THE KING’S EXPERIENCE – PART 2

by | Nov 19, 2017 | Travel Stories | 0 comments

CONNECTING WITH THE COMMUNITY

Modern times have altered our historical landscape – The descendants of Britain, Norway and Zululand have forged a community life, in the King Cetshwayo district, that predominantly consists of subsistence and commercial agriculture (sugar cane, timber, essential oils, export quality tea, wildlife, cattle and goats). Trade and service towns have grown and offer a creative array of activities to road trippers and those who prefer to explore the road less travelled…

In Mtunzini, we stopped at the Forest Sundowner Restaurant for lunch. It is a popular spot for live entertainment. Nestled in a tranquil, dune forest, we sat on the wooden deck listening to a chorus of birdsong, sipping drinks. Talented local musicians Phil Moffett and Amber Liaden provided upbeat, background music.

Forest Sundowner Restaurant in Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Forest Sundowner Restaurant in Mtunzini.

Our journey along the picturesque Route 66 began in Gingindlovu but to make the most of this special route one should plan a week or two, to leisurely meander from the beginning of the Route at The Prawn Shak, at Amatikulu beach, and the Amatigulu Nature Reserve up through Eshowe, Melmoth, Ulundi to complete the tour in Pongolo.

In Gingindlovu, an innovative industry that has evolved due to sugar farming is the Tapanga Rhum Distillery. Traditional rum is distilled from a concentrated form of sugar. Tapanga Rhum utilizes raw sugar cane generating a pure blend and unique taste. It heralds as South Africa’s first Premium Single Estate Rhum Agricole – an African born rum. Tapanga produces two types of rhum – gold and white. The gold rhum has a distinct “vanilla blend with an attractive, well-balanced dry taste and long fruits and floral finish”. The white rhum is a pure Rhum Agricole with a “fresh, sugarcane aroma and is perfect as a mixer, or in cocktails”. The distillery’s modern design, attractive oak barrels and service counter, make this an ideal venue for an office event/party. Tastings and tours can be arranged by prior appointment.

Part of the King's Experience at Tapanga Rhum Distillery in Gingindlovu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Tapanga Rhum Distillery, Gingindlovu.

The town of Eshowe is a busy service centre blanketed by the beautiful Dhlinza forest. Nestled next to the road, near the hospital, is a funky restaurant called The House with beautifully landscaped gardens. The term “oasis” comes to mind as the food and beverages are creative with unique and fresh tastes to inspire the senses. It is also a perfect wedding/function venue and often serves the community with live entertainment.

Whilst we savoured a flavour-filled curry we were interested by local resident and dramatist, Ida Gartrell who shared isiZulu folklore and tales. She believes “stories have feet” and, as she narrated, the audience travelled on a journey of discovery whilst she mimicked chameleons walking and illustrated the stars in the sky as footprints of cattle.

Each town, on Route 66, offers a host of hospitable bed and breakfast establishments. In Eshowe, we stayed at Birds of Paradise where the decor was elegantly tasteful and the breakfast deliciously decadent.

The King's Experience in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Funky vibe at The House and elegant decor at Birds of Paradise.

For a traveller, nothing beats an open road with stimulating scenery. The inland drive from Eshowe, up through Melmoth pass, unveils the green, interlocking Nkwaleni valley and surrounding hills. We were greeted at the top of the pass by the colourful, Zamokuhle and Ndundulu fruit and vegetable stalls. This is an ideal opportunity to support local industry where many households are dependent on this income. It is also a perfect photographic stop to capture the rolling hills below.

The King's Experience, Delicious fruit and vegetable wares at the top of Melmoth Pass overlooking Nkwaleni Valley in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Delicious fruit and vegetable wares at the top of Melmoth Pass overlooking Nkwaleni Valley.

Our lunch and overnight stay at Mtonjaneni Lodge was not only comfortable, but highly enjoyable with excellent food and warm hospitality. The resourceful owners have combined history, crafts and accommodation with stunning views to make this a very worthwhile overnight stay in the heart of Route 66.

Not far from the lodge, we witnessed the shredding of tea tree plants and a furnace system where the extraction process takes place to create tea tree oil. The raw product is transported to a farm in Gingindlovu for processing and distribution via SOIL.

That evening, renown musician, Dave Stark, who bodes from Eshowe, played a varied repertoire at Golf View Lodge in Melmoth and stirred the dining crowd into dancing. He travels the province extensively and is available for private and public functions.

The tranquil views and setting at Mtonjaneni Lodge, Melmoth are part of the King's Experience

The tranquil views and setting at Mtonjaneni Lodge, Melmoth.

In contrast to the rural towns, the City of uMhlatuze, is the main centre for industry and commerce in the King’s District and serves as a large port and harbour. For those who prefer hotel stays, this should be the centre of your choice. There are shopping malls, cinemas and restaurants of varied cuisine.

A definite hit was the Cubana restaurant, which overlooks the Richard’s Bay harbour. It is an ideal place to relax with cocktails and quality food and offers a hip and festive feel to all who congregate there.

King's Experience at Cubana, Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Great food in a great setting makes for a relaxed time at Cubana, Richards Bay.

There had been a gliche with our original accommodation booking and I was very impressed at the efficiency of The Bayshore Inn who stepped in at the eleventh hour and checked in 15 people in lightning speed to ensure we did not miss our planned cruise around the harbour.

More on that in Part 3 of the King’s Experience… when we “connect with nature”…

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