Today we drive out from Johannesburg towards Hartebeespoort Dam via Hekpoort, for our wine delivery to Esther’s Country Restaurant and Lodge. On the way we are paying a visit to the Maropeng Visitor Centre, ca. 35km from Johannesburg. This centre is an award-winning, world-class exhibition centre, focusing on the development of humanity over the past few million years and definitely worthwhile a visit. So are the Sterkfontein Caves where the famous fossils of “Mrs Pies” and “Little Foot”, dating back more than three million years, were found.

Take a self-guided, interactive tour through time, starting with the formation of the planet and moving all the way through the evolutionary processes that culminated in the world as we know it today.

We recommend to make the most of your trip to Maropeng by getting a combination ticket that includes a visit to the Sterkfontein Cavesa only 12km from the Maropeng Visitor Centre. The caves are well known for their notable discoveries, including the world-famous fossils of “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, the latter being an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than three mil¬lion years.

The tours at the Sterkfontein Caves, which start above ground and then take visitors deep into the caves, run every half an hour, seven days a week.

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After an inspiring day at the Maropeng Centre and the Caves it is time to head out to to Esther’s Restaurant and Country Lodge to deliver our Kyburg wine. Later on we chill on the veranda with a glass of bubbly, taking in the peaceful surroundings and views of the crisp and clear Magaliesberg mountains in the distance. A seasonal menu featuring also Swiss and Austrian flavours and specialities is offered on their menu. So guests can indulge in a hearty country meal accompanied by a bottle of Kyburg Boutique Wine.

The lodge is ideally located close to many attractions, so we decided to stay for a couple of days, to explore the Hartebeespoort area further. Esther’s guestrooms are comfortable without frills and so is the price.

The restaurant serves wholesome breakfast in the dining room or out on the terrace, overlooking the landscaped gardens. Enjoy an al fresco lunch or tuck into a delicious pizza, expertly made in their outside pizza-oven. Esther takes great pride in offering their guests country-style meals made from fresh, organically grown ingredients. Most fresh vegetable and salads are grown with loving care on the property and handpicked for every meal.

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After dinner we retreat to our rooms to prepare mentally for next days adventure. We booked a sunrise Bill Harrop Original Ballooning trip. The take-off and landing area is situated about 10 km away from Esther’s. Professional pilots, attentive crew, immaculately maintained equipment, with a 5 aviation safety award, makes this longest established licensed Balloon Airline in Southern Africa the choice of the well informed discerning individual traveller.

An early rise is rewarded with a pre-flight coffee, tea and muffins, the balloon rises with the sun and lift we off the ground with the occasional blast of the powerful burners we raise higher and higher until we gently hover above the tree tops of the beautiful Magalies River Valley, or drifting majestically high above the Magaliesberg, a region boasting some of the best ballooning weather in the world. After landing, we savour a delectable and generous champagne breakfast at the Clubhouse, Pavilion and Restaurant.

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From here we head out to the small resort town of Hartbeespoort, affectionately known as “Harties”. The town sits on the slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range, wrapped around the banks of the man-made Hartebeespoort Dam. There is a selection of activities in this area, here our top recommendations:

The Cableway
The original Harties Cableway was constructed in 1973 and was renovated in 2010 and has since evolved into an unparalleled, uniquely South African aerial cableway experience. Fourteen hi-tech cable cars, built to carry six passengers at a time and able to transport up to 500 people per hour (round trip), are ready to give visitors a world-class aerial cableway experience.

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The Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary

The Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary is one of several sanctuaries in a group of sanctuaries situated west of Hartbeesport Dam. This sanctuary provides an environment where for orphaned and previously household pets or pets breed for pet trade are given their freedom in a natural environment. The pets are introduced into the wild laden with waterfalls, lush vegetation and natural mountain springs, the area covering approx. 7ha.

Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary recognizes the importance of community education. Not only are the tours highly informative, but they strive to create awareness toward the benefit of releasing primates into sanctuaries.

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Mountain Sanctuary

The Mountain Sanctuary Park is known for its amazing rock formations which are located in an ancient sea bed and one of the oldest parts of the earth’s crust. It is estimated to be somewhere in the region of 2.3 billion years old! Many different hiking trails, from a 15minute walk to 8 hour hike are available in the beautiful and scenic Mountain Sanctuary Reserve. Crystal clear mountain pools are found throughout the reserve, the water is safe to drink and visitors are most welcome to swim in the mountain pools, everywhere, except the Grotto.
The reserve allows only 180 people entry each day, including people booking accommodation, campers and daily visitors. Mountain Sanctuary Park is not only the perfect daytime getaway but also offers spectacular 3 star accommodation, including intimate chalets and stunning log cabins, some of which are on stilts overlooking the valley and others that are privately nestled into the reserve. All units are fully equipped self-catering and each has their own private braai facility as well as indoor fireplaces for those nippy winter nights.

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Shelter Rock Hiking Trail

The outing starts at Shelter Rock Base Camp where we park your car and register at reception. The mountain trail winds for 8 km on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg, rising about 400 meters to the mountain top where we can enjoy a 360 degree view of the beautiful country side.
A variety of birds, game and indigenous trees may be seen along the way, a 1000 year old wild olive tree as well as an iron age village at The Shelter Rock. On the top of the mountain you visit two Boer War Forts, a sandstone rock garden with weathered balancing rocks and a collection of spires built by fellow hikers during the years.

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We hope that we inspired you for a getaway to Esther’s Lodge and Restaurant and having fun by exploring the many activities in the Hartebeespoort region.

The next delivery of Kyburg Boutique Wine will go to Moorcroft Manor located at the foot of the majestic Himeville mountain range in the Southern Drakensberg.

Until then, best regards,
Tanja, Rosmarie and Fred