hakuna matata – 1 week south african road trip

IMG_5628Put on some music, top off your tank and let the rhythm of Africa guide you along quite roads, abundant wildlife, starry starry nights, tasty dishes, a rich, strong culture and the explosive beauty of nature.

Day 1 – Jo-burg to Louis Trichard

Some 500 kilometers lay between the both famous and infamous start of your journey, Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo Airport), and the laid-back Shiluvari Lakeside Resort. On your way to Shiluvari, you can make a short stop at the capital of South Africa: Pretoria. Especially the ‘Voortrekkers Monument’ is an impressive sight that incorporates features of both Aztec and Arabic buildings.

Shiluvari Lake Resort

Shiluvari Lake Resort

On the road once again, you will start to see the landscape slowly changing. The mix of agricultural, industrial, service and urbanization gives way to what you might have had in mind when thinking about Africa. More and more people are wearing traditional, very colorful clothes, loads of people walk and the architecture of the villages and towns literally come down to earth.

Depending on whether or not you stopped in Pretoria, you will arrive in Elim, more specifically the Shiluvari Lakeside Resort, some 5 hours after you drove off. A cozy bar, many statues, a lovely garden, excellent cottage, pool, friendly staff and great food are waiting for you.

Enjoy your arrival, the start of your holiday and your surroundings. Welcome to South Africa.

Day 2: Shiluvari Lakeside Resort

Elim

Elim

Depending on your mood, your plans, your idea about what a holiday should be, Shiluvari offers all you need to fulfill your needs.

After breakfast you can decide to spend the day on the premises of the lodge. The grounds are vast and even offer hiking possibilities with a chance of spotting (smaller) game and (for sure) birds.

Birds are also the main focus of the Samson Mulaudzi, the resident bird guide of Shiluvari. With him you can spot everything flying. Over 100 species of bird fly and hop around the Albasini Conservacy and Samson will make sure you get to know most of them.

Nearby Elim provides you with a chance to check out the colorful South African village life. The town also hosts a market many will find fascinating due to the abundance of plastic goodies.

In case you still have time and energy and no interest in reading a book by the pool, the nearby Ben Lavin Nature Reserve offers you the opportunity of riding a bike amongst bushveld, riverine woodland and vast plains of thornveld set against the rolling foothills of the Soutpansberg. During your ride you have a fair chance of bumping into (non-lethal) wildlife like giraffe, zebra, warthog, blue wildebeest, impala and kudu.

Day 3 – to Kruger Park

The Outpost Lodge

The Outpost Lodge

The Outpost Lodge is located in a very remote part of Kruger National Park, in a wilderness area previously not known by visitors.

To get to this desolated (in a good way) place, you take the R524 from Louis Trichardt, all the way to the Punda Maria Gate where you get a map of Kruger’s internal roads that guide you to paradise.

The further you get from civilization and the closer you come to Kruger, the more Zen you will start to feel. When civilization gives way to wilderness and roads become lonesome, you feel you start to disconnect from the urban jungle and start to root in this miracle of nature….

Day 4 – The Outpost Lodge
Slowly you open your eyes. No, this can’t be real. ‘I must still be dreaming a sweat, pleasant dream!’ You think….

…But just listen instead of look. Hear a river, wind, leaves, trees and animals. Plenty of wild animals. A breath of wind caresses your skin. The scent of Africa enters your nose. This dream, it’s so vivid. So unreal it must be true.

Slowly you open your eyes again. The Milky Way illuminates the room. An open room, hovering over baobabs and elephants. This is no dream. This is The Outpost.

Your neighbours

Your neighbours

Some might consider sleeping at The Outpost Lodge in Kruger National Park a waste of time. Sleeping while you can try to spot elephants and lions from your bed, count infinite stars and planets or listen to the call of nature. Others might not be able to fall asleep, eager as they are to wake up in an open space directly in touch with the African wilderness. Most of us though, will fall asleep with a big smile on our faces after yet another day of wild luxury lodging.

A bed at The Outpost does not come cheap. But every cent is an investment in a future full of warm and special memories. Memories of the design, of the architecture, of this secluded part of Kruger near Mozambique and Zimbabwe, memories of nature, friendliness, hospitality and warmth. Unforgettable memories. Priceless memories.

