Tuesday, 21 May 2013

05.05.2013 Parys, Free State - Carryblaire River Retreat

May 5th was our wedding anniversary. As it was our first we thought we should set the bar high and do something special to celebrate. Plus we really needed to escape from the stresses and annoyances of flat-hunting for a little bit.

I trawled the internet for a nice retreat within a reasonable drive from Johannesburg and came up with the Carryblaire River Retreat, 90mins from Joburg. They boast that the most hectic activities available are reading and fishing. Complete relaxation.

Carryblaire River Retreat
About 15kms outside of the town of Parys, we turned off onto a bright red dirt track which led us round to the banks of the river Vaal and this lovely former farm. I was over-the-moon to find they had checked us into a hut called 'African Skies' and even more insanely excited to be greeted with a full milky way starry, starry sky. Bliss.

After a very good, made-to-order breakfast we asked about some nearby hiking opportunities and were directed 3kms down the road to some hiking trails up a hill from a farm called 'The Dell'. A mere 20minutes into our 'hike' we came to this bucolic view point before deciding to continue on up some of the other trails. 

Along the way we came face-to-face with a family of antelope (ok, we thought that might happen) which was cool. And then we rounded a corner and were standing about 10 metres away from...two giraffes - very cool!

John keeps repeating this story to everyone he can, but that giraffe did seriously freak me out - in completely legitimate fashion - nobody had told us there would be big animals and game on this trail. John has it that the giraffe scared me. But I swear to God I saw that giraffe run off just as some other golden coloured cat-like creatures rustled the bushes after it (lions?! No, they were wild cats I know now, but still...there were a lot of lion-coloured rocks on that hill). Slightly scared initial reaction aside - walking alone with two giraffes, a thrilling and magical experience.

Giraffe (sorry not a great picture, I was startled)
Back at the retreat we enjoyed a fantastic home-cooked 3 course dinner (180Rand a head – really excellent food and worth the price) and some wine. John just had to tell the owners the giraffe story, which they were considerably less wide-eyed about, 'Yes giraffes, we see them all the time. They even have a rhino there now'.

African Skies hut
Sunday was spent with heads in books, snoozing by the river and playing with the owner's adorable Jack Russell/dachshund cross. Before driving back we attempted to grab a meal in Parys but to no avail. Most places closed at 4pm (seriously) so we skipped out on this small town experience (I wouldn't personally head to Parys simply to see the town anyway, it's not especially amazing) and drove back to the big city for dinner.

Misty river sunrise

This was rent-a-wreck's (Mr Ford Laser) first experience driving outside the city. Sure we couldn't get up to the 120km speed limit on the motorways, but so many other cars on the road can't do that either. The only casualty was the front number plate, which is lost somewhere out in the Free State outback. Ooops.

Rent-a-wreck - Ford Laser
Verdict: Carryblaire gets 5 out of 5. We'd go back every month if we could afford it.

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