Spring is one of the best times in the year to discover all that Magoebaskloof has to offer with the floral display at Cheerio Gardens, a funky and fun Art Exhibition, as well as the Spring Festival at the Magoebaskloof Hotel and Haenertsburg Village. Once you have filled up on food, fun and festivities, you can pack a picnic and head for the hills… or the mountain tops… the forests or waterfalls. On a sun-shiney day, the sky’s the limit. But let’s face it, you will need a giant basket to carry all your locally-grown and homemade, tempting treats from biltong to blueberry pie.
Start your quest for deliciousness at Stella’s Farm Deli - you can’t miss it - it’s the huge log cabin structure at the Haenertsburg crossroads on the R71. You won’t know what to choose first, so start with some of the Stylkop ‘geelvet’ biltong and go from there. It is well-spiced with pepper and coriander, and you can choose whether it should be thinly-sliced or chunky, fatty, wet or dry. Also pack in a jar of divine duck liver paté made locally by Bittersweet, some cold meats, pestos and macadamia nuts. If you still have a chicken wing or two from last night’s braai, grab a jar of Magriet’s Jalapeno paste and spice up your life. Or, if you fancy a sweet treat, go for their apricot jam (#TheBestEver) for that last corner of bread or some of their fun and funky iced cookies - the most popular are the coffee bean cookies. Back in the parking area, stop in at the quaint Swiss-cabin Cheese stall open over the weekend for yummy organic cheeses, olives and chorizo from the Wegraakbosch Organic Farm and Dairy up the road.
Next stop on your mission for the perfect picnic hamper, head up the High Street in Haenertsburg, stopping in at T-mart and Foodzone for the crackers and crisps as well as Safari Liquor for the local Zwakala Craft Beers and Rhino Beetle or Old Packhouse Gins in their wide selection. They also have a secret back room with some goodies for snacks by the braai fire and perfect picnic fare like Bittersweet’s Handmade Kalamata Olive Tapenade or Macadamia Nut Shortbread. Horst Dombrock of Bittersweet says, ‘all products are made by my hands only with lots of love and the very best ingredients.’ He has a great passion for the community and mountains of Magoebaskoof, having arrived in January 1981 to manage the Magoebaskloof Hotel and running Picassos (now Pancake House) for three years.
Focussing on the last of the key ingredients… freshly baked bread, Klippiesveld goats cheese balls, more-ish pastries and trout paté from The Eatery and the best-of-the-best brownies from The Red Plate. I will share some inside info with you… they also have a fridge packed to the brim with absolutely yummy frozen meals like chicken and pesto lasagne, cottage pie, butternut or bacon and potato soup and butter chicken with rice. If you are at a self-catering venue and don’t feel like heading out to one of the local restaurants, this is an obvious option! At Peggy’s Morning Market near the Red Plate, on Friday and Saturday mornings, you can pick up a homemade pie, quiche or tart and relishes, jams and an onion marmalade which is pure addiction in a bottle.
If your accommodation is on the other side of ‘The Mountain’, The Magoebaskloof Farmstall hugged in a curve of the winding Magoebaskloof Pass on the R71 is the perfect place to pick up local foodie treats or scan the shelves for the homecrafted, eco friendly and handmade. Grab some hot Shama sauce to spice up your picnic.
Now choose a picnic venue that will suit your crew. A Spring surprise is Sequoia Garden Retreat on Cheerio Road (L Road) - one of those rare places where you feel as if you could be the only person on the planet.. birdsong, the sound of happy bees on blooms and a slight rustling of leaves lifted by a breeze.... it is a balm for the soul and perfect for a solo stroll or romantic picnic with your beloved. Walking quietly through the meandering maze of azaleas above a small dam at Sequoia, you can hear nothing apart from your own heartbeat. The silence is absorbed into every cell of your body as it resets from stressed-out to serene.
But the flowers... a blaze of colour from azaleas to cherry blossoms. Six hectares of wild and formal gardens have hidden corners with a spiraling labyrinth beneath a shady tree, a Liquid Amber Avenue, benches tucked into the embrace of a whoosh of wildflowers and a kayak or two pulled up on the bank of a picturesque dam, make it a great place for a family feast.
Spring is worth celebrating with all your senses at Sequoia Garden Retreat, but they only accept prior bookings for garden visits and picnics so connect with them on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the fee for your group. DAY VISITORS BY PRE-BOOKING ONLY. Another romantic option on Cheerio Road is The Nook on THOMAC Essential Oils Farm where they provide lovely picnic baskets (BOOK IN ADVANCE: call Julie on 073 223 6256 )
Looking for spectacular scenery ‘beyond your imagination’? Head to the Waterwheel Country Retreat near Magoebaskloof Adventures on the George’s Valley Road (R528). This unique mountain hideaway will take your breath away and is a perfect place for families with a play-park for kids, a boma for a braai and a trout dam if you want to try your luck. If you are a couple looking for a quiet picnic spot, take the nature trail through the riverine forest towards the waterfall. There are several picnic spots near small streams - some have beautiful mossy rocks and ferns and others are tucked into colourful lichen-covered boulders on a wild flower carpet. Day visitor fee is R50.00 per person, kids under 12 are free. If you want to enjoy the raft ride to the waterfall, it is R250.00 for up to 5 people. DAY VISITORS BY PRE-BOOKING ONLY: Call Rolene on 081 048 4841 or Ian on 074 024 6519. (www.waterwheel.co.za) Just down the road, at Magoebaskloof Adventures and Canopy Tour, you can braai or picnic looking out into the gorge. PRE BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL: 083 866 1546)
Dap Naude Dam - Take the scenic route through Woodbush Forest to Dap Naude Dam. (a piece of the P road from Boscobel Cottages has fallen away so you can’t take that route) There is a lovely picnic site alongside the river under a copse of trees.
Debengeni Waterfall - Just off the R71, near Tzaneen, the signpost to Debengeni Waterfalls takes you on a dirt road (high clearance vehicles preferable) to the last stretches of the Woodbush Forest and a spectacular waterfall. For a small entrance fee, (R30) you can take scenic short walks around the falls and enjoy a picnic at the picnic tables, but no braais, alcohol or swimming are allowed.
Long Tom Monument - follow the Wegraakbosch road (M road), to the cleared grass and monument on the right. This off-the-beaten track spot is the site of the cannonball crater left by a Long Tom Siege Gun used in the Anglo Boer war. It’s a great choice for a family with kids who want to let off some steam and have the space to play or kick a ball around, while you enjoy the views from your picnic table.
If you prefer to wander far away from the crowds, head up to the top of one of the many mountain peaks for soaring views and a champagne picnic for two. Or if you want a spoil, book a gourmet picnic at Graceland Eco Retreat (Q road, Houtbosdorp). The picnic platter consists of six tapas dishes of carefully selected items that can be enjoyed after a hike though the magnificent mountain bushveld of the Kudu’s River Valley. Or just come and enjoy the picnic with resident Giraffes, Elvis, Priscilla and family. For more information, visit www.gracelandeco.co.za. BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL: WhatsApp: 083 277 5553
Whatever it is you choose to do, you will be enchanted by the spectacular scenery, delicious foodie treats, larger-than-life locals and Spring at its most flamboyant.
P.S. If you are longing for the flavours of Limpopo long after you get home, just go online and order a selection of avocados, macadamia and pecan nuts, raw honey or mango strips couriered straight to your door. www.freshfromthefarmza.co.za