We arrived at the Thabe Tsweni Lodge around 4:00 and it was perfect.Thabe Tsweni means "baboons on rocks"The cost for a two bedroom chalet with full kitchen is 630 rand ($63/night).That's about medium on the price range.It's also only 9km away from Graskop where we can grocery shop, gift shop and eat at a variety of restaurants.We are in the Mpumalanga province of South Arica in the Drakensberg escarpment and Blyde River Canyon area. The area is beautiful and is best known for being the location of the first mining spots back in the early Gold "Rush" days.We are just west of Kruger Park across from the South portion of the park.
The lodge was just what we needed, except for one thing.We requested internet as one of our criteria and there was a bit of a semantics issue.Our idea of internet is wireless in our chalet and their idea of providing internet is " come on up to the house if you need to check your e-mail" .We were not happy.We were depending on this to firm up our Thailand itinerary, which was basically no itinerary at this point, Brent needed to work on Real Estate classes on line and I needed to be able to work online e-mailing, paying bills, etc.We didn't want to sound like spoiled Americans,but this is not a get away vacation for us.We do need the internet to get some of our work done.We are trying to figure something out.
We went into town and did our grocery shopping for the week and found a restaurant called the Loco Pub and Coachman Grill where we had full meals and drinks for under $28 including tip.
We weren't moving too fast today.I woke up about 6:30 this morning and rigged yet another coffee filtering device.We have to set up a small laboratory to get a cup of filtered coffee.Yes, we are spoiled Americans, it's so pathetic.Actually, I don't mean to complain, it's more of a statement at to what lengths people will go to just to have something familiar.After my well deserved cup of coffee, I grabbed a chair and sat outside.It was a beautiful morning and the flowers and lawn were well manicured and the view of the mountains in the distance was picturesque.It was nice and quiet for a few minutes.
The rest of the family started stirring around 7:00 and Emma insisted she serve us all, even Sam, breakfast in bed.She carefully peeled the peaches and diced the bananas, poured the mueslix in a small bowl, and spooned the yogurt on top.Then added a drizzle of honey and voila, breakfast was served.It was yummy!
We attempted a little homeschooling.Emma trying to catch up on her journal while Sam read an "Arthur" book to Brent.Then the kids ran out and played on the playscape on the property while mom and dad ate some lunch and packed the backpack.
We took off to town to get charcoal for the braai and more cash.We then drove on the 534 to "God's Window" in the Blyde River Canyon Reserve.It's a beautiful spot where one can look out over the mountains down to the valley below and across all the way to Mozambique.It was breathtaking.As I looked out to forever, I envied the birds.We then drove to Lisbon Falls off the 532 and paid 10 rand ($1) to take a peak at the falls and have a short hike.The falls were amazing.We left there and went to the Berlin Falls a little further down off of 532 away from Graskop, near our lodge.Again, we paid the 10 rand and were able to walk around the top of the falls.We got a good workout on that walk.The weather was nice, a little cool, sunny and breezy.
We then drove back to our lodge and rested.Brent grilled steaks on the braai and we set outside for most of the evening.It was a lovely day.
November 3, 2008
We had a little electricity outage last night, so it was pitch dark after 8:30 except for the candle and a couple of flashlights we had.I had a hard time going to sleep knowing if Sam woke up he would be so scared and I just couldn't sleep.Sure enough I hear crying sometime in the night and help Sam to the bathroom and lay down with him until he fell asleep.A few minutes later the electricity came on and it was about 2:30 a.m. I couldn't sleep, so I sat up and ran my book, Pillars of the Earth until I went back to sleep.Needless to say, I was dragging this morning.I woke to Emma and Brent preparing breakfast.The only problem was the bacon smelled funny and no matter how hard they were trying, the pancakes were sticking to the pans.I tried to help out and tried two different pans and none of them worked.It was frustrating, another strike against this place.We gave up, pack the backpack, and headed out to town to have breakfast.We ate at the Autumn Breath in Graskop.The B&B was on the main street with tables set outside with bright, yellow, cheery cloths.We had passed it several times and mentioned that we should eat breakfast there sometime, so we decided to stop there and eat.The food was great and the hosts, Johann and Ina were very helpful and gave us some great information.
We left there and stopped at the internet café and information center to check e-mail and inquire about game reserves.We decided to leave our lodge a day early and book and overnight stay at the Kapama Private Game Reserve just north of where we are staying.It is located off the R40 just south of Houdspreit.The costwas 1550 rand/adult and 775/child which included two lunches, dinner and breakfast.We were relieved to have something finally booked and a morning and night game drive scheduled.
