Rambles from the Road – Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route

My delightful and talented wife has been invited to present her Masters dissertation at a conference which is being held this week at a hotel bordering on the Kruger Park. To her credit, she invited me to come along, so with a week of leave in hand we flew off to Lanseria (near Johannesberg) and took a hired car into the hinterland. If you know my approach to hired cars (“They make the best 4×4’s”) you’ll already be imagining where this could take us…

Due to other commitments, Fran flew up 18 hours ahead of me, and being a sweet and doting husband I of course insisted that she take my new pride-and-joy GPS. It’s been more than five years since I had a new GPS, so I’m suitably excited about this one. (At this point, female readers are wondering what I’m on about, and the males are nodding appreciatively). In any case, I may as well go and buy another, as by the time I reached Gauteng it had a name (“Hannah” – it’s a Garmin Montana, capiche?) and has been claimed forever by my better half. True to her gentle and understanding nature, I am still allowed to program geocaches and press buttons if I ask nicely.

We have two days free time to get to Kruger and no commitments along the way. As a result, we have always been exactly where we wanted to be: wandering. Last night brought us (via various roadside stalls and geocaches) to the Blyde River Canyon, where we stayed surrounded by scores of polite, pale European tourists and perversely red-arsed baboons, in fairly equal proportions. At least the Germans and their consorts did not leave a calling card on our patio table to enhance the aroma of our morning coffee.

In the many intervening years since I last laid eyes on the Blyderivier it has lost none of its beauty, and has gained or retained an appellation I had not remembered: third largest canyon in the world. It is exceeded only by the Grand and Fish River Canyons, and is certainly the greenest of the three. What did surprise me was the quality of the surrounding attractions: either Mpumalanga Tourism or the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve has excelled in making sure that the various resorts, viewpoints and other amenities are neat, staffed and functional. They deserve much commendation, especially for the way in which (at least in appearance) the local communities have been integrated in managing and maintaining the attractions. I hope tourism in the area continues to thrive.

The road calls again; more to follow later!