The Hartbeespoort cable car that takes you on a scenic ride to the top of the Magaliesberg Mountain is probably Gauteng’s best kept secret as Ismail Suder found out.
Every time I make my bi-annual pilgrimage to Johannesburg, I feel like a goldfish trapped in a glass bowl – despite the overwhelming love I get from family there.
For a Durbanite used to our sun-kissed beaches and balmy climate (OK, we had a bit of a drizzle lately), I always felt that Gauteng had little to offer in terms of outdoor leisure activities, greenery and peace.
On my recent trip there, my businessman brother, Yusuf, proved me wrong! Unable to endure my constant whining that ‘there’s nothing to do in Joburg”, he packed my son, Ridwan, and I in his SUV – that had seen better days – and drove for an hour to the lush green region of Hartbeespoort – to Harties Aerial Cableway. I found out to my surprise that this unique destination was a mere 30km North West of Pretoria.
The temperature was pushing 37deg.C and we were sizzling in the sweltering heat. And like a Dua answered, Yusuf spotted a young farmer selling a pile of freshly-picked watermelon on the roadside and stopped. He bought two at R50 a piece. The 10km destination to the cableway couldn’t come fast enough for me: I wasted no time to slice one up in the back of the vehicle in the parking lot. It was blood red and was surprisingly cool despite lying in the sun. We gouged it like there was no tomorrow as its juices flowed down our arms and onto our clothes. The security guard gave us a strong admonishing stare, probably because eating anywhere on the property was not allowed – and we were breaking the rules!
For me, wolfing down the sweet watermelon was the best antidote for any possible dehydration for the 7 minute cableway trip up the mountain. The slow ride on the cable car was possibly the most exciting leisure activity I had experienced in Gauteng. It reminded me of the cable car ride I enjoyed in the Iranian coastal town of Ramsar along the Caspian Sea a few years ago when I was part of a South African tour group. No doubt, our cable car ride to the top of the mountain was much better than the foggy morning ride in Iran.
On this ride, we traveled silently to the top, with only the crunching, clanging and squeaky sounds coming from the cabling and bearing mechanisms.
As we lifted about half way up the craggy mountain, I spotted a pair of eagles gliding gracefully above our gondola, scanning its sharp eyes for dassies, its main prey in this semi-forested mountainside.
When our cable car trundled to a stop at the mountaintop station, I excitedly walked to the viewing deck to enjoy the stunning 360degree views of the Hartbeespoort Dam and the panoramic vistas of the Magaliesberg hills beyond.
There is little to match the enjoyment of having a tall glass of cold fruit cocktail or an ice-cream from the fully-stocked self serve restaurant on the mountain as you feast on the scenery. I can also imagine having a slice of chocolate cake and coffee on a chilly day – that would go down well for me too! The little pizza shop along the trail makes genuine Italian style pizzas and the aroma knocks you as you hit the circular trail. Pity it’s NOT halaal. Now here’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur to open up a halaal food joint up on the mountain top!
The Harties Aerial Cableway frowns on anyone carrying food from outside, but I don’t suppose they’d wrench your home-brought chicken tikka sandwiches from your hands if they spotted you munching on one.
There’s one spot along the “Dassie Loop” trail that I like very much: It’s a wooden bench under a shaded tree that overlooks the dam and hilly countryside below. A sign alongside the “meditation bench” overlooking the scenic vistas advises visitors to please stop talking and rather meditate while seated. A couple from India who were chatting animatedly behind me suddenly went quiet as they sat on the meditation bench to take in the view. For me, it was a relief from their loud chatter. It was at that moment that I truly appreciated the natural gifts of nature on the mountain top – the rustling trees and the tranquil sounds of twittering birds so high up.
On our way down, and back to the car after our four hour visit, we remembered the leftover watermelon in the back of the car which we hungrily polished off with gusto before making our way back to Joburg’ s grinding traffic noises.
*It costs R230per adult, R130 for pensioners, R140 per child over 4 years – and it’s free if it’s your birthday providing you produce your ID.