We then took off for Pilgrim's Rest, an historic mining town off the R533.It is located about 17km west of Graskop.We stopped by the museum where excavated artifacts, old mining pictures, old tools and machines and mining information was displayed.The Jacaranda trees with their purple flowers were in full bloom and lined the narrow street while nice boutiques were in business with their inflated prices.The Market stalls were also set up with their repetitive curios and trinkets.
We left there and drove to the Mt. Sheba hotel in the mountains.The resort, called the Forever Resort, took forever to get there.I was still kind of dragging from my sleepless night and we were hungry.We were the only customers at the pool restaurant, and I know why.The food took, well, forever to get out and it was dreadful.We took a few pictures and then headed back home.
On the way home we stopped at a swimming hole.Small falls and rapids surrounded clear swimming holes.The kids loved it.We saw something between a field mouse and chipmunk scampering across the dry, flat rocks.We also saw a million tadpoles, a couple of crabs and a snake in the water.After all of that excitement, we got back in the car and arrived at our lodge around 5:00p.m where I promptly sat down and started blogging.Trying to be disciplined, too bad I'm so far behind!
November 4th, 2008
It's foggy, cold rainy today.We went without electricity again last night as another big storm rolled in.We were able to use our host's computer with her internet all today.She had to go in for a chemo treatment today, so she loaned us her computer.She has been very accommodating and it was nice to have internet, albeit the slowest internet on earth, but we weren't going anywhere today due to the weather.While we were experiencing a not so exciting day cooped up in the lodge, our good old USA was making history with our 2008 presidential election.We had our first African American presidential candidate representing the Democrats and our first female vice president nominee on the Republican side.Either way something truly historical was going to happen.This election saw, I believe, the biggest voter turn out in history.We were pulling for Obama and as you know he ended up winning by almost a landslide.He's got a lot to do in the next four years, but I am excited for the change in leadership.Thanks to the country of Botswana in Africa, MSNBC was broadcasting from their TV station and we were able to watch the election coverage.
November 5th, 2008
Another gloomy day and the electricity was off in the morning.I didn't sleep well at all and was a bit of a grump that morning.The kids did a little school work and we decided to go into town to find some internet and see if there was anything we might want to purchase that we hadn't already seen a million times at the markets.
We kind of found internet, but that's another story.We were able to check e-mail and confirm some of our travel plans.Then the electricity went off in the town of Graskop and we decided to just get in the car and drive.I was a little down from the weather and lack of sleep, so when we got to Sabie and found electricity and an interesting old book store along with a little sunshine, I know at least my spirits lifted a bit.We walked over to a pub and sat outside having some snacks and playing cards together.It turned out to be quite a nice day together and we found the town of Sabie to be friendly and quaint.
We made it back to our lodge and finished off everything in the fridge and got ready for bed.
The weather forecast was more hopeful today and we were happy about that.We had plans to drive to the Blyde River Canyon Dam to take a boat ride.We started on the R532 and stopped off at Bourke's Lucks Potholes.As we pulled up there were your typically roadside vendors selling wood statues and African jewelry but we decided to bypass them since it was our Nteenth one to come across.It was fairly warm as we made our way down to the Potholes.This was one of the first places drilling occurred during the 1920's gold rush.Bourke was not only lucky to find this place for gold but he was also lucky to work around such beautiful terrain.The mountains surrounding this area are phenomenal and the water flows clay red through the canyon much like the Colorado river through areas of the Grand Canyon.There wasn't a formal tour but we enjoyed walking around the site and exploring the areas where drilling had occurred.The kids enjoyed finding fool's gold and Brent actually believed he found a real gold nugget.However, Sam thought it was just a rock and threw it back into the river.I guess we will never know.After we left this site we headed towards the Blyde River Canyon Dam.On the way there we drove through the Strijdom Tunnel on the R36.We arrived about two hours prior to the 3 pm boat ride so we made our way to the Blyde River Canyon Resort.Another Forever Resort within the area.The kids enjoyed themselves after changing into their swim costumes and taking a little dip in the resort pool.
We boarded the boat at 3:00 and saw one crocodile and three hippos with only their bulging eyes poking out of the water.The Ohrigstad and the Blyde river actually merge around the Blyde Damn.There was one small water flowing over some porous stone that I didn't understand what he said it was.He was speaking English, but Brent and I both had a hard time understanding him.It wasn't our most interesting experience, but I enjoyed being down in the canyon looking from the bottom up.
We left there and went into Graskop for dinner at a Portuguese restaurant called Cachimba, which turned out to be pretty good.
November 7th 2008
We left Thaba Tsweni this morning and I think we were ready to go.We went into Graskop for breakfast and to get one more drop out of the internet café.We were so looking forward to the private game reserve and to leave South Africa with a bang!