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Monday February 10, 2014

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comExploring the prettiest rock formations and colors at Bourke’s Luck Pot Holes, in Blyde River Canyon.

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comQuick break from hiking to enjoy Blyde River Canyon’s waterfall views.

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comWe hiked from the top of Lisbon Falls to the waterfall pool, 300-ft below.

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comStreaming water at Lisbon Falls.

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comChillin’ alone on a rock, under a rainbow, at the base of Lisbon Falls, in South Africa. It doesn’t get better than that!

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comThe water was FREEZING … we couldn’t keep still in the icy temperatures!

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comOur first wildlife sighting in South Africa was a Vervet Monkey – we were beyond excited!

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comHarrie’s Pancakes, in Graskop was the perfect treat after a long day of adventuring through Mpumulanga!

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comStunning South African sunset.

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comBerlin Falls (we couldn’t figure out how climb down!).

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comOn the lookout for wild Baboons, at The Pinnacle (that rocky wall was swarming with Baboons when we arrived).

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comPeering over the top of a waterfall, at The Pinnacle.

Mpumulanga, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comSouth Africa’s most beautiful viewpoint from an altitude of 6,000 ft. – they call it God’s Window.

Our first destination in South Africa was the Panorama Route in Mpumulanga (MOO-POO-MOO-LAWN-GUH), and our itinerary couldn’t have been more perfect. The area was a natural playground made up of cliffs to hike, waterfalls to climb and canyons to explore – all preceding five days on safari in Kruger National Park. While an African safari was a bucket list experience for us, it was also five days stuck in a car, so exploring the Panorama Route on foot really was a nice bookend to our first week in South Africa.

Our base in Mpumulanga was the Hippo Hollow Estate, located in Hazyview, and a 30-minute drive to Graskop, the gateway to the Panorama Route. The lodge was a lovely spot with clean, comfortable rooms and wild Vervet Monkeys scampering through the property – we were giddy with excitement when we saw our first monkey run across the rooftops!

The Panorama Route was a self-drive route through Mpumulanga with several scenic stops along the way to check out viewpoints, waterfalls and other natural wonders. Surprisingly, this area was one of our favorite spots in the country, AND our most affordable day of adventuring – we had to pay admission fees at each stop, but the cost was only R3 to R25 ($.25-$2.25 USD) per site.

There was so much to see along the Panorama Route – we crammed as much as we could into one full day! The Pinnacle was a stunning vista of rock formations overlooking a cliff swarming with barking Chacma Baboons (our first major wildlife sighting!). At God’s Window, we sat on a flat, rocky ledge overlooking dizzying, serene views of endless greenery 6,000 ft. below us. Berlin Falls was a gorgeous waterfall, but a frustrating place because we couldn’t figure out how to hike down to the base. And we trekked through beautiful Blyde River Canyon, soaking our feet in the rocky natural pools before checking out the stunning canyon formations of Bourke’s Luck Potholes.

We love a challenging waterfall hike, and our favorite adventure on the Panorama Route was Lisbon Falls. We’d heard from a local about an unmarked path that led 300 ft. down to the watery pools below. Apparently, the trail would be hard to find – so hard, that most tourists took photos from the top of the waterfalls and continued on their way, not even realizing that trekking down was a possibility. We snapped a few pictures and then started looking for anything resembling a path, but there was so much overgrowth and all “paths” seemed to dead end or lead to nowhere. And one trail sent me squealing in the other direction when a bright green snake slithered into view!

Finally, we started down one path that kept going … leading us to the base of a cliff where we climbed giant boulders and followed a stream until reaching magnificent Lisbon Falls. It was an amazing sight! The massive waterfall pool sat under a low-lying rainbow and we had it all to ourselves. Our coolest waterfall hike to-date. : )