Who hasn’t heard of the Midlands Meander in KwaZulu-Natal? We seek out a few members of this tourism route to show just why it’s so famous
Words: Andrea Abbott
Pictures: Andrea Abbott and Supplied
The first tourism route of its kind in South Africa, the Midlands Meander in KwaZulu-Natal, was born almost 30 years ago when a few creative people got together to find a way to collaborate. “The concept of a rolling exhibition, held a couple of times a year, was born,” says Ingrid Andersen, general manager of the Meander.
Three decades on, and with nearly 150 members, the Midlands Meander has evolved into a thriving five-route destination that’s famous far and wide. “It offers more than exceptional art and craft,” says Ingrid. While activities like cycling, horse riding and various courses are increasingly popular, the Meander remains true to its original vision of being “a collective of creative and hospitable people, making a living at a gentler pace.” I met with some of these resourceful folk, all committed to being the best in their respective field.
1. Karkloof Farmers Market (Route 1)
A shed, home-made chilli sauce, seedlings and a bright idea while two families were holidaying together – such were the foundations of one of the finest farmers markets in KZN. In the seven years since they began, savvy entrepreneurs Andrea Gibson and Kim Drennan have seen their market grow like Topsy. The vendors are local, their produce fresh and hugely varied. “We decided to stick to food,” says Kim. “With one exception – the book stall. That’s food for the mind.”
Andrea 082 820 8986
Kim 082 851 8649
2. Karkloof Conservation Centre (Route 1)
“It began with the acknowledgment of our beautiful, diverse environment,” Karkloof Conservancy chairman, Charlie MacGillivray says as we walk to a bird hide at the edge of a wetland on Gartmore Farm. Providing a haven for 180 bird species, including all three cranes, and other wildlife, the farm proves how intensive agriculture can be. As Charlie explains, “It’s inclusive of all creatures great and small, the earthworm being the most important.” Information boards at the office describe the no-till farming that’s behind the thriving wildlife population, as well as the lower fuel costs. “At no sacrifice whatsoever, it all works,” says Charlie.
Open daily 08h00-16h00
033 330 2992, www.karkloofconservation.org.za
3. Dirt Road (Route 2)
Once upon a time, three students started a bush gear business for fun. “I had the time,” says Andrew Jardine. “Rob Topham had R500, and Frank Mooney had premises.” Their business, Trappers Trading, grew so big that the fun went out of it. “We sold it,” says Andrew, “then developed the Dirt Road label.” Today, that label encompasses bush clothing as well as leather-trimmed canvas bags (think Out of Africa) created by Andrew’s wife, Marion. Headquarters is a picturesque corrugated iron cottage on Andrew and Marion’s farm on the Curry’s Post Road. Available too are exquisite photographic prints and cards by top photographer, Scotch Macaskill.
Open daily 09h00-16h00
082 899 1418, www.dirtroadluggage.co.za