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Harties, the Hermanus of Joburg

What to do in Hartbeespoort

In a valley to the south of the Magaliesberg mountain range and about an hour from either Johannesburg or Pretoria you’ll be transported to what may seem like another country.

The vast Hartbeespoort Dam, forms the anchor of this Gauteng tourist destination in Hartbeespoort, affectionately known as Harties by the locals or the “Vaalies”. While in a landlocked Province, this little town has the distinct aura of a seaside village. You half expect to catch the whiff of salty sea breezes as you explore its nooks and crannies.

We headed out for a day trip during December. Normally Zulfi does not take leave in December so that his colleagues are able to take leave to celebrate Christmas. But nothing is the same in 2020. And lucky for us too as we were wary of the increasing holiday crowds. He was on leave this December and we were now able to go during the week when things were much quieter.

The damn is a big attraction. Watching the water thundering through the channels at the road bridge built over the damn wall is quite an exhilarating experience. While the damn was originally built in 1923 for irrigation purposes, Hartbeespoort has become such a popular holiday and weekend resort for the inhabitants of Johannesburg and Pretoria; it is now the principal water recreation area of northern Gauteng and many types of water sports are enjoyed on the dam including yachting.

Discovering Little Paris

We headed to Little Paris, which is an enclosed shopping village centered around all things French. You’ll find a French style bakery, clothing boutique, a deli stocked with snacks, cheeses, preserves and charcuterie (no halaal meats options though), a French style restaurant, the French Toast Koffie Kafee, well known for their decadent French Toast, again not halaal, and the main attraction is the miniature Eiffel Tower and romantic bridge of locks over a small picturesque little lake. This is where people go to get their Instagram on.

In spite of it being a week day, this spot was quite busy, and a small queue was waiting to go see the Eiffel Tower as they were limiting the amount of people to go through at a time. You can buy a metal lock for about R100 and have it engraved before going through and finding a place for it on the bridge or the tower itself.

It’s a lovely spot for getting some gorgeous photos, but the people crowding and waiting to take their photos put me off a bit and I didn’t wait around to get that perfect shot. Was this not during the time of Covid, the crowd would not have deterred me one bit. It made me relive my time in Paris years ago. Walking the cobbles you could almost hear an accordion playing in the background.

The Harties Cable Way

After Little Paris we made our way to the Hartbeespoort Cable Way. Yes, it’s not only Cape Town that has a cable way. There’s even one in Durban that takes you to the top of the Moses Mabhida Stadium as well as the one on the beachfront at Durban Funworld from which you can see the promenade.

I must admit, because of the surrounding area being quite rustic I did not have high expectations. But the Hartbeespoort Cable Way turned out to be quite world class and comparable to the famed Table Mountain Cable Way. Perhaps not in scope, but certainly in presentation and service.

We bought our tickets at R240 per adult and R150 per child which we got free as it was Taufeeq’s birthday month. The sign said rides are free if it’s your birthday. Taufeeq’s birthday had just passed but when we asked, the charming lady at the kiosk decided she would let him have it anyway. Yay!

The lower cable station has a smart restaurant, a souvenir shop and kiosk selling popcorn and snacks. After temperatures were taken and details filled in, we made our way to the cable car and were glad to see that each car was spray-sanitised before you climbed in. The cars are just big enough for a small family at a time so you did not share with anyone else.

As we took off on the 1.2 km long cableway to the top of the Magaliesberg we were treated to panoramic views of the mountain, Hartbeespoort Dam and the surrounding area. The views are breathtaking and give a very different overview of the area.

The top station has 2 restaurants, an ice-cream kiosk with Magnums, Cornettos and the like. This was very welcome as the day was sweltering. There’s a manicured lawn area with what looked like frames for bedouin style tents and bean bags you can lounge in. It’s a lovely place to picnic for a while and enjoy the views. It wasn’t very full when we went but I imagine on the weekends it would be too full to enjoy a quiet picnic there.

From here you can go on short a paved stroll around the mountain. There are stops every few meters where you can read about the history of the area. The path brings you back to the cable station so leave the walk till you’re ready to head back down. I thought it a good idea to use the ladies before heading down as we would be heading back home to Benoni from there. I’m happy to report that the toilets and facilities were clean and neat.

The last ride down was at 4.30pm. I made sure I was very aware of the time while we were at the top. For some wierd reason I had great anxiety about missing the last cart and being stranded. I blame it on Covid induced stress. We made sure to stop at the souvenir shop before leaving. Over the years, it’s become our tradition to buy a fridge magnet for every country or place of interest we visit. Our fridge is peppered with magnets from many places Alhamdulillah, and Insha Allah, we will still have opportunities to buy many more.

The food scene

The halaal scene in Harties is not bad. There are 2 KFC’s in the area and a Mcdonalds. There’s a small cafe and takeaway called Tandoori Indian Restaurant and Takeaway. It’s really more a cafe than a restaurant or takeaway. We were told inside that the food was halaal but you have to pre-order.

There’s also:

La Montagna Pizzeria, Damdoryn Junction (newly opened)
Shop 10, Damdoryn Junction c/o R512 & Old Rustenburg Road (R104), Haartbeesfontein, North West, South Africa
Certified Halaal SANHA

Mugg and Bean (On the Move), Total Pecanwood
Corner R512 and Oberon Road Broederstroom Hartbeespoort 
012 244 1290
Certified Halaal SANHA

Al Medina, Chameleon Village
Indian Halaal food and takeaways available.
Contact: 074 913 6279 (Ahmed) / 083 287 9004
Open: 8am-5pm (7 Days a week)
Muslim-owned

Steers, Damdoryn Junction
Shop 6, Dandoryn Junction c/o R512 & Old Rustenburg Road (R104), Hartbeesfontein
012 253 5240
Certified Halaal SANHA

Fishaways, Damdoryn Junction
Shop 6, Damdoryn Junction c/o R512 & Old Rustenburg Road (R104), Haartbeesfontein, North West, South Africa
Tel: 012 253 5242
Certified Halaal SANHA

There are loads of resorts and places to stay in the area. However during the holiday season it gets very full so you’ll need to book early. There are also other attractions in Harties we did not have the chance to see yet, like the Upside Down House, Lion and Safari Park and Cradle of Humankind. But this just leaves us something to see for our next trip there…

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