Paul & Rebecca's Travel Journal - A Brief Break travel blog

Back to Nelspruit. We checked into the Funky Monkey hostel and decided not to tent it anymore, so we treated ourselves to a double room. It was evening when we arrived so we just settled down for the night. The Funky Monkey was a step up from the last dodgy place we stayed in while in Nelspruit. The rooms were nice; there was a pool, a bar and a nice communal kitchen.

We spent the next day in Nelspruit running errands. We loaded up on groceries; I got my haircut; and we worked on our journal. We really didn’t have any plans for the afternoon, so the hairdresser recommended that we visit some of the little tourist towns north of Nelspruit in the area known as the Klein Drakensberg. She told us it was only a 15-minute drive, so we decided to check the area out.

The Klein Drakensberg, or the Drakensberg Escarpment as it is also known, marks the point where the highlands plunge down 1000m before becoming the lowveld. It is a picturesque and scenic area known for its canyons and waterfalls. It is a fairly big tourist destination for South Africans, but the area doesn’t seem to see a lot of international tourists.

We drove to Graskop. The drive took a lot longer than the 15 minutes suggested by the hairdresser. And the road up was filled with logging trucks, so it wasn’t really a relaxing drive. Entering the town of Graskop was little entering the twilight zone. We felt like we were immediately transported to the backwoods of Alabama or the Smokey Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. If there is such a thing as a Boer Redneck, then this is probably where they live. We got a lot of weird looks from the locals, who were very weird looking themselves. The gene pool here must be more of a puddle. We kept hearing the dueling banjos theme from Deliverance, but it must have been in our heads.

We stopped into the tourist office, which doubled as a small souvenir shop with a lot of stuffed animals and other hunting trophies. The large fat man manning the tourist booth had very little to tell us, despite talking non stop since we walked in. He did, however, tell us that big rainstorms had been forecasted for the next few days, making it tough for us to visit the waterfalls or Blyde River Canyon.

We continued on to the town of Sabie, stopping in at a local cooperative to buy some gifts. We felt it was important to support the little enterprise and picked up a couple of small, nice gifts. It wasn’t quite nice enough to visit the Mac Mac Falls or swim in the Mac Mac pools, so we decided to turn around and return to Nelspruit.

We checked out the next morning, loaded up the car and followed out route from the day before. We had heard good things about the small town of Pilgrim’s Rest. Pilgrim’s Rest is an old gold mining town that lived from 1873 to 1972. When the gold supply was exhausted, the government bought the town and Pilgrim’s Rest is now a living museum. It has since been designated as a national monument. Historic buildings line the quaint main street housing craft markets and cafes.

Tragedy had struck the night before, and one of the most prominent historical buildings on Main Street was a smoking, smoldering heap. Across the street, South Africans were dressing up as old Boer farmers or solders and posing for pictures. Most of them already had the prerequisite big bushy beard. I had a feeling that most of them came from Graskop. We had a great lunch with some pies and coffee, then got back in the car and started down the N4 towards the capital of Pretoria.

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