Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Queen Elizabeth's train...South Africa

One of South Africa's best kept secrets is Kaapsehoop, a tiny hamlet in the north east of the country near Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Famous for its accessible pair of Blue Swallow which return each summer and perhaps more so for its relict herd of wild horses, this town is an absolute must-see for any self-drive traveler to South Africa.

Ghostly apparitions are said to walk these streets in the dark of night. Locals tell fiendish yarns of little lost boys and domestic murder. Recently a national television network attempted a visual recording of the ghosts, which I was asked to attend. I remember the night being frosty and more particularly the sight of an unnatural and large half-ring halo of light which cast an eerie glow across the sky. It's difficult to describe the sight of an unopened umbrella taking to the air in a darkened room seemingly unassisted.......

One of Kaapsehoop's best kept secrets is the aptly named Adam's Calendar, South Africa's very own 'Stonehenge'. In fact, some claim that these stone monoliths which overlook two pyramids in the valley below, pre-date any other known man-made structure on earth. The structure itself is said to date back 75000 years and tracks the constellation, Orion, which if verified, makes Adam's Calendar a global priority.

Logistically the town is easily accessible on good tarmac from the N4 and from Nelspruit directly. There are no general grocery retailers in the town besides the small stores which offer the usual soft-drinks and snacks. Restaurants in the town are recommended but limited. Dishes are mostly local but tasty. Breakfast options are more varied and imaginative; the Koek 'n Pan exceptional.

Accommodation options are adequately simple but cozy; The Silver Mist Country Inn the obvious stand-out. Avoid 'The Train' at all costs. This ancient carriage is dusty and in need of refurbishment. Seemingly the bed-linen could be the original cloth from its early years when its most famous passenger, Queen Elizabeth, bestrode its balconies some 70 years ago.

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