Part 3: Summer Holiday '22/23
Next up on the roadtrip, Howick in KZN. Oh golly, what a long and difficult drive. We left Hogsback early via the gravel road towards Cathcart, which was actually in quite good condition. The last time we did this road we were in a Hilux though, so now we went a bit slower. From Queenstown to Matatiele was okay, but there were a lot of long distance taxis and all the many tiny villages of the Eastern Cape to pass through, with NO rest stops. We just made do stopping off the road, by a forest or farm. As we got into KZN the roads got even worse, with enormous potholes and the end of the drive was in very misty and wet conditions. So the drive took over 10 hours, instead of the 9 hours we expected. But we arrived safely and just before dark. I had booked us at 11 on Karkloof, which is a renovated Old Mushroom Farm. There are a few lodging options, including staying in apartments created in the old mushroom tunnels. We stayed in one of the separate cottages, which has 2 bedrooms and was very spacious. The kitchen is fully equipped, with large fridge, full gas stove and the all important coffee bodum. There is a dining area, sitting area and a large bathroom with a big shower. Outside the back is a patio with a lovely old braai space. There are no fences and all the visiting holiday dogs could greet and play on the lawn. Our boys loved having so many new friends. On the farm, in the remaining part of the tunnels they have created a shopping space, which has lovely homeware, clothing and a fantastic soap shop. There is also a gym where you can attend drop-in classes and a large kiddies play area. In the opposite building is a lovely pizza restaurant and a muesli shop. Outside there is a community veggie garden, where you can pick a few things while you are staying there. They also have a 5km running route around the property, which you can use for a small donation.
There is loads to do in the area, they have the Midlands Meander, for which you can get a map and booklet at the info centre. We found there weren't as many nice places included in it as on our previous visit 6 years ago, but it is still a good place to look for things to do and places to visit, it also shows which places are pet friendly. When you are at the info centre go and check out the Howick Falls, which is right next to it. This looked much better than the last time we visited, it looked like the huge amount of recent rain had cleaned the place and there was lots of water in the falls. In the area where we stayed there is also the Karkloof Falls. A good way to see these is to do a run or cycle in the forest. You can get permits at the Country Club and the routes are very well marked and maintained. Sadly the longer running route was closed, since they were harvesting. So we just did some of the cycle tracks and linked up around one of the short runs to get our 20kms in. The river and falls were full and everything so green. Our previous trip was in winter, when this area has their dry season, so it was very different. Well behaved dogs are allowed on the trails, no fee for them, its R80pp for the day, and if you want to go early before they open you can get the permit the day before.
In the surrounding areas there is lots of shopping for all sorts of things, including a few chocolate shops and even a winery. The choccies are good, but nothing compared to the Hogsback place. The winery, Highgate, is next to the Piggly Wiggly on Nottingham road. It is a lovely estate, emulating Western Cape wineries, but the wine is unfortunately not as good and rather pricey - and they don't waive the tasting fee on purchase like the good farms in the Cape Winelands do. But it was fun to try it out, since it's a rarity in the area. The Piggly Wiggly is a little shopping area with lawns and a kiddies play park - very dog friendly too. Near this is the Mandela Capture site, which has an amazing sculpture and a new museum. The sculpture is outside of the museum and you can walk your dogs to it. There is a fee nowadays though, which you pay whether you go into the museum or not. But if you haven't done the sculpture walk before it is worth it. In the Howick area is a nut shop called Nutting but Goodness. They have a huge selection, not only nuts and fruit, but all sorts of good stuff and their prices are excellent, so do not miss this shop!
Next door to the Old Mushroom Farm is a the Karkloof Farmers Market, held on Saturday mornings. This is seriously the best farmers market we have ever been to. It was super busy, not sure if it's always so busy or if it was just because it was a couple of days before Christmas. There are a few veggie stands (the one lady has amazing oyster mushrooms), a couple of cheese stands, fresh breads and lots of jams. We did all our food shopping for the next 2 stops there. Dogs are allowed at the market, don't be tricked by the reviews on Google.
The Midlands is a wonderful place to visit, where you will find something to do for everyone's tastes and easily find dog friendly places.
At 11 on Karkloof the cottages are R450pppn. The apartments in the old mushroom tunnels are a bit more pricey. Dogs stay free and are free to roam and make friends without any fences to ruin their holiday.