Accommodation in Hartbeespoort Dam

Taryn Cohn

The thing about living in Jo’burg is that you tend to forget how quick and easy it can be to nip out of the city for a much needed break. Here we plan ahead- we have meetings about meetings, and talks about talks. An unplanned weekend away is a little too Cape Town for our taste!  And yet, around August or September, the city starts to wear on even the most hardened Jo’burger- it’s time to get away before you lose your cool at another taxi driver or start behaving like Gareth Cliff every time someone asks how you are!

There are in fact places to go that don’t require Padkos or a plane ticket- places that one can manage in a drive that takes almost less time than the gridlocked commute to work.

Let’s start at Hartebeespoort nestled at the foot of the Magaliesburg. Something about being near water makes one instantly relax and decide you look really good in white linen (despite what your mom said!). Less than an hour’s drive from Jozi (yes, less than 1 hour) is the town of Hartebeespoort. Whether you are into watersports or just like to look at others frolicking on the dam, it’s worth the drive.

I’m not really into watersports- well any sports, and staying at Meerhof Lodge it was more fun to stay in than to go out! The usual array of Jacuzzi’s, garden braai enclaves and plunge pools that one should expect from a weekend retreat were on offer. A range of hotel style and self catering options allows you to take it at your own pace. Of course the requisite fourposter bed, and bath tub big enough to do laps made staying in a better idea.

Meerhof is at the Crocodile River entrance into Hartbeespoort and central to all activities around Hartbeespoort. Facing the Magaliesberg Mountains, our little balcony enjoyed the beautiful sunsets over the waters of Hartbeespoort.  And for trainspottters amoung us, the lodge is on the Bird sanctuary in Meerhof.
But what makes Harties interesting for me is the people you find. It’s favoured as a retirement spot for Jo’burgers who still need quick access to the important things in life like Sandton City and good theatre.  If you scratch the surface of many a B & B owner you are likely to be pleasantly surprised.

Meerhof Lodge is run by Mike Benn - a retired FMCG exec of the eighties “heydays”, when advertising was the career “de jour” and expense accounts and dramatic product launches promised lives of abundance and MSG. Conjuring images of Thirty Something our short chat with Mike brought it all back.  This man is responsible for all sorts of life’s necessities like Nik Naks, Beechies and Pringles. I do owe him a debt of gratitude (although can we discuss the tomato Nik Naks for a second… ?)

Now retired, Mike, who is also the voice chair of the Hartebeespoort Tourism Association, is indulging his passion for people in a new way theatre and small town hospitality.  “Stoepsit” is presented by the Lodge on a regular basis. Locals with an interest in the theatrical take the stage in the grand tradition of Herman Charles Bosman’s storytelling. This adventure will set you back R 150-00 for an evening of entertainment and a three course dinner- on the Stoep, of course.  Having just presented “Oom Paul Kruger se stories” offerings include on occasion hosting authors of books and other luminaries. It’s a night to remember- or so I am told. In addition to local enthusiasts, the stoepsit stage has hosted the likes of the great (and sadly late) Patrick Mynhardt.

For the more adventurous, the area offers a host of extreme activities (and some very extreme shopping). And a drive through the tunnel and over the dam wall is always a must. (don’t forget to hoot!).

Animal lovers among us may enjoy visiting the Snake and Animal park (although I prefer my snakes faux, and strictly as shoes). The Snake and Animal Park also arrange cruises and boat tours on the lake. Bush Babies monkey sanctuary is also worth the visit, as is the world respected De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre that runs an international cheetah breeding programme.

Balloon Safari’s are a once in a lifetime experience (and as I have a long lifetime still ahead I enjoyed watching from the ground) and a canopy treetop tour is a way to treat an adrenaline junkie (and torture a manicure). Hikes and walking paths are to be found all over, but I recommend you contact the JHB hiking club for advice before launching up the mountain! They also organise regular group hikes in the area.

Doing things the Joburg way I headed straight for the Welwitchia Fleamarket and hit the jackpot on leather belts. And for the local foodies, a visit to the Van Gaalen Cheese Factory can be enjoyed with a picnic basket lunch on the premises.  (book a day in advance).

Either way, there is a lot to do in a place that is top of my list for getting away to do nothing!
Easy Breaks - Hartebeespoort
Copyright © 2009 | All rights reserved 
  |   Links Directory  |  Sitemap
Join Finding Africa on Facebook
  Video Diaries     
Video diaries on Youtube