About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

07 February 2013

Hartford House

Hartford House has a rich history - from South Africa's colonial past to a world renowned horse farm; and now one of South Africa's top restaurants. After the Berg, we decided to stay a night at the boutique hotel and enjoy the food.

The grounds are amazing. Despite the fact that it is a working farm, it feels like a destination for relaxation. It is very luxurious, but it didn't necessarily feel like it was over the top; in your face poshness.

The highlight was definitely the food. Dinner was 5 courses - filling, but I did not have the really stuffed feeling that one would expect. Breakfast was included as part of the hotel stay, and was just as impressive in a three course setting. I have had my share of hotel breakfasts - from the lowly backpackers to 5 star exclusive hotels; and Hartford House's breakfast puts them all to shame.

M's vegetarian requirements were well catered for, and both plates kept to a common theme; with substitutions working perfectly. As the meal progressed, each course seemed to be better than the previous one; but my favorite was the second course.

Course 1: Smoked Salmon-Nori Terrine with Horseradish Creme, Quail Eggs, Cherry Tomatoes, Micro Herbs, Herbed Croutons and Caper Berries
M's: Camembert Salad

Course 2: Garden Pea Soup with Kamberg Ham Ice Cream, Oven Dried Prosciutto chips and Pea Shoots
M's: The same without the meat elements

Course 3: Pink Peppercorn seared Wildebeest Loin Salad with Fresh Beetroot, Parmesan Spoon, Candied Walnuts, Chicken liver Parfait and black lava salt
M's: Same with shiitake mushroom substitution

Course 4: Shiitake crusted Beef filet, with caramelised red onions, Pomme Amandines and Exotic mushrooms
M's: Lentil Bobotie with similar elements

Course 5: Cream Cheese Fruit Cake Mince Pies, with Cherries, Gorgonzola, Parmesan Ice Cream and Licorice

Kamberg Valley

About 15 Km from Mooi River, Kamberg Valley is one of the most scenic drives I have driven in South Africa. About 80 Km of twisting mountain roads surrounded by green rolling hills and the Drakensberg in view; it was lots of fun to drive; despite the potholes and then the rain. If you have an hour to spare, and driving on the N3 - take the detour. It's lots of fun.

06 February 2013

Dragon's Cave Farmstall

About halfway between Bergville and Winterton on the R74, there is a strangely decorated farmstall called "The Dragon's Cave". There didn't seem to be much in the way of local produce (the jams and honey seemed to be known brands); but there is a collection of dragon statues/decorations. The food menu is small, but the freshly made vetkoek is well worth the stop.

San Rock Art Paintings

One of the factors contributing to the Drakensberg parks being listed as a World Heritage Site is the numerous San rock art paintings. In the RNNP there are approximately 30 such sites, but only one is easily accessible. Due to vandalism etc. it is available only via a paid guided tour. The guides are from the surrounding community, and they are quite knowledgeable.

Mathiba of Amazizi

There is a sign just outside the Royal Natal National Park, "Canibals", which I thought was a bar or something. It turned out to be a lot darker - the nearest village is called Amazizi or "The Cannibals"; named after a group of people who resorted to cannibalism in the time of Shaka. The story itself was unclear - were they fleeing Shaka's army or whether they themselves were part of Shaka's army.

Out guide for the San paintings was Mathiba, a young man from the village. He was a talkative guide talking about a number of things - from his parents (mother from Lesotho, father from the village), his love of horses, his job as a groom in Johannesburg, and his many ideas on rural improvements - most notably starting a library.

I wish him all the best, and if you come this way, bring some books to drop off.

Edit: Some additional text on the cannibal story - http://www.cavern.co.za/the-legend-of-cannibal-cavern/

Olivershoek Pass

It's a more scenic and toll free alternative to the N3; but the road is very bad on the Harismith side. Great views though.

Cruel Weather Gods

We are leaving Royal Natal this morning, and it is sunny and quite clear ... There is still some cloud on the mountain peaks, but I reckon the falls would have been visible.

05 February 2013

Tugela Gorge Hike #3

This is the third time I have walked along the Tugela Gorge hike path, and I didn't finish any of them. The first time, P and I just wanted to learn of the logistics; we had no water or even hiking shoes; but did about 2 km of the route. The second time, Dave and I went almost to the end; but the mist had come in, so it didn't make sense to go further as the falls would be invisible.

This time, it had been raining the whole night, and part of the morning. While the clouds had partially lifted, the Amphitheatre was still shrouded. But the afternoon was dry, so we decides to walk for about an hour and then turn back.

The pace wasn't too bad, we covered just over 3 Km of the route. And despite the cloud cover, the scenery was still beautiful.

But still, I must come back to go to the bottom of the falls, an perhaps also to the top; both of which require clear skies.


Nestled in the lower Drakensberg mountains, Thendele offers some cosy self catering chalets for overnight visitors to the Royal Natal National Park. It's a deceptively steep drive up, but the views are gorgeous, especially when the skies are clear (which was unfortunately not the case for most of our stay).

04 February 2013

Tiger Falls

One of the many waterfalls in the Royal Natal National Park, it is neither as big nor as spectacular. It is an easy walk from the Thendele camp, with spectacular views of the valley. As you approach the falls, the more distant Gudu Falls is far more audible (and indeed spectacular), though it is easier to approach the Tiger Falls.

03 February 2013

Vodacom vs MTN

In the corner of KZN, Free State and Lesotho, there is barely any MTN signal; hovering between a single bar and "No Service". On my Vodacom 3G router, I have full 3G!

Not sure if I am glad or not ... Was looking forward to being disconnected.

Sterkfontein Dam

Near Harrismith, Sterkfontein Dam is one of South Africa's largest.