The Midlands Meander and Granny Mouse
It’s called the Midlands Meander, and I was doing just that a couple of weeks ago – meandering through the valleys and hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where quaint villages lie cheek by jowl with historic battle sites; where a tiny independent brewery is just over the road from cheese farms and potteries; and where you can buy handmade leather shoes and bags, go on a horse trail, try your hand at clay-pigeon shooting, take the kids fishing for a day, swing through the forest like Tarzan, go sailing on a mighty dam, enjoy great country cooking, or visit a museum.
The green fields, cottages, tiny villages and munching cows will remind you of parts of Europe – but Africa is always present ...
Or do what I did – just arm yourself with the Midlands Meander map (any local tourist office or your accommodation hosts will have one) and take yourself off for a leisurely day or two pottering about this lovely part of the country.
The green fields, cottages, tiny villages and munching cows will remind you of parts of Europe, but Africa is always present – at the Mandela Capture Site where Nelson Mandela began his 27 long years of captivity, or at one of the famous Brit/Boer or Brit/Zulu battlefields, or when you notice that the grazing cattle belong to the legendary Nguni breed.
So forget the glitzy malls and buzzing cities, international cuisine and urban stuff, and spend a day or two (more if possible) mooching around the Midlands. There are literally hundreds of arts, craft and décor outlets, leisure activities and agri-tourism centres.
There are also plenty of places to stay, from farm cottages to award-winning country houses. One of the best known of these is Granny Mouse Country House & Spa in Caversham Valley in Balgowan, where, from the moment you step inside the front door, it really does feel like coming home. Shining silver, vases of freshly picked flowers, nooks and crannies, log fires, beds to sink into and gourmet cooking have made this delightfully welcoming establishment one of South Africa’s favourite places to stay in the area.
Me? I came away with a handmade red leather handbag, some local cheeses, some African wind chimes, a handcrafted wooden bowl, a heavenly hammock and – an empty purse ... but wonderful memories.