At The Outpost you stay in one of 9 Italian design ‘Spaces’ made of concrete, wood and steel. The Spaces are reached by a kilometer long boardwalk. Each Space hangs onto a cliff and looks out over a river valley dotted with mighty baobabs and abundant wildlife. The local Makuleke staff goes out of their way to make your stay as comfortable and memorable as possible.

Three times a day you are treated to fresh local gourmet meals. Twice a day your personal guide takes you on a safari in this non-touristic corner of the Kruger. You will be moved by sun rises and sun sets, wash off the rich African red soil in either the swimming pool or by taking a bath while enjoying one of the most beautiful views from a bathroom you can imagine.

If you ever wondered if dreams come true, The Outpost Lodge is the answer.

Day 5 – Kruger Time

Little 2

Little 2

Bump da bump. Boing de boing. This is the rhythm of the day in Kruger. On the beat of these sounds you are continuously spotting. In trees. on trees, behind trees, next to trees. Until you are unable to tell tree from forest and it’s time to stop. You’re guide and driver fortunately already has a spot in mind: ‘Let’s have our drinks above the gorge!’ he yells to be able to be heard above the Range Rover’s engine. And bump da bump, there you go through the forest and up the hill.

Big 1

Big 1

This ritual is what dictates your days in Kruger, in The Outpost. Twice a day you (can) take off on a safari through this non-touristic part of the Kruger Park. Every time is an adventure. Every time this golden triangle between the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe offers another surprise.

Your guide and driver is also your ‘table mate’ at night. This way you really get to know this part of South Africa, its flora, fauna and people.

In case you think you have seen it all after one safari, you probably change your mind. Every time you drive through forest, towards the setting sun, at the edge of the night, along rivers and across mountains you feel the thrill of the hunt.

The hunt for another encounter with an elephant, a lion, hippo, hyena, rhino, or mighty baobab is addictive. So addictive you have no problem leaving the amenities of The Outpost behind for yet another half a day of Kruger Time.

Day 6 – towards Blyde River Canyon

Iketla Lodge view

Iketla Lodge view

The six-hour’s drive you have ahead of you to the Ohrigstad region is pretty nice and relaxed. You will pass villages like Boxahuku with thatched, grass roofed houses with clay walls, a few reserves and loads of people walking by the side of the road.

When you arrive somewhere late afternoon (you did not want to miss out on your last Outpost breakfast), you admire the endless views the Iketla Lodge offers, order a cold beer, take a dip in the pool and get ready for an excellent dinner that most likely includes some ingredients you saw walking around in Kruger the previous days…

Day 7 – Canyon Loop

IMG_6443Relax and unwind is what comes to mind first after you have slept like a baby, your first night in Iketla. And for sure, that is what you should do. Especially when you have some extra days to spend here.

For the more active, less relaxed types, more explorative types, it is good to know that Iketla is ideally located for some excellent routes that take you along spectacular scenery to some of the country’s best nature spots.

The Panorama Route (Canyon Loop) takes you about 5 hours and includes Pilgrim’s Rest, Graskop, The Pinnacle, God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the spectacular Blyde River Canyon. Pièce de résistance are the Three Rondavels a.k.a. the Three Sisters, or better, the view you are presented when standing at the Three Rondavels viewpoint with the lowlands touching the horizon and way down the deep blue water flowing into Blyde Riverpoort Dam.

Five to six hours after getting into your car, you are back at Iketla and still have a late afternoon and a whole evening to spend in the middle of sweet nothingness.

Day 8 – Homeward bound

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Back home or onward with your road trip. Whatever it is, you’ll load another suitcase full of memories into the trunk of your car when leaving Iketla.

Should you drive to O.R. Tamba Airport, do drive through Dullstroom to enjoy a last South African meal. Dullstroom is a town where the ‘Afrikaners’ gather on weekends to talk shop, go fly-fishing and eat a big meal.

The town features quite a few restaurants as well as some last souvenir shops. Pay the guys at the parking spaces along the main street a couple of Rand and you can count on finding your car back as you left it when returning from your ventures.

Happy travels!