast.
We treated ourselves to one of the luxury rondavels. These are detached round buildings with thatched roofs. Our rondavel was about 600 square feet and had a ceiling that had to go up at least 20 feet in the center. It had a jacuzzi tub right in the room. The windows and front porch overlooked a pond that was loaded with frogs. The croaking noise was almost deafening at night.
There are several other rondavels and cottages on the large property which was currently operating as a mango farm. They were in the process of switching over to macadamia nuts because they are much more sustainable and profitable.
We arrived during a huge thunder and lightening storm. The power was out when we got there and unfortunately went out several more times during our stay.
The next three days were interesting as our unit was never fully restored to have functioning power. It would not stay on, the breaker kept kicking off. It would last anywhere from 5 minutes to sometimes an hour if we were lucky. It kind of ruined the enjoyment of our stay, but what can you do?
We sat with this couple a few times at breakfast. They were quite interesting. We have to put in this private joke for ourselves, “You must ride the quads” said just like Arnold Swartnegger. This guy wouldn’t stop talking about the quad bikes and tyring to get us to ride them. People are quad bike crazy here. In fact how strange is this? You can buy a quad right in the grocery store! If anyone doesn’t know what a quad bike is, they are like the 3 wheeled ATV motorbikes, but have 4 wheels.
The other funny thing about this couple was the wife. We stayed for 3 nights and every morning the wife would be sitting at the tables waiting for breakfast with her hair and make up immaculately done. One morning we were there by 7am and it was still done the same, it didn’t seem to matter how early it was. We joked that she must somehow sleep with her hair and makeup already done! The best part was when they came back from a quad bike ride and she was covered in mud from head to toe with all her perfect hair, makeup and manicured nails. I don’t think she was expecting to get quite that dirty!
Christmas Eve At The Local Pub
We went into the small village area to see what we could do for Christmas Eve. Luckily the power was still on at the pub style restaurant. We had a dinner out on the patio and then went inside for some drinks and to avoid the mosquitoes.
We sat up at the bar and chatted with a nice couple who had been living in the area for five years. They were originally from England, they moved to South Africa to retire. They realized their pension dollars could stretch twice as far and they got to live in a beautiful place. Like us in North America they were used to a Christmas season full of carols, decorations, presents, big turkey dinners and the like. They were missing the holiday atmosphere of home like we were. We chatted with them about turkey dinners and all the fixings. I think it made us all enjoy our Christmas Eve a little more.
Christmas Day, Pretty Much Like Any Other Ordinary Day
Christmas morning and day were kind of like any other day, or I guess day off in South Africa. We started the morning by opening a few small gifts we had bought for each other. The gift opening was strangely interrupted by the cleaning lady coming in to make up our room. We could tell that this day was not anything particularly special for the B&B owners and anyone else around the farm.
We wanted to try and have as traditional a Christmas dinner as possible. There are not a lot of choices around Hazyview. It seemed the buffet dinner at the Hazyview golf course was going to be our best bet. It wasn’t exactly like a Christmas dinner, but Jack got some of his favorites so he was delighted. They had Yorkshire puddings and gravy, as well as a Christmas pudding.
It was quite comical to see warning signs on the golf course that read as follows… Watch for flying golf balls and beware of Hippos and Crocodiles! They are not joking! How would you like to play a game of golf here? I don’t think I could relax. There are also warning signs along the roads of the area.
Christmas day was one of the many hazy, and fully fogged in days we had. Perhaps this is why the town is called Hazyview. There were several scenic sights to see around the area, but we would have to wait for the fog to lift to be able to view them.
When the weather cleared we drove to a place called Pilgrims Rest. Driving through this area is a pleasure, you pass through lush green rolling hills. It is a historic gold and silver mining town that has been declared a national monument a Unesco World Heritage site. Many of the original buildings are built from corrugated iron and timber. There is a old petrol station that is from the early 1920’s.
It is a cute place with many unique shops and a few restaurants and cafes that occupy the old buildings. It is a little touristy, but worth a stop if you are driving by to see the other attractions in the area.
Strange Things You See While Traveling
One of the best parts of travel is seeing strange stuff. Like weird toilets. This bizarre toilet seat with encapsulated oranges was in a restaurant in Pilgrims rest. We have saw this brand of toilet paper in many of the grocery stores. Check out the slogan in the upside down heart on the package, luv your bum!
Silk Worm Farm
We visited a nearby silk worm farm. It was very interesting. You learn about all the stages of the life cycle of the silk worm. The eggs hatch and the worms are really tiny and grey looking, abo ut 1/2 of a centimetre or less in length, and like a thick thread in girth. They are very time consuming to look after and grow. They are extremely sensitive and can die very easily. Even a bad smell in the air will kill them.
They eat mulberry leaves. By the time they get to their last stage they are eating tons of leaves. Therefore you have to have a huge farm of mulberry trees. At the end stage they are big and fat, about 3 inches in length and the girth of a ladies ring finger.
They do weird stuff like vomit, which we witnessed, quite gross! They are left alone at the end to start secreting out their silk into a cocoon. The cocoon is carefully cut open so the pupae is not harmed. Then males and females are placed together to mate. The female lays eggs and starts the process all over again.
Then a lot more work comes after the silk cocoons are collected. Washing, spinning, weaving, or stretching gets done depending on what the silk is going to be made into. At this particular farm everything is done by hand, and the most primitive of spinning wheels, etc are used. They do not have the expensive high end equipment to make the really fine silk here so it is imported from Thailand. After seeing all of this done from start to finished garment, we totally understand the high price of silk items now.
A Cultural Village Set Up For Tourists, Could Have Gave This A Miss
We went to what is called a cultural village. It is actually a fake village replicating how native people in Africa lived. This one was for a tribe called the Shangani. In the future we will try to get to actual functioning villages of the local people. Depending on the tribe it can be difficult to get to see any of the culture or special ceremonies they have. A lot of their rituals are kept very private and can not be seen by the public.
This particular tribe is ruled by one chief. He can have as many wives as he wants. The first wife picks the 2nd wife, 2nd picks the 3rd and so on. There is no jealousy amongst the wives. Some villages will have their own Sugoma (witch doctor) or a sugoma may travel around and serve several villages. There are several mud huts which they live and sleep in. Each wife has her own hut. The boys and girls are separated for sleeping into their own huts. Boys marry at the age of 25, and the girls at 21. The spouses are usually picked by the parents. Cattle are given as a dowry for the girls. A man can remarry if his wife dies, but a woman can not remarry if she loses her spouse.
The village was educational, but far too disneylandish and fake. I guess if it is the only exposure you can get some insight into how native people lived in Africa it is worth checking out.