Hey gals! I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to travel. Aren’t we all? Travel fuels the soul, and with the restrictions, overseas travel is a challenge. So we can’t get on plane and jet off to some exotic, far, far away land (or you can, but not without difficulty), but at least we can hop in our cars and drive around our beautiful country. And South Africa has so much you need to see!
In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some awesome local travel destinations that are worthy of praise. So, if you, like me, have the desire to populate the passport of you soul, then make sure you stick around!
Today, I’m sharing bits from our stay at the majestic Wild Horses Lodge nestled in the mountains of the Sterkfontein Nature Reserve.
If you’re looking for an incredible five star spoil, then you’ll want to read this!
Last year on our trip back from Durban, we took a drive past Sterkfontein Dam, for no other reason than a change of scenery. Having lived in South Africa my whole life, and having travelled the Durban/Jozi route a bazillion times, I had never seen Sterkfontein Dam. If I’m honest, the only reference I had to it was that it is our reserve water dam, so naturally, I thought it would be a much smaller, less exciting version of the Vaal. But to see it in person, I was blown away by the picturesque landscape and incredible views.
The hubby obviously stored the Sterkfontein Dam area in his places to surprise the wife, because for our anniversary and the big 40 for me this year (yikes), he surprised me with an unexpected visit to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
Let’s just say he did good! Very, very good!
I was clueless as to where we were going. All hubby said was that I needed to pack really warm clothes, and summer clothes, an outfit that could be used for hiking and something “in case we get wet”, oh and I should be casual and comfortable, but also make sure I have “special clothes” for dinner. HUH!
That kind of left the options open to a million different possible places he could be taking us to.
When we started our journey, he gave me a task – to “find a stop for lunch before Harrismith”. This little nugget of information got me real excited, because I was convinced we were going to Drakensberg or the Midlands.
Somewhere nice and cozy and just what I had been hoping for. We got married in the Midlands, and since this was an anniversary trip, I was almost certain that the Midlands was it. I still contemplated the “something in case we get wet” part, but I figured there must be a pool or perhaps a spa treatment in the works.
I knew Durban wasn’t our destination, because hubby definitely wouldn’t advise I “pack warm” and he’d tell me to bring sandals and costumes, not simply “something in case you get wet.”
By the time we finished our lunch at a cute little spot in Frankfort, I had hyped myself up for this great big mountain retreat, until we passed the usual turn heading to the KZN side of Drakensberg and instead went in the opposite direction. Where the heck was he taking me? We were heading towards the friggin’ Freestate? I didn’t remember mentioning any desire to go to the Freestate (although this did happen after our trip to Wild Horses).
When I saw the sign for Sterkfontein Dam I was a little bummed, because while I thought Sterkfontein Dam looked pretty when we saw it last year, I wasn’t that excited about a holiday ‘by the dam’ in the middle of autumn. Summer maybe, but I was really hoping for a dreamy mountain retreat. Ya know, like our little adventure up Sani Pass in Lesotho, or to the Drakensberg Mountains – perfect trips in the cold weather!
Talk about a spoilt brat!
While I contemplated how my stupid wardrobe choices would work at the dam, we pulled off the road and headed up the gravel path into the mountains. I felt my excitement levels go up, up, up the higher we got. My wish for a mountain retreat was coming true, I just pictured the wrong side of the escarpment ha!
What I got was even more than what I had wished for when we reached Wild Horses Lodge which, if you can picture it, is a secluded sandstone villa tucked into the mountain, almost completely alone – Although they do still have “Neigbours”, the tranquility of this place is pure magic!
Five star luxury in the mountains with the most incredible panorama of the Sterkfontein Dam in front of us. It was perfection.
For four nights we lived it up and ate the most incredible food, where every plate looked like a piece of art; beautifully adorned with flowers which were hand picked by the chef from the gardens.
On our first night, which happened to be our wedding anniversary, we were invited to dine privately in the cellar. The lodge is very boutique, and only has four rooms (which sleep 2 guests), so you’re never crowded, but guests usually dine in the dining room at their own private table. That night in the cellar was incredibly special.
