That Great Holiday Destination in the Sky
Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
43Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Highlands Mountain Retreat
Johannesburg, Joburg, Jozi......thou doth test me too much. In order to have a long and meaningful relationship with this city, it takes patience and understanding. Patience because things move at African pace....this could be break-neck speed or a snail’s pace but it’s its own pace and cannot be told to regulate itself. Understanding, because this will never change. Unfortunately I possess neither of these virtues so I am at war with the city most of the time, but there are still times when I love it,...generally when I’m in a pub or a nice restaurant or with friends and family. Once I’m on the roads again though, or having to deal with S African bureaucracy of any kind, then the knives are out and I’m ready to use 'em
The next leg of our trip was truly memorable. Sean and Adele organised it for us and we will always be grateful to them for doing it. We first stopped off at Rosendal, Southern Free State. This was a lovely resort tucked in amongst farm lands and mountains. Our room was beautiful, filled with stuff one would want to decorate one’s own home with. A lot of artists live in the area so there is a lot of art and antique shops around and a lot of the houses (there really aren’t that many of them) have creative bursts of colour and design on their walls. Even the freak hail storm in the late afternoon didn’t detract from the beauty of the area we were in. Trace and I were very impressed with the surrounding country-side (my brother contemplated buying a house here) but nothing prepared us for what was waiting for us down around the corner, over the hill, through the valley and into the great beyond.
Highlands Mountain Retreat is a place we should all visit before we die.
The approach to the retreat was almost as spectacular as the final destination. Lush green valley’s formed by beautiful (and gigantic) mountains that lay all around us like sleeping giants,......an arm there, a head there, the odd set of fingers sticking up over there.....and we passed between two huge rocks en route that could easily have been a pair of feet of which the toes pointed skyward
Once we were in the Golden Gate National Park, which houses the Mountain Retreat, the scenery became even more beautiful.......I really didn’t think it possible. More mountains and valleys showed themselves to us like models on a catwalk, each one trying to out-do the next. More anatomically correct rock formations were lurking amongst giant domes of rock that bulged out of steep green slopes that from a distance seemed to be as smooth as a snooker table. The light was fantastic, making the greens greener and the sky a deep blue cloudless wonder.
Turning off the main road we started up a narrow path that was only wide enough for one car. It wound like a lazy (and ridiculously long) snake up, then down the mountain in front of us only to slither languidly around the next hill before continuing its course up another mountain that really didn’t look like it should be driven up, let alone holidayed on.......but it soon became apparent that that was exactly where we were going,....up ....and up some more until what I thought were rock outcrops about 20 meters from the summit revealed their true identities. They were actually log cabins built into the mountain side,...there were 7 of them and one of them was ours.
The cabins were stunning , besides a very comfy interior ie fireplace and heated flooring (it gets cold up in these mountains at night, even in the middle of the summer), the bedrooms had appropriately heavy bedding as well as electric blankets....toasty, toasty, the view was without a doubt the most spectacular I have ever seen, and I mean that sincerely, go and you will see what I mean
There were caves like giant eyes that stared sightlessly, or so we think, and infinitely off to the horizon. I wondered if rock falls over these caves would be considered an earth blink.
As secluded as we might’ve felt up there, we were soon reminded that we weren’t alone and that we were the guests of some very interesting creatures
We took a break at the very edge of our mountain, a sheer cliff. Here we ate chocolate and I thought to myself, at times like this, in this particular position, depending on what kind of person you are, one could consider themselves a king or very insignificant in the big scheme of things.....I chose not to comment.
The following morning I awoke before everyone else in the cabin, actually, it was probably before anyone in South Africa. At 04:30 I wondered through to the lounge, looked out the window and thought that the ocean had finally made its way up to just below our balcony. All on my own I witnessed something quite astounding. The cloud cover was solid right up to the horizon and right down to just below our cabin
I could gush on about this place but I’m running out of metaphors and hyperbole. I will mention in closing, that we also encountered some Jackals whilst wondering in the mountains. This topped off an idyllic few days. It’s never been tougher to leave.