The Secret of Bulwer – In My Opinion

MoniquevanderWalt_travelchatsa_bulwer_kwazulunatal(61)

Interview originally published via #TravelChatSA

  1. Please introduce yourself.

Monique van der Walt – In the smallest of nutshells: From corporate PR to Purpose Driven Life.  Less than a year ago I resigned my corporate PR position to seek my true purpose. I currently find myself living and loving Social Media Tourism, PR & Photography.

  1. Where do you live – and where is the town located?

Bulwer is a small farming town in KwazuluNatal (KZN) about 2.5 hours drive from Durban in the Southern KZN Midlands, right at the start of the Southern Drakensberg region.

  1. What is Bulwer “famous” for / or what should one know about the town?

The town itself is pretty old, and is named after the Lieutenant Governor of then Natal from 1875-1880, Sir Henry Bulwer, and is home to one of the oldest yellow-wood churches in SA. The village rests in the shadows of Magwaqa Mountain, boasting a biosphere, fantastic forestry & a world-famous Paragliding site.

The R617 is the only road that will take you to the village, but don’t blink, you could miss it completely. Little Bulwer has a Library, Police Station Station, Fuel Station, grocer / odds ‘n ends store, a few trade stores and couple of funeral establishments. There is a new Municipality under construction which is expected to bring great development to the town and possibly even a Shoprite/Checkers. As it is now, the nearest retail chain store is Spar, 35 kms away in Underberg; but the produce from the local farms is readily available at the smiling street vendors.

Marutswa Forest is one of the most active clouds forest in SA and draws international visitors. The forest is a sanctuary for the Cape Parrot and has a boardwalk with viewing platforms for a chance to spot the many rare and odd birds calling Marutswa Forest home; some say there could be unknown species living deep inside the thick bush.

The vehicle registration for Bulwer is NIP, and the standing local joke is it means Nowhere In Particular. But in particular, look out for the Nguni cows and jolly goats that wander the highway and pepper the byways throughout the area.

Bulwer is also the hometown of the 2017 Comrades Marathon male winner, Bongmusa Mthembu.

  1. What are the top things to do in Bulwer?

Being such an off-the-grid town, the list of things to do suits the nature lover to a T, with vast forests and serene nature reserves all around Bulwer Village.  Bulwer is known for her off-road trails that provide the perfect terrain for hiking, horse riding, cycling, motocross, 4×4 or even just a slow nature and birdwatching meander.  Fishing, tubing, and swimming the nearby rivers is on Bulwer’s summer agenda. There is even a place called “Bulwer Beach”, natural pools hidden deep in the forests, and you’ll only ever hear about it or go there with a seasoned local.

But there is a wildcard thrown in for the adrenaline Junkie. Bulwer Mountain is known as one of the best paragliding sites in South Africa, so much so that there is a resident paragliding school on her slopes (Wildsky Paragliding – with onsite log cabin accommodation).

moniquevanderwalt_bulwer_drakensberg_kwazulunatal_bnb_ardlui_tourism_socialmedia_pr_canon_photography (5)-2

Ard Lui B&B

  1. Any dining places you’d recommend?

My favourite way to “eat Bulwer” is the numerous fruit and veg stalls, packed with fresh and delicious local produce. This is sufficient for me as I have a plant-based and raw-food diet, but for everyone else, there are a few places to eat in Bulwer:

On the west side of Bulwer is Nip Inn, Pub & Grub – the favourite local hangout; the kids area is fantastic and the food is wholesome and hearty.

On the east side is Mountain Park Hotel with its old-world charm pub and restaurant.

The Shisa Nyama in central Bulwer is an authentic experience for the any traveller and an up-and-coming function venue. In the spirit of small town living combined with welcoming Zulu culture, you will find that almost anyone can join the festivities.

I must add that being a country town, things are delightfully informal. Not a restaurant per se, Loretta of Ard Lui B&B said she could rustle up a good meal or high tea, to be enjoyed with a view of fantastic gardens and Bulwer mountain.

