De Rust Slaghuis / R40, Hazyview, 1242, South Africa / +27 82 429 4092
Walking into the small shop, with its exposed wooden beam in the ceiling, feels like walking into yesteryear. The wonderful lilt of the Afrikaans-accented greeting are the first thing you notice, then the boldly lettered sign proclaiming BANK DOES NOT SELL MEAT SO WE DON’T TAKE CHEQUES, followed at last by the glass product cases overflowing with enticing meats.
Scanning over the cuts of meat, locally-made sausages, game animals, and biltong I can’t help but thinking that I could spend some time in the area, just working through all the options, especially given the local spices (like bebere).
As we were driving through, without access to any way to store or cook meat, our choices were limited to ready-to-eat sausage and biltong. We picked a selection of each, winding up with several pounds for in-car snacking, and headed out, accompanied by the various accents of the customers, from the locals to the Free Staters.
The food was delicious; the atmosphere, priceless; the memories, long-lasting.
Sabie River Bush Lodge / R536 Kruger Gate Road, Southern Kruger National Park Mpumalanga, South Africa / +27 82 467 5771
The Sabie River Bush Lodge was our first stop near to Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. The lodge and grounds feel like an urban safari theme camp with neither foot firmly planted in the city or the bush.
While convenient to the main road, the accommodations seem well-intentioned but the execution is adequate but uninspired, fair to middling.
Dishes served in the lodge’s restaurant are nicely presented and tasteful but pedestrian; more appropriate as camp fare than haute cuisine.
The most humorous surprise misadventure is the bathwater, which comes out of the tap a deep green. Reassured that it’s safe, albeit not cosmetically filtered river water, I took that bath for the shock value, but not without thinking that most visitors would be most disturbed.
The best part of being at Sabie River Bush Lodge was the great views of our first safari animals. There’s nothing like seeing these animals in the wild; completely different than their counterparts in zoos.
Kurhula Wildlife Lodge / Parsons Nature Reserve, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa / +27 79 251 8487
The Kurhula Wildlife Lodge is the epitome of relaxing on vacation. One really feels in Africa.
The cabins, on a crest, are on the edge of the common space and walking paths, which wind down the gently-sloping hill to the Olifants River.
The open-air dining area is in the middle of the common space, sheltered by a tree, includes a comfortable table on a cement slab, complete with a grill for the braai.
Troops of monkeys commute through the trees; elephants and predators can be heard and seen from everywhere on the property.
Our hosts, Kim and Sander, are a hospitable Dutch couple with a flair for presenting enticing group meals and enthusiastically showing the surrounding wilderness.
Every meal at Kurhula was a feast for the eyes and mouth. We had a full house the time we were there, and everyone finished each meal feeling full and looking forward to the next sit-down.
The high point of Kurhula, for me, was watching families of elephants wash each other and play in the river.
They seem unhurried and studious in their purpose.
One of my favorite quiet moments was this 22° halo above Kurhula in the middle of a calm, dry day.
The cabins are of a good size, in Rondavel style — combining the stylings of a western hotel room with a traditional African cabin.
It’s a great difference from western housing; you never forget where you are whenever you look around the Rondavel.
Whilst the wildlife at Kurhula is limited, all the traditional Kruger animals may be found with a short drive or tour.
So ends our time at Kurhula, a relaxing time that was a great way to begin our African safari weeks.
Next, we meet Marc Cronje, Safari Guide.