ROAD TRIP – SODWANA BAY (3)


Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State Province

Welcome to our road trip of December 2021. We are travelling by car across South Africa (from the west coast → north coast → KZN south coast → back to the west coast). The distance we will cover, will be around 5,000km (3,106 miles).

Our main purpose for this trip, besides seeing places we have not seen before, is for Berto to scuba dive in Sodwana Bay and then to be a little more adventurous … diving with sharks in the ocean in Umkomaas on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. We hope to share lots of pictures to show you our beautiful country.

Accommodation – Day 2 & 3:

Golden Gate Highlands National Park – Glen Reenen Rest Camp (outside Clarens, Free State Province)

We were woken up during the early morning hours with continuous thunder and lightning … and then hard rain for several hours. Hmm, I guess the hiking trip in the Maluti Mountains is not going to happen today 🙁.

Huge puddles of water outside our hut
Nature was crisp and green
Small waterfalls made their appearance in the mountains after hard and continuous rain

So, what would be our plan of action on such a stormy day? Well, exploring the nearby town sounded like a good option! We decided to drive back to Clarens (the closest town, about 17km from our hut).

The road back to Clarens … hmm, this is a proper rain storm

History on Clarens:

Clarens is a small town situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains and nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State”. It was established in 1912 and named after the town of Clarens in Switzerland where exiled Paul Kruger spent his last days.

Even on a rainy day, this little town was beautiful. We found parking in what seemed like the centre of town and ran in the rain to the closest coffee shop … and what a great choice (without knowing it)!

The Courtyard Café in Clarens:

This coffee shop/bakery is a true gem in Clarens. The service was friendly and the food looked so delicious! We bought our take away coffee and sat down at one of the tables while the rain was bucketing down outside.

Take away coffee in the Courtyard Cafe
Berto ordered fresh bread rolls

We waited for the hard rain to calm down, before walking swiftly to the next few shops. But soon, it appears we’re not going to miss out on the hard rain …

We spotted this unique attraction in the main square

After a while we realised that more exploring in the rain would leading to us being wet to the bone! We found a small grocery shop where we bought a few items before returning back to our hut at Golden Gate.

The road back to Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Berto prepared a delicious lunch for us. He took the leftover steak of last night and cut it up in strips, then frying them in a pan with garlic and adding Nando’s Bushveld Braai Sauce. We added these on top of the freshly baked buns we bought earlier in Clarens – what a winner on a cold and rainy day!

For the rest of the afternoon (while rain was pouring down), I read a book and Berto was looking at the map, to find various options of how we should plan our drive to Sodwana Bay.

It was only after 4 o’clock in the afternoon that the rain gave us a break to quickly head out with our car to see more of the Maluti Mountains.

Time to see the beautiful Maluti Mountains
While driving to a lookout point, we had some stunning scenery
Low mist was still covering some of the higher mountain peaks
And the road was …. well, WET

Eventually we came to the well-known ‘Brandwag Buttress’. This sandstone cliff adorns all the postcard of the park as it has a golden glow at sunrise and sunset, hence the name Golden Gate.

The magnificent Brandwag Buttress

There is a back-and-forth route from our camp to the top of the Brandwag Buttress, but in the rainy weather, it was not possible to hike to the top of this cliff. We therefor walked over to the lookout point and took a couple of pictures (before it started to rain again).

The Golden Gate Hotel with another magnificent mountain as a backdrop

We then needed to hurry back to our hut as the thunderstorms were back, followed by heavy rain. When we got out of our car in front of our hut, we heard a roar of water … we got back in the car and drove on the road to the back of our hut. Here we saw a waterfall running into a natural rock pool – which I doubt anyone will enjoy today.

Water roaring over the cliffs
The natural rock pool is in such a beautiful environment

It was time to get back to the hut again – the only dry place at the moment! Berto prepared a delicious chicken pasta dish while we enjoyed a bottle of red wine.

Tomorrow, we will continue on our journey to reach Sodwana Bay. We will spend a week here – for Berto to explore some stunning scuba diving spots, while I will be enjoying long walks on the beach.

So, I guess … we’ll see you on the beach in our next post!

