Rolling hills covered were covered in winter’s golden grass, and gave way to a sky ablaze with hues of red and purple. The high vantage and open vistas made for a spectacular twilight, intensifying the break from city life. Last Friday afternoon, we left the rush of Joburg behind and were on our way to Mount Sheba Resort close to Pilgrim’s Rest.
Winter’s chill had set in by the time we arrived at 7pm. So the flavoursome butternut soup with a swirl of cream was the perfect entrée at dinner. The crackling fire complimented the atmosphere in the large thatched restaurant with its elegant tables. On our first evening, there were just a handful of guests, but the second evening was livelier. The chef kindly prepared a main meal that was not on the set menu. The locally caught trout melted like butter.
Back at the room, the fireplace had been lit and hot water bottles kept the comfy beds warm. My stay at Mount Sheba was the result of winning a prize on the popular Twitter chat, #TravelChatSA. Accommodation was complimentary, all else had to be paid for. The prize itself was unexpected, but being an eager traveller, was welcomed enthusiastically. To make the most of it, we decided to combine Mount Sheba with Manyeleti Game Reserve, bordering Kruger (more on that later).
We woke up to skies of brilliant blue. During a hearty breakfast at the poolside restaurant, samango monkeys provided entertainment in the trees. The lodge forms part of a nature reserve and has a network of hiking trails. Walking through a forest with yellowwoods, ferns and moss covered stumps, our first trail was Marco’s Mantle which passes two waterfalls. Birdsong punctuated the silence. Gola Gola Trail crisscrossed a boulder strewn stream and reached a waterfall plunging into a clear pool. Heading back to the hotel via the farm road, we detoured to the Old Diggings Trail. It was a steep descent to a small cave, what once must have been a prospector’s digging for gold.
Mount Sheba is not far from Pilgrims Rest, the town whose origins lead to a gold rush in the late 19th century. The now museum town makes for an interesting excursion. However, we didn’t leave the resort during our stay. Apart from the hotel, there are also timeshare cottages on the property. It’s managed by Forever Resorts. There was a sparkling pool, but it was too cold to plunge in. Instead there’s a sauna. Tennis and trout fishing are other activities to pass time.
We continued hiking in the afternoon, and chose to tackle the lookout trail. Following an eroded path through brown grasslands, we passed proteas that brought colour to the winter landscape. Mount Sheba skirts a forestry plantation, so wayward alien pines found their way on the lower reaches. In the distance, the extent of the plantations becomes noticeable, with most nearby hills covered in neat rows of pine. But the highlight of the trail is the expansive view of the escarpment mountains that make up the Blyde River Canyon reserve. Two klipspringer eyed us from the koppie behind as we watched the evening sun toast the landscape with a golden glow.
As I write this blog, I’m enjoying a view at my next destination, Manyeleti, enjoying the view of the waterhole from the lodge deck. More on that soon.