Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"Please Keep God's Window Clean"

To conclude my parents' whirlwind tour of South Africa, we visited the Blyde River Canyon.  Though difficult to compare canyons, it is thought to be the third largest in the world, after the Grand Canyon in the US and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia.  It includes a number of spectacular natural features that are absolutely breathtaking.

There were two things that were immediately obvious to us as we checked into our lodge - the significant altitude change and the temperature drop.  After having spent a few days in the heat of the Kruger National Park we did not mind a bit of the crisp and fresh mountain air.  The lodge owner warned us that there is a cyclone coming from Mozambique and the cloud cover over the mountains may be significant.  As we were working with significant time constraints, we decided to spend our afternoon visiting the waterfalls in the area and take the next morning to go to God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels, and the Pinnacle (Think those names are amazing?  Wait until you see the physical features they refer to.)

We first visited the Berlin Falls as it was the closest one to our lodge.  The shape of the falls has been compared to a candle as it starts off really narrow in shape and then broadens up into a cascade as it drops.  

The Berlin Falls

Our next stop was the Lisbon Falls, which was even more spectacular.  At 92 metres, it is the highest waterfall in the area.

The Lisbon Falls

The third waterfall we visited was the Mac Mac Falls.  It was declared a National Monument in 1983.  Although initially it was a single stream, apparently enthusiastic gold miners blasted it with a significant amount of dynamite in their attempt to divert the river in their search for gold.  The explosion created the two streams of the waterfall seen today.

The Mac Mac Falls

Though we wanted to see both the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horse Shoe Falls, the only access to them was via a dirt road that only looked suitable for 4x4 vehicles.  So, our last waterfall was the Lone Creek Falls.   To get there we had to walk through an indigenous forest that resembled a rainforest.   When the trees finally cleared we found ourselves at the base of a spectacular waterfall.  The different vantage point allowed us to appreciate Lone Creek in a different way.

The Lone Creek Falls
After our waterfall tour, we returned to the town of Graskop to get our groceries for dinner.  With the supermarket only open between 4 and 6pm on Sundays, we had a small window of time to get that done.  As the next day was going to be a long one, we returned to our self-catering chalet to get some much deserved rest.

The next day we woke up bright and early.  We were really excited to see God's Window as we had heard much about this amazing feature of the Panorama Route.  I must admit that the name had prepared me for the most beautiful sight I would ever see.  This is what God's Window is supposed to look like:

And this is what we actually saw:

I guess God works in mysterious ways.  In any event, personally I really liked the garbage cans in the area.

After God's Window we visited Bourke's Luck Potholes.  My parents and I found that this was probably the most incredible feature of the Blyde River Canyon.

The Potholes are essentially  the result of millions of years of swirling eddies of water causing extensive water erosion where the Treur River meets the Blyde River.

The Potholes are named after a miner named Tom Bourke who found a bit of gold in the area, but never actually got rich as a result of it.

After the Potholes, we visited the Three Rondavels.   This natural rock wonder resembles three traditional African huts, known as rondavels.  The Three Rondavels probably offers the most spectacular view of the Blyde River Canyon.  From here we could also see the Swadini Dam. 

We were actually quite lucky.  When we initially arrived, the Three Rondavels were completely absorbed by the impending cloud cover.  Yet it seemed that within minutes the clouds lifted offering us a beautiful view of the far wall of the canyon.  As we were leaving, the clouds began to once again ascend over the hut-like formations.

As we had a little bit of extra time we decided to drive back and give God's Window another shot.  As I previously said though, God does work in mysterious ways.  And perhaps seeing fog through God's Window is what it is really about... 

Fortunately, we were able to see the Pinnacle, which is just a few minutes drive down the road.  The fog just appeared to stay away from it.  The Pinnacle is a free-standing rock formation that independently and stubbornly towered over the canyon. 

With my parents' flight home and my flight back to Durban both scheduled for that evening, it was time for the four and a bit hour drive to Johannesburg, passing through beautiful towns such as Pilgrim's Rest and Dullstrom. 

After everything I have seen and experienced so far, I am convinced that with its remarkable diversity and natural splendour South Africa is one of the most beautiful and amazing countries in the world!

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