  1. Recommended places to stay in Bulwer?

Ashtonvale Guest Farm is a working four-generation farm, family owned and operated. Beautiful hillside rondavels, three waterfalls on site, animal farm, tennis court, swimming pool, entertainment lounge pony rides (and more), it’s a fantastic & reasonably priced family getaway.

Nip Inn boats lovely log cabins with DSTV, campsite, caravan park and onsite pub and restaurant and is the meeting place for many a rural activity.

Established in the 1940s, Mountain Park Hotel is a your landmark for arriving in Bulwer. The garden cottages are a pleasant and serene budget stay, and once the hotel rooms are upgraded they will surely provide the same. The restaurant and pub fireplace provide tasty and cosy country comfort.

Ard Lui B&B is an enrapturing and historic place to stay, with exquisite grounds and interior décor that seamlessly blends of classic and modern design. Little touches like the nightcap tray give you a timeless feeling in a room that is modern in design and flow.

  1. What is your favourite thing to do in Bulwer?

Bulwer’s complete country immersion is perfect for me; as the saying goes, early to bed and early to rise makes you healthy (check) wealthy (I am in soul) and wise (continual WIP). So, my top activity would be simply exploring the acres of forest surrounding the area, and capturing Bulwer’s beauty. I also enjoy “cow-spotting” – finding and photographing roaming cows in random places.

moniquevanderwalt_bulwer_kwazulunatal_southafrica_photography_travel_tourism_ (6)

  1. Why should one visit Bulwer?

It’s a place where KZN Midlands Serenity meets Drakensberg adrenaline, and almost everyone can find their perfect balance of the two in Bulwer, South Africa.

The Castle & The Christmas Shop

 

The next day of our adventure was to the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle and the Christmas Shop

SAM_0892

The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle located above the village of Orschwiller

SAM_0893

The town is another tiny village, nestled in-between endless winelands

IMG_0101

We wound our way through the town, up to the Castle

IMG_0179

IMG_0173

The Castle was built by Frédéric le Borgne, duke of Souabe and a member of the Hohenstaufens familyview more history

IMG_0181

It is cold and eerie inside the castle, you feel like you are back in the  12th Century, when the Castle was built.

IMG_0171

Throughout, small period windows allow you this astounding, breathtaking glimpse of what the duke saw on a daily basis

IMG_0104

After the Castle, we went down into Orshwiller for lunch, and ended up at The Hupsa Fannala

IMG_0114

It was a quaint place, the food slightly higher priced, but most delicious

IMG_0115

And from there, on to Riquewihr, in search of the Christmas Shop

IMG_0203

This was my favourite town of the trip

IMG_0125

The main street is only pedestrian (and delivery vehicle) access, the cobbled wonderland becomes from the start

IMG_0126

For those who prefer not to walk, the little tourist train will show and tell you around the fairy tale town

IMG_0124

Here, I found something I have never had before (and would not normally eat, should I not have been on holiday)

IMG_0138

Banana Sorbet !

IMG_0144

Made with real bananas, it was absolutely delicious, so much so that I hunted for it in every other place we went to, but did not find it

IMG_0137

We wandered through the village, taking in this surreal, movie-set like village

IMG_0135

The smell of mouth-watering treats, sweet & savoury capture every  sense

IMG_0131

Tourist and locals alike congregate in the the gorgeous winstubs (or wine rooms)

IMG_0147

Just one of of the boulangeries (bread-ery) / patissteries (bakery), its windows lined with multi-coloured macaroons

IMG_0153

Ha, and finally, the famous Christmas Shop

The Feerie de Noel is the main reason why this town holds the best memories for me.

IMG_0155

 The store is set up like many of the stores here, almost like a ride, one way in / out. And, as soon as you enter, it feels like you have climbed aboard the Polar Express

IMG_0157

As you venture further into the wonderland, you feel as if you have just woken up in the  Santa’s Factory, it really gives you that warm-and-fuzzy feeling.

No cameras inside – check it out here.