Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route is aptly named – it boasts some of the country’s most scenic vistas across the Blyde River Canyon from the Klein Drakensberg escarpment. We travelled along the R532 down the length of the Canyon, starting right at the top at Drie Rondawels, all the way down to the Pinnacle near Graskop. A really good map of the area and it’s attractions can be found here.
A few years ago, the sites were all open to the public and free to visit, but while the country was gearing up for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, everything was closed off by fences and a fee of usually R10 per person is now charged everywhere you go. Make sure the gate guard gives you a receipt, otherwise these fees end up in his back pocket, as we noticed on one occasion.
At all of these sites you will find local arts and crafts up for sale, ranging from beadwork and wooden jewellery to hand-carved animals and bowls. They make great souvenirs and help the local economy, but please make sure that what you buy is locally produced and wasn’t imported from somewhere else in Africa. Although bartering isn’t the norm in South Africa, you could perhaps knock off R10 or so from the original asking price if you’re persistent enough.
Our first stop was Drie Rondawels, three mountain peaks so named because they look like rondawels, round huts with thatch roofs. As you can see, the view from the top of the mountain over the valley is spectacular. Gareth was somewhat cautious of the rickety railing that is all that’s between you and a very long drop to the bottom, and didn’t like me ignoring it and walking past it to take the second photo at all.
Next stop on the route is God’s Window. If you visit on a day when the sun shines brightly and the sky is clear, you can see all the way to Swaziland. Unfortunately for us and even though we had already paid the entrance fee, by the time we got there the mist had settled and we could barely see our own hands in front of our faces. I have visited this vantage point many times before, but it was Gareth’s first time, so he was quite disappointed. Oh well, guess we will just have to come again sometime soon.
Because of the mist, we decided to just drive past the Pinnacle, a tower-like rock buttress that juts up from the surrounding forest.
By the time we reached Graskop to stop for lunch, the mist had lifted again. How typical…
Have you explored the Panorama Route? Did you enjoy the views that we missed during the mist? What other sights can you recommend in the area?