For the fourth installment of #SAfricansTravelToo, we recently took a road trip to Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Myself and fellow traveler, Lelo Boyana had visions of frolicking in waterfalls, eating pancakes and soaking up tranquil vistas. In reality, our host Tomjachu Bush Retreat lived up to all those imaginations, minus the waterfalls.
Before we got here, however, we were searching for the perfect Mpulanaga getaway that included pictures by the infamous potholes. Sure, it was beautiful, but we wanted something less, um, Instagrammed. And we found just that, south of the N4 – during the low season, nogals.
We planned our drive from Joburg, on a Friday afternoon after work, that goes through Alkmaar and Elandshoek, a winding mountain route through some of the oldest mountains in the world. I threw in a couple more mountain passes for good measure, because our Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C was that good to drive.
Following the N4, the first sweeping mountain pass we found was Schoemanskloof, a well-tarred road flanked by thornveld. After a breather at Milly’s restaurant, before the Machado Toll Plaza, we meandered our way towards Nelspruit. It was pouring heavily by now. Just after 9pm we managed to reach our destination.
Most of the farms in the area are planted with citrus (and patrolled by baboons), but Tomjachu Bush Retreat has preserved swathes of wild bush. At first glance, the farm road did little to justify the drive, but after climbing up a rugged road (you need a reasonably cleared car, but the owner was happy to offer a lift from the main gravel road), the secluded gem was a dream.
Previously an extensive tobacco farm, Tomjachu’s homestead was the perfect way to ease into a weekend away. No Wi-Fi or TV was needed – just nature and good company (although the property does offer both these facilities). Evening brought sublime colours to the valley and baboon barks echoed down the slopes.
In the morning Lelo and I were welcomed with warm hugs by the owner, Jack Fillery and his manager followed by a hearty, hot breakfast. There’s nothing more soothing than a freshly brewed rooibos tea overlooking the serene slopes, it puts life’s problems into so much perspective. For lunch, we took one of the picnic packs and resorted to a self guided trail walk which includes a stop for lunch at any one of the beautiful sites, by a dam, on the property. Here is when you truly get to be one with nature and get the adrenaline pumping. We even encountered a few bucks along the way. Rest assured, there is no dangerous game on the property.
After a few photo-shoot sessions by the dam, we returned to the homestead with enough time to freshen up for our Nature drive bush dining experience.
The drive, which took roughly 45 minutes, allowed for a close encounter with a variety of game, bird species and diverse plant life, including zebra, kudu, blue wildebeest, mountain reedbuck and few nyala.
Once we had explored the surroundings, we enjoyed a sundowner accompanied by tales of the property’s history, narrated by none other than Jack, one of the property owners. Not far from our sundowner spot, we proceeded deeper into the bush to the bush lapa. Delicious canapés awaited our arrival. A three course dinner was served under the night sky with only the sounds of the trilling nightjars, and Lelo’s giggles to accompany the mood.
Sunday came and it was time to prepare for our departure. But not so fast, as our host had one last trick up his sleeve; A guided bushwalk. Tomjachu is truly quaint and charming and the homey feel of the entire property is reminiscent of my days growing up in the Free State, but with a far more authentic feel of its own. It has and hilly passes, peace and quiet, and a good dose of mystery and majestic animals. With giraffe tails swinging from side to side like soft pendulums and a pink sunset to myself, we declared our Mpumalanga bush retreat a success.
Tomjachu advises against the use of GPS or satellite navigation systems to find them. You can download directions on their website here, according to which direction you are coming from.
You can view Tomjachu’s rates per season here
Homestead main suite; A beautifully appointed and spacious en-suite Queen double bedroom with access to the Homestead’s beautiful sitting room, pool and terraces offering an intimate and relaxed atmosphere.
Writer/Photographer: Papi Mabele