Thursday, May 09, 2013

South Africa 3: The beauty that is Panorama Route

In continuation from: The Wildings of Kruger

Brilliant South African Summer weather
We left Gomo Gomo game lodge as early as we could to be able to visit as many sites of Panoram route while driving back to Johannesburg. As it had been drizzling all morning, so the weather was still overcast with dark clouds all over us. All this made the already scenic drive even more beautiful almost coaxing us to stop and enjoy the weather.

Kadishi Tufa Waterfall
It took us some time reaching the Control gate of out part of Kruger Nationak Park as we saw a couple of giraffes staring at us from over the bush. Once we crossed the gate, we reached Hoedspruit in a hurry from where we moved onto R36 towards Ohrigstad. Even though we hardly had much time, but we decided to take a short break near the J. G. Strijdom tunnel before Abel Erasmus Pass. Here we browsed the curios and local craft-works while enjoying the nature and the unusual Tufa waterfall. Tufa waterfalls are formed over millions of years as water running over dolomite rocks deposits calcium as layers of tufa on the surface of waterfall. I later found out that this waterfall known as Kadishi Tufa Waterfall is the highest tufa waterfall in Africa.

Magnificent Blyde River Canyon
Next, we crossed the Abel Erasmus Pass and then took a left onto R532 from where the actual Panorama route probably starts. There are a number of attractions on Panorama route, we simply decided to visit them in the order they fell while we move on R532. After we had moved quite some distance where our GPS device started to tell us that we are near 'Three Rondavels', I just rolled down my window glass and tried to ask a local for the exact location. And just as I feared, he either didn't understand what I was asking for or didn't know where it was. So we decided to move a bit further ahead and thankfully we saw a board with 'Three Rondavels' pointing towards the left. A barrier was crossed where we paid a 5 ZAR fee and drove to the point where we saw cars parked and many curios shops all around. A short walk over the stone path towards the end of the cliff where I saw one of the most majestic view I have ever seen. It was the Blyde River Canyon with the deep blue shades of river matching perfectly with the dense green foliage over red sandstone rocks. Also, the slightly overcast weather brought a surreal effect to the entire scene.
Rock Formations: Three Rondavels
On the right side of this is the 'Three Rondavels' which is a rock formation that looks like three huts of indigenous people called 'rondavels'. We gave ourselves sometime to absorb the view in from of us and then moved towards the next attraction.
Bridges taking you to the potholes
Now that we knew that there are sign boards put up for these attractions on Panorama route, we simply moved ahead with an approximate idea of the distance we needed to move and wait for the boards to appear. Next, we reached 'Bourke's Luck Potholes' which are potholes and rock formations formed due to waters from Blyde and Treue rivers cutting through them. These cylindrical rock structures formed over the decades are named after a gold miner named Tom Burke who found some gold here. These formations in itself are significant but when you have just seen Blyde river canyon, you might find them a little underwhelming.

The Potholes
Moving further on this route took us to Berlin Falls. Though, its just a 80 meter fall on the Sabine river, its quite beautiful as the water falls over red sandstone cliffs amidst lush green grass.

Berlin Falls
Next, we took a slight detour from R534 to go to God's Window. While I am talking about all these attractions, I should also mention that its the route that we were driving on was no less exciting than these places in itself. God's window is basically a viewpoint on a cliff around 900 meter high from where one can have a brilliant view of Kruger Lowveld (lowlands) region and even as far as Mozambique on a clear day. However, when we visited this place, gods took it a bit literally and descended their clouds low enough to give us a feeling of walking in the clouds. Also, one needs a climb around 500 steps to reach the view point. Though, we didn't go there but one can also visit 'Wonder View' which is the highest viewing point in this area at an altitude of 1730 meters just 2 kms north of God's Window.

A cloudy God's Window
A few kilometers away from God's Window is another natural marvel that's the Pinnacle rock. Its a freestanding quartzite rock towering almost 50 meters above indigenous forests. To the right of the Pinnacle is a small waterfall on the Ngwaritsane river. We spent about 20-25 minutes here and then rushed to Lisbon falls as it was getting dark already. For Lisbon falls, we had to go back about 5 kilometers towards Hoedspruit on R532 and then took a left turn to reach Lisbon Falls. At lisbon falls, the river snakes through vegetation before splitting into three streams to fall almost 95 meters. This is the highest and the most beautiful waterfall in this region which has a number of waterfalls.

The Pinnacle
Looking at all the natural marvels in the Mpumalanga region is an overwhelming experience where each attraction seems as breathtaking as the last one. Even though we visited all these attractions in a single day because of lack of time at hand, I would recommend visitors to stay one night at either Hazyview or Pilgrim's Rest and visit these sites over two days at least. The town of Pilgrim's rest in itself was declared a provincial heritage site with most of its original architecture largely unchanged.

Lisbon Falls
The best way to enjoy Panorama Route would be to visit it while on your way to/from Kruger National Park with a night's stay at any of the tourist friendly town here. Take your time here. In most cases, you will visit this area only once in your life.

Continue reading the next part: Garden Route: Of Bloukrans Bungy and Nature's Valley

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