Take any long weekend or school holiday and you will find GP licence plates on the road to the Natal coast. Like lemmings they stream towards their final destination, only pausing to fill up with petrol or food as the need arises.
The plaintive cries of ‘Are we there yet?” are stifled by either promising treats or threats to do bodily harm to the perpetrator. Neither normally work for any length of time and the driver is forced to turn up the volume of the c.d. or turn a deaf ear.
What the majority of the GP lemmings don’t know is that there is light at the end of the tunnel…in the form of the town of Howick and the Midland Meander.
Instead of rushing headlong to the sea, stop and take a few days to wander through this historically rich area.
I was able to this recently and instead of staying with the herd, I took the Howick North/Tweedie turn off and headed for Happy Hill GuestHouse. The owners are Zan and Trevor Gower, and within minutes of your arrival they make you feel like an old friend rather than a newly arrived guest.
The accommodation is spacious and well appointed, with those decadent heated towel rails in the bathroom. [I wonder how many visitors put them in their bathrooms upon returning from a holiday?]
Before setting out on our first excursion into the meander we had a quick toasted sandwich and then it was Trevor who played tour guide for afternoon.
We had lunch at Caversham Mill Restaurant [033-234-4524]. I highly recommend the soup and pie of the day…delicious!
We walked off the lunch by visiting Ardmore Ceramic Gallery. [033-234-4869]This somewhat strange pottery is world famous and is made by indigenous artists in the heart of the meander. They also sell a variety of lavender products.
If, like me, you like goat cheese, then you have to stop in at Swissland cheese [033-234-4042]. They do a variety of goat cheeses all made on the premises. And you can even get to meet the goats, if you want to.
If you are a beer drinker, or have friends who are, then pick up a 6 pack at Nottingham Brewery [033-266-6728] They also do a great range of ‘fun’ bar goods.
Dinner, which is a set 3 course meal, was prepared by Trevor.Although he is not a trained chef, he truly loves cooking. And it shows in the food that was presented at the table. Nothing fancy, just good hearty home cooking. All the meals that we shared over the weekend were of the same caliber…and if you do stay over, beg Trevor to make roast potatoes. Trust me on this one!
Unlike the majority of hotels, meals are served at a reasonable hour. Dinner at 7.15 and breakfast between 8 and 10am.So you can lie in before setting off to visit the various attractions that the Meander has to offer.
There are a variety of different crafts on offer and although not all may be to your taste, there are some gems that are a must. If you are in the market for wind chimes, then a visit to Culamoya Chimes is a must. Each set of chimes, hand made on the premises, is tuned to play a specific series of notes. Some of which sound like Westminster Cathedral or St.Pauls.They also boast the largest set of wind chimes in the world…4m in length. Not a set that everyone would be able to hang on a front porch!
There are also natural attractions like the Kaarkloof and Howick Falls.Spending time at either of these tranquil settings will return your travel enhanced blood pressure to levels that your doctor would regard as normal.
However, should you wish to raise the heart rate you can always abseil down the Howick Falls [107m] or you can set your inner child free and play Tarzan at the Kaarkloof Canopy Tours. [033-330-3415]
This experience was certainly the highlight of my visit to this area.
Run by Anton and staffed by knowledgeable and friendly guides, this zip-line express has to be attempted. For me, I like terra firma, and the firma it is the less the terror. Hurtling through the forest canopy, suspended by a metal runner is probably the closest I have ever come to flying, except for flying, of course…
Howick is a quaint old town and living in a town with it’s own waterfall minutes from the business center must be great.
Filled with antique shops, some unusual curio and craft stores and several great coffee shops.
If you know what you are looking for you can pick up some interesting items and reasonable prices [We found and old steamer trunk which still had the original passenger labels on it!]
So next time you are thinking of a break, give the coast a miss and spend time at the Happy Hill Guesthouse.and a meander round the Midlands will breathe new life back into your soul.