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:
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 🙁.
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).
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!