A Meander in the Midlands

Dargle Valley, midlands meander

Dargle Valley © Stephanie Traynor

Sitting out on the covered veranda, the clinking of tea cups was intermittently drowned out by loud, crashing thunder and our attention was distracted from the fresh chocolate cake by luminous bolts of lightning striking the lawn not too far away. The dogs were in a trance, yapping excitedly from their wicker baskets and the chickens were huddled quietly in their hutch, no doubt eyes wide with uncomprehending terror. Within an hour it was all over. The fog rose, exposing the rolling hills again and life in the Kwazulu Natal Midlands was restored to its peaceful bucolic state.

An Introduction
The bucolic state I refer to belongs to a strangely conservative world where decadent teas are served as a matter of course by Zulu women in maids’ uniforms. Almost all of the houses have large verandas which overlook hills upon hills as far as the eye can see and everyone owns a dog. Unlike the Zulu empire one imagines upon hearing the name Kwazulu Natal, the Midlands are decidedly un-‘African’, the landscape a patchwork of lush agricultural fields broken up by quaint towns and rolling hills.

Mooi River, Midlands Meander

Mooi River © Roger O’Neill

The Midlands, as the area is known, lies tucked between the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain Range and Pietermaritzburg, a city 80 kilometres inland from Durban. It has become well-known among holiday-makers for its tourist route, the Midlands Meander, an 80 Kilometre network of back roads connecting the charming Midlands towns, artists’ studios, craft shops, guest farms and restaurants in the area.

Bumbling around the Countryside
The morning before the thunderstorm we had set off from our cosy lodgings at the aptly-named Granny Mouse Country House for an exploration of the area. Our ramble took us down farm lanes into farmyards with glass factories in the barn, through old world villages lined with coffee shops where the delectable smell of baked goods was hard to refuse and occasionally along gravel paths through forests which ended in breath-taking vistas.

POttery making on the Midlands Meander

Pottery making on the Midlands Meander © Wikicommons

After a morning bumbling around the countryside, passing horses grazing in the fields and country restaurants with archery set up in the garden, we returned home laden with fresh cheeses, a beautiful hand embroidered table cloth and a selection of hand-made scented candles. During the course of the excursion we had conversed with a potter, observed traditional Zulu beading and partaken in a giant 3 course meal. It was a day well-spent. And the truth is that most days in the Midlands will be well spent – whether you choose to indulge in retail therapy or hike through the Karkloof indigenous forest, for example.

The Midlands Meander is renowned as an arts and crafts destination, but do not pass over the many outdoor activities either. The air is so fresh here and the space so expansive that the area lends itself equally to outdoor pursuits. Walking or hiking in the nature reserves is very rewarding and as is mountain biking in the hills or trout fishing in one of the dams.

Butterfly in Karkloof indigenous forest

Sights in the Karkloof indigenous forest © Purves M

When all is said and done, visiting the Kwazulu Natal Midlands is like stepping into an alternative universe, where life is slow and the people are friendly. Sleeping-OUT has a wide variety of Midlands accommodation options, and our online booking system is safe and easy to use. Browse Midlands acommodation now.

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