• Caitlin Booker

Day break; Hartbeespoort adventures

Christmas is Coming the geese are getting fat

Time to put a penny in the old mans hat

If you haven't got a penny then a copper will do

If you haven't got a copper then God Bless You.

Alright, alright, breathe. I do realize we are only half way through October. But, if you're anything like me the heat of summer hits, and my brain is all swimming pools, Pimms, and woza December!

It's not Christmas that makes this time of year so special. But the sense of hope, and happiness that most people tend to give off this time of year. Be it the weather, travel plans, or the coming together of family that creates it, I am grateful for the positive vibes a lot of people give off during this time.

There are, of course, a lot of people that stare in to this time of year with a sense of dread. Or disappointment. I get it, the idea of entertaining your in-laws; or being stuck in the city working is unpleasant. However, not all is doom, and gloom. Enter the day breaks!

Yes, I have been at it again. Sneaking off for the day to give my mind a positive boost by tricking it into thinking it's on holiday. (You can catch the action on my Instagram stories @gourmethippo ). For me, it has been working like a charm. After a day break I feel happier, and more relaxed. I am also starting to see this country of ours in a much more positive light.

One such little day break, was a Friday I spent jolling around Hartbeespoort. Traditionally viewed as a weekend/ holiday location Hartbeespoort makes for a great day break. It is just an hour from Johannesburg, and even closer to Pretoria. This cutesy town has a lot to offer.

I did a 5km hike through Hennops Nature Reserve. It was an absolute blast. The trail is not killer difficult. So even if you are new to the hiking scene, or have a troop of little humans it makes for a fun adventure. I would suggest the little humans be at least 10 years old for the 5km, there is a 3 km route for smaller little humans. For the adventurous, fit hikers there are longer routes. Just pack lots of water. Hennops also has picnic spots so after the hike you can kick off your shoes, and make use of your super kitted picnic basket.

I also went to Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary. Normally I avoid any attraction where you can interact with wild animals at close quarters. This is due to the controversy surrounding the breeding, training and closed confinement of the animals. However, I made an exception for Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary. Why? It's in the name "Sanctuary".

Bush Babies do not buy monkeys, or lemurs (yes, King Julian is there). All the monkeys there are rescued, or given up by private owners when they have outgrown their house, or become "too much to handle". The monkeys are also not in cages, but a giant enclosure where they can roam freely under the canopy of the indigenous trees. Which keeps them safe from birds of prey.

The only time you have contact with the monkeys, or lemurs is if they decide to climb on you. Also when the cutest pick pockets - the Capuchins- come to check all your pockets and try open your backpack. Otherwise, you don't touch them. It is as close to a wild, natural environment these previously domesticated animals can have. They have really created a haven for them at Bush Babies.

You are taken through the enclosure by a guide who seriously knows their stuff. The enclosure has been kept as natural as possible. So whilst not a "bush break" it does feel like you are in the bush, and is a great time in nature. The tour is an hour; and costs R345 per adult.

After my tour. I drove around, and explored. I stopped at the markets on the side of the road, of which there are many. They have gorgeous stuff, so if you are day breaking in the next few months you can find some unique Christmas gifts. I recommend stopping at the ones slightly off the beaten track, or further from the main attractions as they are not priced towards international tourists. Also, the avocados there are amazing, and cheap! You'll never buy from Woolworth's again.

Unfortunately, the day I went was extremely windy. I did not go on the cable car to the lookout over the dam. But I look forward to doing that in the future. I'd also love to return to do the horse riding trails available. As well as sample more of the restaurants. For now though, I highly recommend Upper Deck for your lunch stop. One of the best eisbeins I've ever had.

So if you are city bound this festive season, or just looking for a fun nature inspired revive before then. Hartbeespoort is a fun day break, that can trick your mind into thinking it's on holiday for a bit. The positive boost does wonders.

Me, happy as a hippo in Nature

With Love,

The Gourmet Hippo

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