Pictures from the Blyde River Canyon
October 14 Olifants Camp to Hoedspruit
October 15 Blyde River Canyon
October 16 Hoedspruit to Swaziland
The driveway to Trackers Mountain Lodge, where we stayed for two nights, was a hand-built affair consisting of two parallel concrete strips. It took nearly ten minutes to drive from the front gate to the lodge on this road.
The lodge itself was a house high up on the slope, commanding a panoramic view over the lowveld around Hoedspruit. This part of the lowveld is agricultural, and these days that means agri-tech things like fields entirely covered by white plastic sheeting and high-intensity lighting at night. We stayed in a rondavel just a short walk downhill from the lodge.
Growing in the lodge's property were Black Monkey Orange bushes. The fruits of this bush are about the size, and hardness, of a cricket ball.
Our rondavel faced east, towards a more natural view of the north end of the Drakensberg range. The Drakensbergs do not just fade away into the dust of the lowveld; they are just as rugged here as they are around Lesotho and form a steep escarpment. Much of the history of Afrikaner settlement of this area deals with their struggles to find ways through the range.
Because there are rivers flowing through narrow canyons from the top of the escarpment, it was natural for people to dam those rivers for irrigation and power generation. The Blydepoort Dam is just up the hill from Trackers and creates a beautiful reservoir surrounded by cliffs and mountains.
In Kruger Park we were required to stay in the car while outside of rest camps, so we had done no hiking except for one morning game walk. So we decided to do a little walking, a 2-kilometre trail from the road near Blydepoort to this waterfall.
We started our “Blyde River” drive at the town of Sabie, up in the hills amid plantations of pine and gum trees. At St. Peter’s Church there was an ancient jacaranda tree, which had just about finished flowering, and not much else of interest.
Heading north from Sabie there was a cluster of waterfalls. We took a short side trip to visit one of them, Lone Creek Falls, which was 68 metres high. There was no hiking required to see this waterfall, only a short paved trail from the parking lot.
North of Graskop we started to get to the scenic part of our day. Near God’s Window there was a rocky pillar at the top of a narrow gorge.
God’s Window itself is a narrow gorge sweeping down from the top of the escarpment into a broad valley and eventually down to the lowveld in the distance. But when we were there it was hazy, so the view was less spectacular than it might otherwise have been.
At God’s Window there is a tiny bit of “rain forest” vegetation. There we saw this member of the amaryllis family; it was the easiest flower we ever identified in South Africa, because our wildflower book specifically said that it was very common at the God’s Window lookout.
Further north along the escarpment we stopped at Bourke’s Luck Potholes. These potholes are located near where the Blyde and Treur rivers come together in a flat rocky area, and they have eroded canyons festooned with potholes of all sizes. “Blyde” (Joy), “Treur” (Sorrow), and “Bourke” are all part of one of the stories of Afrikaner settlement.
The last, and most famous, of our stops was at the Three Rondavels viewpoint. We had planned to arrive here in late afternoon, when the light for photography would be better, but we cut it close, arriving just ten minutes before the 5 pm closing time. There is a story behind the Three Rondavels, too, but not an Afrikaner story. This one involves a local chief with three wives; each of the round mountains bears the name of one of the wives.