The mist is slowing lifting, and disappearing in places. But the cotton-wool sound deadening is still there and the occasional laugh or car engine seems a world away and muffled.
Where the dried yellow hillside plunges into the glass-calm of the dam, figures emerge slowly from the white backdrop. Most are running, some are walking, some have dogs and some have kids in tow.
It’s a Saturday morning park run in Dullstroom in Mpumalanga and as I watch, I vow once again to start regularly lacing up my Nikes to get back to running fitness. To be able to do a park run in a place like this – even in the teeth of a bitter winter cold snap – would definitely be one of my more memorable runs. Up in the high, rarified alpine air, the village feels clean and fresh… and quiet.
There are quite a few runners astir at this hour after dawn and the hardier anglers, who have probably been casting their fly rods since the sun came up. Dullstroom is about getting away from the haste and waste of the city and opting for the hyper-energetic options of running, hiking or mountain biking or the less strenuous charms of fishing.
The third option – blobbing out – is the one we choose, spending our time walking sedately around the village, shopping (or browsing) and consuming food. Oh, and doing a bit of reading, too, between the World Cup football games on TV.
We are staying at a self-catering house called “Behind the Inn”, because it is next to the famed Dullstroom Inn. It’s billed as a “boutique” accommodation option and, for once, a place does live up to the hype.
It is furnished with elegant taste and has everything you’d want for a cosy weekend or longer – from DStv to a large fireplace (first wood gratis), as well as a complimentary bottle of wine on your first night. It’s a double storey house with two double en-suite bedrooms downstairs and a “honeymoon suite” above.
Perfect for couples or groups. And, the owners listen. The first time we visited, I remarked on the lack of a teapot (important to family Seery because using a teabag in a cup is not nearly the same).
This time, there was a brilliant one … and somehow, the tea tasted better – or maybe it felt better, warming the fingers clasped around the mugs. You will not lack for places to eat in Dullstroom or surrounds. There’s everything from Belgian waffles to fine dining to trout pate.
When it comes to beverages, the range goes from fine whisky to wine to ground coffee, with everything in between, An array of shops, offering everything from art to locally-made clothes, souvenirs and artisanal cheeses and organic foods, will cater for most interests – and pockets.
Dullstroom is less than three hours from Joburg or Pretoria on the N4 highway, but watch out for potholes.