This blog post was planned for months ago but somehow, it was always pushed back. I started writing it while we were on our way to Mpumalanga in October 2017. It was Spring. We are now in Autumn. Perhaps, the universe knew that the perfect time would come for this trip to be shared: when the focus would be on one of the most beautiful sunsets ever recorded by yours truly.
I love sunsets. I might like sunrises, too, but I am never awake for them. I seem to think as well that sunrises might be a little harsher than soft, romantic sunsets. I don’t know why. I don’t need to know as long as I am blessed with beautiful African sunsets, as we were on our weekend away in Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge in Mpumalanga, over and above the ones I frequently admire on my way home from work.
The sunset we had on Saturday [of that weekend] was quite spectacular that I took many shots, including a panoramic, and I also took a hyperlapse. Hubby also did. We were enchanted and captivated.
However, before we got to see the magnificent sunset, we spent at least four hours on the road, driving the 380 km odd distance between Fourways (Sandton) and the 4-star self-catering resort, situated near Pilgrims Rest. It happened to be one of those cold spring day.
Fortunately, there is Alzu Petroport on the N4, which happens to be more than just a place for a quick fuel and food stop. It was quite picturesque. The owner also exerted a bit more effort and added a few photo opportunities. There is a few restaurant options for food and drinks, including a Nando’s. Obviously, I like Nando’s. 🙂
We stopped for food and bathroom on our way to Mpumalanga and ended up buying a cute soft stuffed toy for the little one. There were quite a number of people taking photos, and it was a bit windy as well, so I had to ask to stop again on our way back so I could take some photos. The weather on our way back was much better. The sun was out and it was a warm spring day.
I initially thought this weekend away would be different in that I would be able to share the experience on a blog post almost immediately upon returning to the city so I started writing on our way there.
I don’t quite know what to make out of South African Spring these days. It starts out too hot for perfect spring weather and it actually feels like summer. Then, out of the blue (unless I am simply unaware of my surroundings), winter arises from its slumber.
It’s our weekend away in beautiful and tranquil Mpumalanga, a day later than scheduled due to my forgetfulness, not remembering that the weekend was to start with Friday evening watching Evita at the Teatro in Montecasino, and it would be impossible to leave the city on Friday although I had taken leave. C’est is vie! I’ve wasted more a few other times when no one goes to a holiday place for the whole weekend or week already paid for especially those impulse buys. We have not been away in a while so I was not going to miss a weekend out of the city.
The drive would take about four and a half hours, via the N4 highway. Coffee before a long drive, if one does not like using public toilets, is not advisable. Only an hour of the drive down, or less, as we had not reached Emahlaleni (formerly Witbank, when I was a resident of the city, before it was a city, I think), I heard the call of nature. Having commuted between Witbank and Middelburg in in 1996/1997, I am familiar with the area: there is a Shell Ultra City just after the toll plaza. Hubby, with deteriorating attention capacity (joke or not, I can’t say with certainty), thought I said after Witbank… (after we drove past Witbank?) He was overtaking a truck and could not get back on to the left lane (South Africa drives like the UK, not the US) for my bathroom stop. Fortunately, it was not a desperate situation and another stop was not far. Even better, this stop has more than just fuel, eating places and toilets. It had a store where my little princess and I browsed… Perhaps it was not better.
We had stopped at the Petroport, where my writing also stopped. I read my book instead. I had with me Stephen King’s On Writing… and a big Toblerone. 🙂 My little princess enjoyed pretending to sleep with the cutest caterpillar I have seen.
I think the altitude of Mpumalanga tends to turn it into a Blair-Witch-Project-like place. My little princess found it fascinating. And like me when I was still a resident of the province, her imagination wandered away a little, calling the fog the void.
Driving through Fog
Location of our Blair Witch Project
It was cold! I was not sure I would enjoy the weekend. I would be happy to have a relaxing weekend. I did have, and I did enjoy reading my book. I must say though that it was not the resort’s fault. It was not the weather either. Perhaps, I wasn’t aligned with my traveling stars.
Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge
There is nothing wrong with the resort or our unit… except maybe one thing. I don’t think that the management or staff of the resort is strict with their rules. In the envelope we received upon check-in, is a notice, among others, that Crystal Springs is a family oriented resort and that it has a lot of animals roaming so noise must be kept within moderation. I would think that that applies to music played in the units. What I heard was worse than loud music in another unit. One group decided that they would ignore the fact that there were other people, and in front of the grocery store, near the restaurant area, they opened the trunk of their car and proceeded to play loud music. I don’t understand why people do that.
Activities and Facilities
For those who don’t mind, the resort may prove to be good. It offers a lot of activities and it has various facilities for the guests, although may not be totally for free, such as the Spa and Wellness Center, an adult’s only facility (which is strange because my friend and I take our kids to the spa), with two jacuzzis, a sauna, a steam room, heated pool, and gym.
There is also a games room with table tennis, pool tables, play stations, and board games. Alternatively, guests can watch sports, I suppose, on TV. Outdoor, there are floodlit tennis courts, squash, putt-putt and children’s playground. There are also two outdoor heated pools behind reception and three other pools in various locations to cater for the many guests considering it is a huge resort. We did check out the games room, the children’s playground and the putt-putt.
The resort has a game reserve and a game drive in an open vehicles with an experience game ranger can be booked at the reception. However, it seems that the game drives are not available every day as the entertainment program supplied to us specified the days, being Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. There are also four walking trails on the game reserve.
- Waterbuck Trail: Distance – 4.8 km; Difficulty – Easy
- Bushbuck Trail: Distance – 5.3 km; Difficulty – Medium
- Kudu Trail: Distance – 5.3 km; Difficulty – Medium to Difficult
- Klipspringer Trail: Distance – 5.3 km; Difficulty – Very Difficult
The resort organizes activities for the guests and the schedule for the week is provided to guests upon check in.
What I really appreciated was the fact that the resort has a restaurant, a pizzeria and a pub. Any other time, I might have used the restaurant and the pub, but during the weekend, we only went to the pizzeria. I still took pictures of all of them.
We did enjoy our pizzas. I definitely loved my Mexican one.
Our unit had two bedrooms. Although it is meant to be a 6-sleeper, the number actually allows for four adults and two children. The children would then take the couches in the lounge, I suppose. The view is stunning and without the cold, it would be nice to sit around in the balcony, from where, sometimes, animals may be spotted, as we did.
In winter, or when it’s a cold weekend, I would say purchase extra wood for the fireplace as the free wood supplied by the resort would not be sufficient.
I have not decided whether I would like to go back to Crystal Springs. There are so many lovely places in South Africa that are perfect for a weekend-away so perhaps not. However, if I do, for whatever reason, I hope the entrance looks like the image below, unlike the foggy void we had.
Wherever I am in Mpumalanga, I enjoy the view driving through the Panorama Route.
You might even encounter a strange creature guarding the bridge. Ha-ha! Kidding. That looks like a worker taking a nap at lunch time.
We did have to take a different road going back because we happened to drive back on the day farmers took to the road to protest so there was a bit of traffic and we avoided that. Instead, a short part of the new road had us driving through the beautiful jacaranda trees in bloom.
For an even more beautiful image, I will leave you with this stunning sunset.