The kids and I set off at 5:30am – with the hopes of missing Joburg’s rush-hour traffic (which we did… only just!).

We drove for about 2 and a half hours and pulled into the scenic town of Dullstroom for a quick stretch-of-the-legs and a snack.

Dullstroom is a charming little town which many Joburgers use as a weekend escape.  It’s tucked away amongst the hills of Mpumalanga and offers fresh air, lots of trout fishing (and clear streams)… and an abundance of homely BnB’s… and so many coffee shops and pancake places that it’s difficult to choose where to stop.

We decided on the Old Transvaal Inn (because they also have an old-fashioned toy store and sweet shop that the kids wanted to explore).  I love Polly Potters toys!  They sell quality toys – a lot of beautiful, wooden toys – the kinds of things I remember from my childhood (instead of all the cheap crap from China that’s found in most of our toy stores these days).

Anyhoo… here’s a few photos of Dullstroom….

Old fashioned sweet store inside the Old Transvaal Inn selling lots of hand-made sweets and chocs...

Old fashioned sweet store inside the Old Transvaal Inn selling lots of hand-made sweets and chocs…

Lots of drool-worthy home-made choccies...

Lots of drool-worthy home-made choccies…

Joah exploring all the wonderful wooden toys & games...

Joah exploring all the wonderful wooden toys & games…

The coffee shop menu...

The coffee shop menu…

The decor...

The decor…

Me and cappuccino... I LOVE cappuccino! This one was nice - but not AWESOME...

Me and cappuccino… I LOVE cappuccino! This one was nice – but not AWESOME…

Anyway…

So – after Dullstroom -we drove on… down a very pot-holed road… and as much as I tried to avoid all the potholes, the inevitable happened and I drove straight into a big one and lost (another) hubcap… but thankfully, didn’t puncture the tyre!

(I have noooo desire to be forced to change a tyre… and especially not in this heat…)

From Dullstroom, we drove through Lydenburg and then hopped on a very picturesque road which I’ve never explored before (and I’ve done a lot of road-travelling in this country).

The road from Lydenburg to Hoedspruit is gorgeous – especially the latter part where it winds and twists beneath towering cliffs with rock fig trees attached like starfish to the cliff face.  There was a tunnel… a waterfall… and an impressive view of Limpopo – and, before we knew it, we were in Hoedspruit.

For blog readers unfamiliar with South Africa – Hoedspruit is the town popular with all the wildlife fundis.  If you want to go on an African safari – or visit the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo & elephant) in their natural habitat – chances are, you’ll visit Hoedspruit.  Wildlife reserves (both private & government-owned) abound – and there are 5-star-lodges and 4X4 game-viewing vehicles everywhere.

My cousin Clare and her husband Michel (and their 8 year old daughter, Kyra) live here.  Clare and Michel spent many years operating their own lodge, Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge – but are now selling up their shares and moving on to new adventures.

They now live in a residential wildlife reserve… which is another way of saying that they live smack in the middle of the African bush.  They get daily visits from local wildlife… warthog, impala, porcupines, bush babies… and the occasional visit by snakes (a spitting cobra that got itself wedged in the sliding door leading to Clare’s bedroom) – and other such regular adventures…

Their residential reserve isn’t home to the Big 5… although the occasional leopard has been known to wander through…

Clare is a foodie – a chef – a genius in the kitchen.  And she now runs a fantastic cafe & deli called Madhams – and an adjoining shop full of interesting goodies & homeware called Mad Cows.  She has always been a big believer in all things eco friendly – and friendly to the local community – so, when you eat (the insanely delectable) food at Madhams, you’re eating locally sourced products and drinking fair trade coffee… and using crockery created by local women’s co-ops and NGO’s that support orphans & vulnerable children.

Here’s some photos…

Madham is tucked into the courtyard of the Rock Fig Lifestyle Centre... this part overlooks a little courtyard fountain (that the kids loved paddling in)...

Madhams is tucked into the courtyard of the Rock Fig Lifestyle Centre… this part overlooks a little courtyard fountain (that the kids loved paddling in)…

This is the Mad Cows shop - which is attached to Madham cafe & deli...

This is the Mad Cows shop – which is attached to Madhams cafe & deli…

Joah enjoying some iPad time on the Madham couch...

Joah enjoying some iPad time on the Madhams couch…

Another view of the shop (photo is a bit dark and doesn't do it justice)...

Another view of the shop (photo is a bit dark and doesn’t do it justice)…

Freshly-baked yummies on display...

Freshly-baked yummies on display…

More freshly-baked deliciousness...

More freshly-baked deliciousness…

Some wood art - with Joah lounging in the background...

Some wood art – with Joah lounging in the background…

This is their assistant chef... they have a totally open kitchen - so you can watch how your food is prepared. I love the "nothing-to-hide" attitude...

This is their assistant chef… they have a totally open kitchen – so you can watch how your food is prepared. I love the “nothing-to-hide” attitude…

Clare has always been like this.  She’s a “bigger picture” person, through-and-through.  I call her my Mad-Cousin… because she’s also insanely funny… unorthodox… irreverent… and has never been particularly bothered about what people say or think about her.

I was hungry when I arrived at Madhams and Clare suggested the bunny-chow… and wow!!  The best bunny-chow I have ever eaten!  Tender-tender lamb curry – stuffed into a large, round, freshly-baked, crusty mini-loaf… I drool just writing about it!

Here’s a pic:

bunny chow

And the kids ate toasties…

toastiesAnd my cousin and her business partner, Bee, munched on this marvellous concoction (pickled fish, guacamole, chick-pea salad & crusty bread with chicken liver pate):

health yummies

Back at Clare’s home, we got settled into our room and the cousins enjoyed much wild romping around the garden (and feeding apples to a family of warthogs – which they probably weren’t supposed to do).  Later, as the sun went down and the stars came out – Clare and I relaxed with a glass of wine and a much needed catch-up yak… about pretty-much everything…

Everything is wild here.  Bushbabies on the roof… a pair of porcupines who visit in the evening… and waterbuck grazing quietly at our window.

What a lovely start to our nomadic life!  I feels so blessed… I could explode with gratitude.  🙂