Just a short drive from Jhb, on the R563 lie a variety of properties and activities that comprise the Magalies Meander.
The Friday afternoon traffic had left as a little frayed at the edges,but all our stress and possible road rage disappeared when we checked in with Peter and Etain Hewitt at Greenhills Country Cottages.They very proudly showed us around the property before taking us to our accommodation.Currently the property has 3 self contained cottages each sleeping 2 people.Greenhills overlooks the river on one side and forest on the other.There are also several walks, either into the forest or down to the river, that guests can enjoy during their stay.Greenhills abounds with wildlife and birds and that night we were serenaded to sleep by the sounds of a pair of Eastern Olive Toads in the pond outside our cottage.
Greenhills is only a bed and breakfast establishment,however there are a number of properties close by that can offer either dinner or lunch.
After a wonderful breakfast served on the patio of the main house at Greenhills, we went in Magaliesburg to check out Valley Lodge where my fiancée was treated to a hot stone massage in the capable hands of Tina Robinson.There are 4 treatment rooms available at the Lodge and you can either book your treatments before you arrive or when you check in.While she was being pampered,Mike Simpson,the general manager proudly showed me around the property which is currently undergoing refurbishment and upgrading.Aside for being child friendly,one of the few establishments we have visited that actually is,the property offers team building and conference facilities.There is also a swimming pool and 3tennis courts,one of which is under lights. A secluded area, away from the main building, there is a chapel that faces the river that runs through the bottom of the property.Its location guarantees the wedding party are able to enjoy a private ceremony.
That evening we stayed in one of Valley Lodge’s new supreme suites…and supreme they are.Offering the last word in comfort and style.The bathroom was quite decadent with a double shower and huge bath. Dinner was excellent, and we had a choice of either a la carte or a buffet which boasts some ‘diet breaking’ desserts! After dinner we took the ‘scenic’route back to our accommodation to walk off some of the dessert.
Breakfast is served between 7 and 10am, which means that we did not have to get up early. (My fiancée is NOT a morning person)
Breakfast, like dinner was so well presented, that our walk the previous night was negated as we tucked in.
The rest of the day was spent trying out one of the three walks that Valley Lodge offers and lazing at the pool.
The meander is so close to Johannesburg and Pretoria, that the city weary can leave on Friday after work and be at their destination in time for dinner.If they want to have an extended week-end; they can leave the meander early on Monday morning and be in their offices before the boss arrives.
Plumari Africa, previously known as the Ou Waenhuis because of it’s collection of old wagons and carts has recently added an elephant experience to its activities. The two young males,called Nzeve and Damara are cared for by Theo and Marleen Potgeiter who see them as their children,albeit naughty ones.Guests can experience a variety of activities with the elephants,from watching them going through their early morning training routine to spending an hour with them on an elephant back Safari.Being able to feed and interact with these gentle animals is almost spiritual and it is easy to see why there is much public debate around their continued survival in Africa.
The game drives are informative and the rangers are knowledgeable about both the animals and local folk lore. For instance, did you know that the Wildebeest is called the ‘bits and pieces’ animal? It has the tail of a Horse,the haunches of a Hyena,the stripes of a Zebra,the shoulders of a Hartebeest and the horns of a Buffalo.I am sure that you can use that fact at your next dinner party.
This is our second visit to Plumari, our first being in 2005, and the service and accommodation has remained excellent. And even though there has been a change in management and chefs during this time, Sunny-Boy David Topias is still in charge, and he keeps the staff on its toes.
While I write this I am looking out over Hippo Dam, watching a Pied Kingfisher trying to catch an afternoon snack.
The dam is situated in front of the main lodge building and in the evening it has 2 resident hippos.These tend to wander off in the early hours of the morning to a larger dam on the property.
The wagons and carts on the premises vary from a Boer-War ambulance to an American chuck wagon. Most have been restored and have stories attached so you can learn their history.
There is a comprehensive museum containing wagons and the tools and implements used to keep them in running order.Attached to the back of the museum is a covered area that can be used for a wedding reception.A very different type of venue.
Being set 7km’s off the nearest main road; Plumari is eerily quiet, both during the day and at night.
For a city dweller, the silence is almost too quiet, and you almost long for a hooter or a siren.
The property also boasts its own chapel with beautiful stained glass windows.
Although Plumari caters for variety of activities, it also has a second property attached called Warthogs.Run by Don Deeb, Warthogs caters mainly for the corporate team building events. Don did tell me that even though team building is their main source of revenue, more individual guests are finding their way to the property.And for good reason.The accommodation is great and very secluded.(My fiancée liked the bathroom with it’s ball and claw bath and outside shower.The meals that we had were of the wholesome home cooked variety with a choice of several salads,and hot dishes.And what bush meal would be complete without a dessert?In this case at least four were on offer as was home made chocolate sauce!
There is a pool at the lodge and although it looked inviting, time constraints did not allow us to try it out.
My fiancée and I got to try out two of the activities that are on offer.We spent part of the morning on an outride and even though I am wary of horses,the one that I rode behaved well.We were followed by a zebra that lives with,and believes that, he is a horse.On our return another ‘wild’visitor came to share the carrots with the horses.Sally the warthog also lives close to the stables and she and her piglets are regular visitors.Now that we were feeling like cowboys,Don took us clay pigeon shooting,which I really enjoyed.Not something that this city boy had ever done before.After Don had showed us how it was done we were allowed onto the range to try our skills.My fist attempts were not a success,but when I eventually did hit my first one, the exhilaration of actually hitting one of these fast moving targets can become addictive.
After a great week-end away, we returned to relaxed and re-newed.
A mini holiday right on our doorstep!
Greenhills Country Cottages:
Etain, Sarah and Peter Hewitt
Telephone:  577-1301/5
Telephone:  476-4391
Phone:  476 4391
Magalies Meander information:
Free visitors guide: