Lets venture to the land of mountains for a perfect weekend away…
Clarens ( Free State)
Clarens, a small rustic town nestled in the Free State, is approximately 3 hours and 30 mins from Johannesburg – which makes a great weekend destination out of the bustling city life into the farm lands.
You have a choice of wonderful self catering accommodation in beautiful homes that can be booked via www.infoclarens.com and many other of the usual sites like booking.com, safarinow etc. However since Clarens is a big weekend away destination for both locals and tourists…getting a place on short notice is difficult so best to book accommodation well in advance. (We started looking about a month before, and we struggled to find places that were available for this weekend)
Accommodation – Talking Trees
We could have not found a better place…Talking Trees had that charming country feel. Beautifully decorated and homey. The lights and TV were left on by the caretakers knowing that we would be arriving after 5pm, which was very welcoming.
4 bedrooms, nice cosy lounge and dining area with gas fireplace. Full DSTV bouquet. Fully stocked spacious kitchen with all necessary amenities (including shot glasses). And outside patio and braai area that would be perfect for those summer months.
Rating: 10/10 House was spacious, clean, beautiful and perfect for friends/family looking for a home away from home. Towels and cleaning service (after you leave) included. Cleaner can be booked to come through during your stay at an extra cost. No hassles with picking/dropping of house keys. Mountain Odyssey (booking agent) were friendly and even let us have a later checkout time when I called that morning. Absolutely loved this place and it will be my 1st choice whenever I go back.
Contact Sarah-Jane, Lisa, Ralie and Gavin (the whole family) at Mountain Odyssey. They will be waiting with a warm and friendly welcome to assist you with your Clarens accommodation and activity needs.
Tel: 058 256 1173/1480 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are mainly places to eat, art galleries, artsy and home decor shops around the main square. It’s safe to walk around at night and the square is full with lively people.
Besides for a peaceful place to relax, if you’re looking for adventure there are a lot of activities that can be done around the area. Like horse riding, white water rafting, paintball, hiking, dinosaur fossil tours etc. etc. And off course it is a good base camp when making your way to cross the border into Lesotho and go skiing at Afriski. Which is what we did.
We left JHB around 1pm on Friday, arrived in Clarens around 5:30pm, picked up the house keys (in less than 10 minutes), ordered some take away pizza from the same place, and headed over the house to chill and have a few drinks. The rest of our group joined us later that night and we had a fun time playing games, joking, laughing and talking till about 2am. We had an early 7am start the next day to make our way to Lesotho and try our hand at skiing. This was a first time visit for me to Clarens and a first time adventure activity (for me and most of group) – so the excitement levels where high and off course it made for an unforgettable weekend experience as can be seen from the pictures below. Afriski took up the entire day and luckily when we got back to Clarens around 6pm the shops were still open so we could buy some braai stuff. Although in hindsight – braaing after a long day out was probably not the best of ideas and in the cold winter weather. Takeaways would have been easy. We still had a pretty good time, had a lot of shooters and the “who can hold their liquor” competition between Dan and I was by then in full swing (started from Afriski). Off course I won😎💃! You can’t compete with an Indian in this game😂 …ha ha, also the fact that he was lights out by 9pm automatically made him the loser and the muse of our fun (sorry Dan you asked for make up on your face – it provided a lot of entertainment, I haven’t laughed that hard rolling on the floor in ages😁😂). The tiredness however crept in and we all were eventually in bed by 12pm. Sunday we lazed around in the house, sat out in the sun for bit chatting and then made our way up to the main square to drop of the keys, have an early brunch and walk around a bit before we set back to JHB. Another day would have been perfect to have really enjoyed the house and relaxed after the hectic day out.
Best Recommended For: chilled weekend away with friends/family. With the option for adventure activities if you get bored.
Afriski Mountain Resort (Lesotho)
At least a 2 hour drive from Clarens, through windy endless roads around the mountains and frozen mini rivers and waterfalls, you will eventually reach the entrance to Afriski Mountain Resort.
As first time skiers it was a little daunting waiting in long lines.y being given boots and then told to stand in another line for skis…not knowing what to do or expect. Luckily we had a friend who had been there before. But as a vertically challenged lady at first I thought how am I going to carry these skis around…but after both boots are securely on your feet and it’s just the skis, they weren’t that heavy and quite manageable in the end.
- There are only 2 sessions a day for ski school, the first being at 11am.
- If you are planning on getting breakfast there, like we did and which we never ended up doing, you need to leave Clarens latest 6am. So that you get there around 8/08:30am with sufficient time to spare. I would suggest you eat 1st then go collect tickets and get geared up as this process will take you at least an hour if they busy.
- Wear gloves…you will need it for all the falling on the snow and especially for holding onto to the pulley that takes you up the slope.
- You will get hot pretty quick – skiing is hard work and if the sun is out its gonna get warm. Wear layers that you could possibly take off and have pockets that you can stuff things like your scarf etc. in.
- Don’t carry a bag if you can ladies – use your jacket pockets to keep your phone, lip balm and wallet/money – it’s so much easier.
- Take some water with you, you can leave it one side at the bottom of the slopes or in your jacket if it has a holder. I was so parched all the time…as mentioned before, learning to ski was hard work and the strength I needed to hold onto the pulleys tired me out.
- Keep at it. The more you try to practice the moves and methods, the more you will get it. The trick to walking sideways is to bring your feet inwards so that the tips of the skis are going in the snow. The trick to skiing ⛷ is to lean forward – you will never fall leaning forward…the skis and tightness of the boots prevents you from falling forward (TIP courtesy from Mike👊). You will however fall sideways and backwards going up the slopes via the pulley system… but don’t be ashamed everyone falls. I fell almost every time. After the 1st few times I was no longer embarrassed just exhausted and annoyed because now I had to get myself up.
- Go with some great, nice and helpful guy friends who can keep u motivated, help carry your skis around and most of all help pick you up when you fall!!
- If you battle to get up and have no upper body strength like me and if there is no-one to help…take off the skis with your hands. This is much safer. The chances of you popping/dislocating your knee caps are high… you fall with locked knees and in awkward positions. Sadly there is no evidence of Mike and I playing twister on the snow 😄LOL! But that memory will be etched in our minds forever. NB! Never push yourself or let someone pull you in a manner if it feels uncomfortable or sore. (The no. of knee injuries seen from skiing is pretty high and the recovery time is months – let’s try to avoid that 😉 shall we.)
- Be prepared for aching sore muscles for the next few days. Shins, arms, shoulder blades etc. get a real work out. Stock up on that Voltaren and a hot someone to help massage it in😉.
- Finally – Have some fun!! Experience what the world has got to offer, don’t be afraid, let go of those fears and embrace the falling. Go conquer those slopes!