Wanderlust: Going North West
A weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city can do wonders for your stress levels. For Joburgers and Pretorians, an hour-long trip across the provincial border into the North West is a simple solution. From upside-down houses to berry picking and adventure activities, there is a surprising number of things to do in the Hartbeespoort area.
Looking for a place that wouldn’t have us driving for hours, had reasonably priced accommodation and new places to visit, my husband and I settled on Hartbeespoort for our recent anniversary trip away. Having been on day trips to the west side of the dam, we opted to stay on the northeast side to see what it had to offer.
Finding a Place to Stay
Thanks to the number of wedding venues in the area, there are a lot of quaint guesthouses to choose from when it comes to accommodation. As it was our anniversary, we opted to treat ourselves to a luxury treehouse at the foot of the Magalies mountain at Nehema Manor, located just off the main road (Tielmann Street). This gave us the chance to easily explore the surrounding area while enjoying a home-base complete with immaculate gardens, squirrels scurrying through the trees and curious monkeys enjoying their morning grooming and play session on our doorstep.
Find your own Adventure
One of our first finds was Iron Throne Brewing Co – A find that distracted us so much we completely missed the entrance to the evening’s accommodation and had to do a quick U-turn. As a very relaxed, local hangout, this “Game of Thrones” castle inspired venue has quite a few things to offer visitors. From an Iron Throne replica at the entrance to their market-style restaurant, off-road trails and a predator/wildlife sanctuary, you can easily enjoy a day of adventure here.
Right next door to Iron Throne Brewing Co is the Harties Aerial Cableway. With a restaurant, shop, spa and picnic spots on top of the mountain, this is a great opportunity to enjoy some quality time with a view. Looking to get some exercise in? You can book a one-way cableway trip and opt to hike up or down the mountain instead.
If you’re more of a walker than a hiker, Van Gaalen has over 100km of trails to choose from. There is a beautiful riverside stretch that is perfect for family walks. The scenery changes from tree-covered paths to bamboo tunnels and farm-side trails. Picnic spots along the river can be reserved and a visit to the “Kaasmakerij” for a taste of their traditionally made Dutch gouda cheese selection is an absolute must!
3, 2, 1, and Action!
“Hartiwood” is home to two movie sets, “French Toast Koffie Kafee” and “Pretville”. These are fun trips to make when looking for a snack and photo stop. At the end of the Parisian-style street of “French Toast Koffie Kafee” you can find the Eiffel Tower and lock bridge which, is a major attraction for perfect selfie seekers.
“Pretville” is a 50’s style town that includes a roller-skating rink, bioscope and classic diner/milkshake bar. With an assortment of classic cars, cut-outs and colourful buildings, there is lots of opportunity for quirky photos and fun.
Being perpetually hungry, finding a place to eat at a moment’s notice was essential. When lunch inevitably arrived on Saturday afternoon, we casually made our way to “De Vette Mossel”, which had been recommended by a family friend.
As a proudly West-Coast open-air beach-style restaurant we arrived to find the beach had been brought inland with white beach sand thick underfoot, wooden beach hut buildings and a boat parked at the entrance. Unfortunately, we did realise just how popular this restaurant is and had not made a reservation for the 7-course, 13 dish lunch sitting, which had just been started by a shirtless man blowing a shofar-type horn. Disappointed at missing out and still hungry, we got back into the car and drove back towards the dam wall tunnel with thoughts of making a reservation for dinner (we never made it to dinner there but it’s top of our list for our next trip).
The “hangries”(anger caused by hunger) were really taking hold as we drove along the narrow twists and turns to the dam wall. Fortunately, there are a few restaurant options to choose from along this route, and we found ourselves stopping at a quiet spot called “Siesta Tapas Restaurant”.
Tucked away on the side of a beautiful A-frame house, Siesta Tapas was not at all what we expected. Walking through the low wooden door was like being transported to a homey, Spanish courtyard, complete with an assortment of comfy chairs and upbeat Spanish guitar solos playing in the background. We had only intended to stay for a light lunch but ended up leaving after the sun had set and we had shared a few plates of absolutely delicious tapas including saffron mussels, empanadas and crostini. The entire experience certainly satisfied my wanderlust for a few hours.
Stops Along the Way
For me, every trip needs padkos and although I am mocked for my need to stop at the first petrol station, 15 minutes into the trip, to stock up on treats to devour in the short 45 minutes that are left of the journey, it’s not a complete road trip if there are no stops along the way.
Aside from the Petrol station stops, a trip to Hartbeespoort is not complete without a stop at Maggie’s Farm Home of the Chicken Pie. If I had my way this would be a stop on the way there and on the way home but due to the rain rolling in, we only made a quick stop to get some breakfast croissants and a pack of frozen pies to enjoy at home this time around.
If you’re coming from Pretoria on the first weekend of the month, a stop at Margaret Roberts Herbal Centre is a great way to start or end your trip. Pick up seeds, plants, books, tea or natural products to help extend the relaxation in your home or get into weekend mode with a walk through the garden.
Get in touch with human history with a trip to Maropeng (Cradle of Humankind). Take a self-guided tour around the visitor centre that takes you through all of human history and evolution or get a combination ticket that includes a Sterkfontein cave tour.
Getting out for a day trip, a weekend or a few days can make a world of difference. Whether you’re an avid trip planner or a spur of the moment traveller, take a little time this month to unwind, explore and make memories. You don’t have to look far.
By Samantha van der Merwe
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