Chris and I decided that we needed to get away by ourselves for a few days. We had two criteria – we wanted a pool and we wanted to be able to hike. So we trawled around the internet and came up with a few places.
It was the day before school started and our plan was to leave the next day. Obviously most of the places did not have space for us. Our tent died a few years ago and so camping was not an option. We also did not want to drive for hours either – somewhere close – Magaliesbergish would be just right.
The only place that returned our email was on the Vaal River – but actually they specialised in team building and liked group bookings – although they could accommodate us. There was no self-catering either so we’d have to eat all meals there too. Envisaged us being swamped by hoo-yah noisy team builders and having to eat conference food. Then we read some of the reviews which confirmed our suspicions. We nixed that one.
We’d almost given up when Chris came upon the Mountain Sanctuary Park in the Magaliesberg. They had a pool. They had several different hikes. There were rivers. The log cabins looked delightful. It was only an hour and a half’s drive. Better still, a quick call ensured that there was indeed place for us. We could arrive any time from then.
We tossed some clothes into a case, stopped at the Spar in Harties to stock up on food for 2 days and drove the back windy-windy roads to reach our destination.
The actual dirt road into the resort was a tad on the bumpy side and we were grateful for our Hyundai Tucson.
They have very strict rules. You either adhere to them or you can be tossed out without passing go or getting R200!
- No driving around the rest camp.
- No radios.
- No TV’s.
- No pets.
- No noise after 9pm.
- Do not feed the birds, baboons or the monkeys.
- Do not mess with the fauna or flora.
- Do not use any dead wood lying around to make fire.
- Do not remove any stone, plant or animal.
- Do not pile stones.
We could happily live with all of those.
The place looked rather empty – only a few cars dotted here and there. On our way in we spotted two baboons scampering through the rest camp – a big one and a smallish one.
We had Log Cabin Number 2 – right opposite a short walk to the swimming pool – with the most divine view. We gasped and hugged each other with delight. What a fabulous place.
We unpacked, snarfed down a cheese roll and headed off for a swim.
More delighted gasping and grinning ensued when we caught a glimpse of how gorgeous the pool area was.
The sun came and went and a bitchy little wind was blowing – so we did not linger too long at the pool. We cooled down then decided to head off for a walk and check the place out.
I’d planned on investing in some decent walking boots before going away – but somehow that had never happened. I was rocking the Princess Xenia Queen of the Wild look in the boots that I’d worn successfully to hike around the nice soft farm ground. (My wretched daughter later pointed out they looked more like wellies!) The front right toe was starting to snarl and I was a wee bit concerned that the sole might come completely loose at some stage. Still – we’d been told that the Slippery Pools were only a 25 minute walk away.
Off we went – still wearing our costumes under our clothes. We’d been told we could swim in these pools. I secretly doubted this but we packed a towel in with the map and water bottle – just in case.
It was around 14h30. Of course the minute we moved away from the swimming pool the sun came out, the wind died down and it was blisteringly hot. We eyed the beginning of the dusty uphill route and groaned. Shite… I’m not a fan of walking uphill. My feet were waaaayyy too hot in my boots and the ground was hard, stony and rather uneven.
Like all things – after a few minutes you get into the swing of things, start enjoying the scenery and stop whinging about the small stuff. We passed the reservoir and reached the sign that indicated either Slippery Slopes or Grotto.
Slippery Slopes it was. We swigged some water and trudged onwards. The path was clearly marked and the going was not too tough – for an uphill path that is. Eventually we reached another sign pointing in the direction of the river. Eagerly we trotted down.
Yet more delighted gasping and uttering!
The river flowed slowly – crystal clear and not too cold. We hopped around from rock to rock and then decided to strip and wallow in one of the larger pools.
(Took this photo a few days later!)
I kicked myself for not bringing along my cell phone to take pictures (or check out the time).
As we lay on the warm rocks, drying off, Chris mentioned that the map indicated we could actually make our way up the river and reach the grotto.
The path soon petered out but we merrily scampered from rock to rock, squelching in black mud every now and then. We marvelled at how we seemed to be the only people in the vicinity – until we came across a dude skinny tanning that is. We tactfully admired the view on the opposite side for a few minutes whilst he climbed into his shorts.
At that point the path seemed to be a bit non-existent. Chris did the manly thing and asked the dude if there was indeed a way up to the grotto from there. He gestured and muttered something about a vague path.
By this stage I was more than kicking myself for forgetting a cell phone – more for the safety aspect than anything else. If one of us fell and broke something – we’d have one hell of a job getting help – or even finding our way back to the rest camp.
The grass was long and the image of the poster of snakes in the office was uppermost in my mind.
We saw the “Twin Peaks” that were indicated on the map (no photo of these magnificent structures I am afraid) and decided to hike away from the river, in the direction of where we imagined the “official” path would be in the hope that we dissected it.
Broken ankles had now joined the images of snakes in my mind.
Eventually we came across a black pipe. I recalled the lady in the office saying something about following the pipe. Chris was all for going further uphill in search of the grotto. I pulled my wuzzy wife moves and insisted that we go back down. Tomorrow was another day.
My ever-loving man acquiesced and we started following the pipe down. We’d heard baboons calling whilst we were following the river, but now we spotted a couple a few metres away from us. We stopped. Then we noticed that there were lots and lots of brown humps munching on fruit (a bit like loquats). Seemed like a big dude was standing sentry – waiting for the troop to pass. Luckily most of them had already crossed the pipe – but a couple of littlies were lagging behind.
Baboon 101 was something we had both missed out on.
We stood quietly and waited – hearts thumping. The big dude checked us out – then eventually realised we were not posing any threat and followed the troop. (I later googled and discovered we’d done exactly the right thing.) It was still a little nerve-wracking – after all – we were trespassing on their ground.
The pipe-track was more imagination than anything else. Essentially you could make your own way down – just keep the pipe in sight. The terrain differs greatly from section to section of the mountain.
Tired, hot and a little sunburnt – we found our way down and fell into the swimming pool. This was followed by inadvertent wine-slush-puppies (I’d put the wine in the freezer when we arrived – their fridge is a lot colder than ours).
As the sun set the mozzies emerged – clearly they had not received the memo that they were not to be fed. They bypassed Chris and feasted on me.
The moon was full and totally delightful.
The wood took forever to burn and I ended up napping genteelly (read… head back snoring like a warthog) whilst Chris eventually braaied.
The bed was huge and very comfy. I figured after all the hiking and swimming I’d sleep like a log. Was totally impressed with myself when I woke up and it was light already. I lay there thinking that exercise was the way to go to ensure a whole night’s sleep. I lay and I lay. Then I realised that it was the chirping of crickets and cicada’s – not birds.
Bloody hell – had done my usual and woken up at 12h30. The brightness of the full moon had me fooled. I fell asleep as the real birds started cheeping.
Next day to follow…