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#TravelTuesday: Clarens, the jewel of the Free State

The eastern part of South Africa’s Free State province, lying along the Maluti mountains, is a place for all seasons. Enjoy afternoon thundershowers in summer and see it transformed into a snowy wonderland in winter. In autumn, trees and grasses form a mosaic of red and copper. Here’s my pick of 15 things to do in Clarens in the Free State.

 

Something new is brewing at #CraftFest

Durban – In the summer heat, no CraftFest would be complete without an ice-cold glass of craft beer.

Brought to you by the Independent on Saturday and the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market, the festival celebrates some of the best brews in the province.

From the Upper Highway area come the 1000 Hills Brewery and the Standeaven Brewery. Clockwork Brewery and Doctrine visit from the capital, and newly featured in CraftFest this year are the Lions River Craft Brewery, the Happy Days Brewery and Nottingham Road Brewing Company, all from the Midlands.

 

A weekend guide to Clarens

I have been visiting Clarens since I was a little girl. Every year, around Autumn, my family would bundle into a car brimming with warm clothes and head in the direction of the Eastern Free State. The reason: my dad absolutely loved to photograph the tall, lanky poplar trees as they began to turn from green to yellow to fiery orange. In fact, every year we would travel with a heap of photographers who would do the same.

 

Into Clarens

If you’d blindfolded me, bundled me into a helicopter, flown me for hours and then pushed me, still blindfolded, through the front door into Gosto, I would have thought I was in a super-cool, insanely vibey and ultra-hip restaurant in the Big Smoke. Joburg or Cape Town, maybe even Hong Kong or London. But Clarens? No, not even the Swiss one. Clarens, Orange Free State.

Now this is not to cast nasturtiums at that province. The southern Free State is utterly beautiful. Magnificent mountains, fabulous greenery. Fresh cherries to sweeten your drive. Diverse and lovely bird life. We’re so used to our comfort zones – the usual, obvious destinations/ the beach/ the Winelands/ Addo/ Kruger – that we’re missing out.

 

15 Things to do in Clarens

The eastern part of South Africa’s Free State province, lying along the Maluti mountains, is a place for all seasons. Enjoy afternoon thundershowers in summer and see it transformed into a snowy wonderland in winter. In autumn, trees and grasses form a mosaic of red and copper. Here’s my pick of 15 things to do in Clarens in the Free State.

 

More South Africans are buying up properties in Clarens – here’s how much a home costs

The eastern part of South Africa’s Free State province, lying along the Maluti mountains, is a place for all seasons. Enjoy afternoon thundershowers in summer and see it transformed into a snowy wonderland in winter. In autumn, trees and grasses form a mosaic of red and copper. Here’s my pick of 15 things to do in Clarens in the Free State.

 

Clarens: The jewel of the Free State

Find mountain magic in Clarens and surrounds. Just look out for the potholes! To explore the eastern Free State stretching beneath the Maloti Mountains, we took the N3 out of Joburg, pootling around the Gilloolys noodle for Villiers, before turning onto the R26 towards Frankfort. I don’t do highways so, by way of a chauffeur, I had solicited the services of my sister.

However, even with an advanced driving licence, Mags was no match for the bone-jarring potholes – some big enough to swallow a tractor – that confronted us on the Reitz-Tweeling road.  As she swerved like a Hollywood stunt driver in the pouring rain to a surround-sound of shrieks, gasps and under carriage rasps, we alternated between aquaplaning – drenched by approaching trucks negotiating their own pond-sized crevices – and driving over what felt like a rockery.

“They’ve even got 60km pothole speed limits,” exclaimed my brother, out from San Francisco, for this was a family jaunt. He aimed his camera at the sign as if taking pictures in the circumstances was even possible. Incidentally, we drove home via Warden, which added 70km to our trip but was so much easier on the nerves!

On the plus side, having to slow to a crawl gave us ample opportunity to drink in the bucolic beauty of the vast highland plains with cows and sheep safely grazing, yellow sunflowers in sway, golden fields of mealies, Swiss-rolled bales of hay.

Clarens
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