Categories: South African Break Aways

50 comments

  1. Dis ‘n magiese plek. Daar waar mens die hemel in jou hare voel. Het julle die mooi engelgrafsteen besoek? Jy laat my lekkerte met my man en kind onthou. In Golden Gate en ‘n viermantent, baie reën en twee verdwaalde Tsjegge. Ek gaan die storie sommer gou blog. Veilig reis.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Stormy and rainy but it was great outing. I love seeing the water running down the hill .The chicken pasta looks yummy .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All in all a good day despite the rain. I like the rectangular frames for great photo ops. South Africa is the only country that has them that I know of. I bet Cape Town could use some of that rain if the drought hasn’t broken.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely John – it was a great day! That’s interesting – I thought we got the idea of the yellow frames from overseas … but you’re right, I love that idea. We were very fortunate, Cape Town had a really wet winter this year – so I think the worst of the drought is broken (most of the dams were 100% full by the end of the season).

      Like

  4. O ja, ‘n Karoonag is weer in ‘n ander liga, ware sielerus en verwondering en glo.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like you had a great day in spite of the rain. Those mountains! Wow; they are stunning! Gorgeous photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Die Maluti Berge is ongelooflik mooi en ek hou so baie van die formasies wat mens daar kan sien. Die omgewing is so mooi groen en alhet dit gereen het julle een van ons mooi dele van ons land beleef. Die watervalletjies en die hele omgewing het so baie herhinneringe by my opgebring! Geniet julle tyd by Sodwana!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A shame about the rain but you made the best of it with delicious meals in your cosy hut (my mouth always waters at the sight of Berto’s concoctions!) and a brief visit to those dramatic mountains. They actually look really beautiful with that low mist over them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sarah 🌸. Yes, come rain or shine, we always try to find ways to enjoy our stay at new places! The low mist did some magic tricks with the mountains – I think it added a bit of drama! Ah, Berto’s food … I love these impromptu meals that he always puts together ☺️.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I find it’s so hard to motivate myself to do anything outside when it’s raining. I’m glad you were at least able to visit Maluti Mountains as they look gorgeous!! Hopefully you get better weather at the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! I’m not the biggest fan of going out in the rain (maybe because we’re not really used to it here in South Africa 😉). But the mountains did look amazing – even in the rain! Oh yes, the weather at the beach is GREAT!! Just what you want when you’re going to the sea!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, you certainly didn’t let the weather stop you. More wonderful landscapes, especially those hills hanging in the mist. I would have helped myself to several of those strawberry custard delights. Onwards, upwards and drywards for the beach leg!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we forgot that we were travelling to a region with summer rainfall 😁. But it was still a wonderful experience and we enjoyed our (short) time there! Oh my, those treats in the bakery … that smell … yumminess in overload! Indeed, the beach is calling ⛱⛱.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Love those mountains. What a shame you didn’t have better weather, but maybe it gives you an excuse to go back. All the images of food made me feel hungry! It all looks so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve been to several mountain ranges here in South Africa, but never before we saw something so amazing like these mountains! We will definitely have to go back (a great excuse)! That bakery was a delightful surprise … I wish I could buy one of each, but that would have been sugar in overload 😄.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Your trip just looks so epic. The bad weather just makes it more moody, I like it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Looks like you had a great time despite the rainy weather 🙂 I’ve never heard about Sodwana Bay and I have to say that it looks like a beautiful unspoilt jewel with those unique rock formations! Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Much greener than when you started out and the scenery is stunning!
    I work with a South African guy that brings in Koeksisters that he and his friends make. They’re delicious and very moorish!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Even with the torrential rain, it looks just amazing. What a wonderful adventure you having

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The red in the cliffs and wispy clouds are beautiful. It was a good call to go into town, and find a great coffee shop. The goodies looks delicious. Hope the skies clear up for future explorations.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. These mountains are sooo stunning… these posts are making me missing so much the pleasure of driving!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, those mountains are indeed stunning! We will have to go back one day to do some of the hiking trails (when it’s not raining). Driving definitely giving us the freedom of visiting places we won’t be able to see when flying … you just need to have time 😄.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thunder and lightening feel so powerful and dramatic, so much part of our land. I so enjoy a good thunder storm.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Such a stunning share Corna, thank you so much 🌸💕 I have more reason to visit beautiful Clarens and the images of it in the rain is stunning. A must and on my list as it’s about 3 hours away from where I am. Happy holidays to you and hubby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you like our pictures of Clarens in the rain Henrietta! We wish we could explore more of this beautiful little town, but the hard rain just made it impossible. Oh yes, you must certainly make an effort of visiting this stunning place – it’s great that this is so close to you!
      Thank you for reading and have a great time with your family as well 🌸.

      Liked by 1 person

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