It's ironic how a province where the sun rises is also often one of the coldest.
A recent trip affirmed this while en route to discover the province where the Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa and CEO of South African Tourism, Sisa Ntshona recently launched Tourism Month with the main aim to boost the country’s economy.
Although this was my first time in Mpumalanga, two of my close friends have by now gotten over the urge to invite me to this province after countless invites have gone unanswered, but I am glad I took this one.
Here's the thing, I am on a journey of "solo-travel-self-discovery", meaning, although I love hanging out with the people I know, I am also trying to warm up to the idea of travelling alone while exploring certain parts of SA - albeit with a group of strangers.
And speaking of exploring parts of Mzansi with a group of strangers, at the end of my trip to Mpumalanga I traded the term "strangers" for "squad deep" - as we were now no longer calling each other by our names but rather nicknames we gave to one another. Yes, we're millennial like that.
Day one - Where it all began
After a pleasant trip to Johannesburg and what seemed like an endless bus ride to Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, we checked in at a guest house and wasted no time - a matter of "get ready and let's go" - off we went for the official tourism launch in Makhazeni, a very cold town in Mpumalanga (during August) but with the most welcoming people.
(Picture by: Kholiwe)
Day two - Adventure time
So much for being the last group to go to bed after staying up all night and getting to know each over good conversations and laughter. We made it just in time to join everyone for an early, promised adventure.
Doing things a little different
Imagine having a pap, chicken dust with chakalaka at Kaiza Chicken Dust only to find out that there would be rock climbing after all of that indulging and, forgive the crudeness, "pigging out" season.
I mean, after that kind of meal for lunch the only thing one could think of was a long nap, but of course, this was no ordinary trip as we were out here to discover the things out of the ordinary.
Nonetheless, with team spirit shared by the whole group, it was a matter of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" - only we were in Mpumalanga.
(Picture: Kgomotso Neto)
While exchanging fears and crazy scenarios of what would happen if we were to come across any unwanted guests while walking up the hills, the passionate abseilers from Roc ’n Rope Adventures, at least, tried to convince the lot that nothing would go wrong.
I, not much of an adventurous person, chose to rather cheer for my fellow squad on the ground while they tried to prove to one another who was the most adventurous of them all.
As the first day came to an end with many adrenaline levels still pumping for some and screaming for more, it was finally time to call it a day and head out for Misty Mountain Lodge, where dinner and an evening of playing pool and table tennis would be the ideal end to a day of adventuring.
Day Two - Ride or die
Having given into the whole idea of discovering, questions at breakfast were nothing short of "what's next?".
And soon after that, it was time for a Long Tom toboggan ride, which at first attempt had me lose my phone but thanks to the instructors for retrieving it - as it would have been a bummer not being able to share footage of the most exciting, yet scary (for the first time) 2 minutes and 47 seconds of adrenaline rush.
After a pit stop at a local beer brewery in Sabie for lunch and refreshments, we headed for the Lone Creek Waterfall in Ehlanzeni.
Here's another fun fact, for most 90's kids and RnB music lover the first thing which comes to mind when seeing these natural wonders is TLC's 1994 hit single "Waterfalls".
Wasting no time, after taking pictures of this beauty for the 'gram, fellow squad mates recited the single which by now, I am pretty much sure previous bandmates - T-Boz and Chilli - have seen it doing the rounds on social.
From guesthouse hoping to discovering some of the hidden gems the province has to offer and with the day drawing to an end, we headed out to Nelspruit where we were hosted at Casambo Exclusive Guest Lodge - in my opinion, one of the best guesthouses out of the three we spent our nights at.
The lodge boasts spacious interior-designed rooms that give off a city-hotel feel and offers an opportunity to stay in an environment that is both private and relaxing.
And to top it off, Carol Sanderson and her husband, Lloyde Sambo, not only opened their four-star treatment but also their hearts to us.
Day four - Good things come to an end
Like every good thing that has an end, it was almost time to bid farewell to this amazing experience but before leaving for home, the awesome tour guides from Simeliza Tours pulled all sorts of strings to make sure that we took something away with us from the entire trip.
With a planned lunch just outside the Swaziland border at the Matsamo Cultural Village, we were taken back in time learning about the Swazi culture and traditions as well as treated to tribal song and dance.
Planning your next trip? I would recommend finding your escape in Mpumalanga next.
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