A maiden voyage is commonly known as the first journey of a ship, train, or any other craft. A voyage taken after much anticipation and preparation.
My maiden voyage. My first solo trip to a destination beyond the confines of my hometown. Lucky enough was I to experience Mpumalanga and the Panoramic route, to write about it, and to share an eye-opening experience in a time of resentment, disgust and overall lament in a country previously optimistic, excited and passionate about its people and potential. To accompany me in my voyage was my good friend Katie, a lifelong friend, companion, and now, fellow sailor ‘setting sail’ for a maiden voyage in a borrowed Peugeot convertible. Because, what else screams new-found-freedom louder than a convertible?
Destination: Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge at the top of Robbers’ Pass, just outside Pilgrims’ Rest. A paradise situated on the edge of a mountain cliff, hidden between tall green pine trees. From the comfort of our private patio we could experience breathtaking views overlooking the mountain canyon and forest, where you hear nothing except for the faint soft wind blowing through the trees over the hollow riff of the mountain canyon.
All this almost made me forget the trip there… Our luck started out at Queens Corner Spar, just a stone’s throw from my driveway. Groceries and coolers loaded for the trip, eyes sparkling and excited for a Girls Weekend, Katie’s first girly duty was to hop out and start pushing our dearest Peugeot. Jip. Alternator problems (which I was told was something of the past upon borrowing this beaut …).
As our chalet is just a little too far from the resort’s restaurant for the likes of our (now retired after a hard week) exhausted legs to walk, we thought the quick trip should be effortless for the little Peugeot. Wrong. After countless attempts of trying to get the car to start again, we decided to give up and call it a night, and helped ourselves to some left over road trip food instead. And some wine. Of course.
The next day I was determined. This was my maiden voyage, my first solo trip, and I was going to make the best of every situation. Broken alternator and all! The car however, thought differently… Trying to make a plan, we struggled to push start the car two girls alone, that is, until two gentlemen stopped, got out of their cars, and went out of their way to help us out…Success! The little Peugeot finally got into the holiday spirit, and so we were off to start the day with excitement, determination and a half broken alternator…
Our journey took us to the wonderful sightseeing and touristy spots near Pilgrim’s rest marked on our little map, or at least, what Google could suggest. We started the day at Mac Mac Falls near Sabie, where we took a nice winding hike down to a lookout point over the huge and massively stunning waterfall. While standing at the lookout point, my gaze shifted down below, where I saw a few “adventurers” swimming in the water below us. With the sun hot and blazing away above us, the swimmers let out yells and yelps of laughter of excitement and adrenaline with nothing around them but the crisp green nature hidden between the rocky walls of the mountain. In that moment it almost felt like I was looking down upon a little piece of heaven, a secret little piece of utopia hidden from the rest world.
Feeling a bit hungry we headed off to Graskop afterwards to grab a bite to eat. We decided on Harrie’s Pancakes for a delicious lunch. The menu offered a calamari and prawn pancake with creamy sauce for myself, and a sweet and sticky pork with peaches pancake for Katie. We ended it off with a milk tart custard filled pancake to share for dessert.
Recharged and relaxed we went for a stroll and discovered a mouthwatering little cholate shop (yes, we still had some space left!). Handmade Belgium chocolate sold in all shapes and sizes and a chocolate fountain in the corner. Shautany Chocolatiers is a must for the senses! Needless to say we ended up staying a bit longer than intended…
On the way to the car, which we now learned to strategically park downhill for obvious reasons, another man appeared out of the blue and gave us, by now routine pushing manoeuvre, a helping hand, and once again…success.
Next stop was God’s Window. Katie and I headed up the mountain, slowly, enjoying little rest stops at every teaser lookout point we could find along the way, as we slowly (thanks to Harrie’s and Shautany’s) made our way up through the rain forest. It’s cool welcoming shade embracing us and protecting us from the sun as we went up higher, awaiting this Window.
Once we reached the top, chests heaving, we were greeted with … Words cannot describe this amazing view… The sense of appreciation for nature I got while visiting this promising tourist site proved that God’s Window is rightfully called so, as it promises the best views one will possibly ever see in our country (at least for me), definitely something to add to the old bucket list.
As we looked down, it seemed like the entire landscape was covered with a blanket made out of green, blue and brown patches reaching and expanding out over the horizon. It almost felt like standing on the edge of the world, where you feel so big and so incredibly small at the same time, followed by the feeling of sheer bliss.
Now considerably less bright-eyed after the trip down, we headed back, Peugeot-permitting, to have a quick peek around the old mining village of Pilgrim’s Rest. Unfortunately the sun was setting slowly, leading to shop doors closing one by one, which was also our cue to head back to the resort. By this time we were pro’s with the whole “Flintstones car start” situation, as we headed back for the evening, thanks to yet another helping hand from locals insisting to help us push the car.
After a relaxing second night at the resort, as we headed home a little bit more inspired, I realised something very important. Something I don’t want to forget. We have such a beautiful amazing country, but with even more amazing people! I noticed how people are willing to help, without even having to ask. The fact that some people went out of their way to help us out in need, giving up their time for ours meant more than being able to explain to anyone. Being so used to the city life, and with all the negativity read in the media every day, one sometimes loses touch of who we are as a nation. My faith in humanity has been restored and I realised that I saw a lot of beautiful places on my maiden voyage, but I saw and met even more beautiful people, with hearts of gold, and they don’t even realise it… As long as they don’t ever lend me a Peugeot again …