I felt like a queen sitting on my zebra skinned throne, drinking my Meerlust Rubicon and eating butter soft lamb shanks that had been prepared to perfection. Seriously, they were by far the best lamb shanks I’d ever tasted! Possibly even the best meal I have ever had.
Following our first night in the cellar, we had the rest of our meals in the dining room and each night was a complete gastronomical delight. Our meals had been prepared to perfection and I wasn’t sure how I’d return to my simple cooking afterwards. Normally, I’m pretty good at taking down the names of each meal, and special preparations with photos to share (you know, for future reference, like this blog post for instance), but I was too busy enjoying the experience to worry about the details, so I’m sorry! HA
Breakfasts were more chilled and leisurely, still incredibly tasty and beautifully displayed, but they had competition with our morning view overlooking the dam, with the sun piercing through the clouds.
Our room was so beautiful and cozy! I was very happy that it had a fireplace and electric blankets (cause mountain living gets cold y’all), but with guests being invited to roam the estate and enjoy it like an extension of their home, we spent very little time locked away in our room, but rather out in the drawing room with its extensive bar, or by the pool reading a book with the sound of the koi pond in the back.
My favourite spot though was the lower deck which lead out from a smaller lounge area filled with books.
Both levels, had panoramic views of the Sterkfontein Dam which was incredible!
^This pic was taken by one of the guests we met there, on his drone. Before dinner one night, we got to chatting about photography while I was editing some video content and then we “took his drone out” for a fly over the dam and brought it back to snap a picture – as usual, my attention was elsewhere haha – probably thinking, “I really need a drone next”. But anyway, you can see how gorgeous the lodge is from this angle (oh and the fire burning in chimney was as glorious as you think it was!)
Activities wise, there’s a fair amount to do at Wild Horses, but it’s mainly a place you go to chill! However, when you stay in a place like this, you don’t really want to leave! But there are things to do if you want to add more stamps to that passport in your soul.
One of the things we couldn’t pass up, was getting to sail the Sterkfontein Dam on a restored racing yacht from the 70’s. If I thought we were living it up staying at Wild Horses and eating all that luxurious food, being on that yacht was a whole other level of fanceeee!
This yacht, Golden City and her skipper, Jon (who also owns the lodge) have the most incredible stories from Jon’s days as a South African national sailing racer. The very same boat competed in three Cape to Rio races, although today, she’s been restored to be way more luxurious than a racing boat.
Now if you know me at all, you know I love a good story and Golden City has the most incredible story that’s filled with speed, adrenaline, tragedy, love and like a fairy tale, a happy ending. She was found abandoned and rotting away at a harbour in Durban, when Jon discovered her years after his retirement from professional sailing. This was the same boat that took John and his crew from Cape to Rio, so I am sure you can imagine the emotional attachment and the reason why he so lovingly restored her into the beauty she is today!
I even got to sail Golden City, or rather ‘steer’ her into the harbour which was a great experience, but I am really glad Jon and his crew did all the hard work, like changing sails, erecting the masts and fighting the wind, which is friggin’ hard work! I thought tying my macrame knots was challenging, well, there’s nothing like getting knotted on a racing yacht.
If you ever find yourself near Sterkfontein Nature Reserve, go and experience Golden City on the dam, Jon will have you feeling like his best friend and you’ll discover some amazing tales from his travels as a professional sailor.
^ By the way, (not the greatest picture or the greatest light) but this was the “outfit in case we get wet” that I needed and I think I did pretty good considering I didn’t know what I was packing for. Denim shorts, black and white striped cozzie (hello nautical vibes) underneath and my white linen shirt. How good did I do? 😛
What to do close by
- Go for a drive through Golden Gate (it’s amazing and it’s what made me want to go back to the Freestate – which I have a post planned on)
- Go for an outride on horseback in the mountains (more on this coming up)
For more information visit www.wildhorses.co.za
THIS POST IS NOT SPONSORED. Well, I guess in a way it was, by my wonderful hubby! So thank you hubby for sponsoring this post and the incredible experience!