Blyde River Canyon
What does a window, some potholes,
and a witch have in common?
After we left Kruger, the overland truck took us northwest in the direction of the Botswana border. Along the way, we made several stops in Blyde River Canyon Nature reserve, a cavernous national park nestled in the rising mountain plateaus that took us farther and farther from the savanna. Our first stop was God's Window, a lookout point that allows for you to look over the scattered farm plots all the way back to Kruger that we left several hours before. When it's clear weather, that is. What makes God's Window special is a tiny microclimate of dense, sweeping fog that makes this area a miniature rainforest. In just a ten-minute hike, you encounter over 150 species of plants and trees unique to this spot. Every few minutes, a huge gust of wind would drive out all the fog and you had some time to enjoy the view before the fog inevitably crept in again.
The next stop was somewhat of a misnomer for me; the roads outside the cities had become progressively rougher and I though the permanent sign that read "potholes ahead" indicated a perpetually damaged and hopeless highway situation. To my delight, I discovered the Potholes is the name given to a special waterfall in the canyon. Two rivers, the Treur and the Blyde, join at this point and the convergence of their currents results in a series of small whirlpools that dig out holes in the landscape that make it look littered with potholes.
An interesting story about these two rivers: when the Dutch colonized South Africa, a few men went off to search the land. They were gone for months and the rest of the settlers presumed them dead, and named the river near them the mourning river or "Treur" in Dutch. When they finally returned, it was by the nearby Blyde , named for the Dutch word for "joy" or "happy."
The final stop on our tour of this wonderful park was the Blyde River Canyon itself, the third-largest canyon in the world and the largest green canyon, meaning there's a lot of foliage in the canyon itself. The lookout point was just spectacular, the wind whips your face and creates a tornado of your hair to obstruct your field of vision. The most eye-catching aspect of the canyon is the Three Rondavels, the three rock formations that look like the huts in which the locals dwell. Rondevels are circular because according to South African tribal lore, there's a witch that hides in corners who will attack you whenever you go to sleep. The solution: a circular hut. Circular homes can be impractical, so most families have a square-shaped hut for eating and such and sleep in the rondevel.