“Harties”, as it is informally known to the locals, is a town about 45 km north of Johannesburg, actually called Hartbeespoort. The name of the town means “gateway of the hartebeest” (a species of antelope) in Afrikaans (one of the national languages in South Africa). Jamie and I have driven up there to have lunch and look around a couple of times. Our friends also did a Warrior Race there a couple of weeks ago and we went and hung out with them afterwards.
Harties is a small resort town, I guess you could call it, positioned in the Magaliesberg Mountains and on the Hartbeespoort Dam. The dam was opened in 1923 and has very beautiful, albeit old and kind of run down, architecture surrounding the dam. Jamie and I went and walked across it. I don’t have any good pictures of the dam, sorry. I think we took them all on Jamie’s phone. Hartbeespoort is a town of very beautiful countryside. It is a nice place to go for the day to get out of the city or there are several little lodges and places you can stay the weekend. Harties also has a lot of nice, outdoor restaurants, which is why we like to go there on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to lunch.
The first time we went we ate at this restaurant called The Windmill. It was a typical “South African restaurant menu”, as Jamie and I call it – burgers, sandwiches (or “sarmies” as they call them here), chicken schnitzel, steak…the view was beautiful from the patio. There are cute little shops around there, as well, but they seem to close kind of early. I would, too. Being a store that is open late is for the birds. Get home and enjoy your friends and family!
When we went to cheer on our friends for the Warrior Race, we hung out at the event with them for a while then we all went to this restaurant a bit closer to Joburg called The Fat Olive. You need to make a reservation here as it seems it is always busy, but we lucked out because someone didn’t arrive for their reservation. The Fat Olive is part of a lodge right on a little pond. They had tons and tons of geese who wanted to eat the food right off your plate! Not to the point of annoying, it was more comical. Our friend, Beth, wasn’t feeling the geese…maybe that’s because Jamie (who is sitting to her right) was feeding them bread so they would antagonize her! 🙂
It was such a nice setting: we were sitting at a picnic table under a willow tree right next to a pond filled with ducks and geese. I would say this is a very family oriented place, so best to go during lunch. Lots of kids. It also had the typical “South African restaurant menu” 🙂 I got the chicken schnitzel and salad and Jamie got a burger. Oh my goodness, guys I nearly forgot! As you can see from the first picture, there were Black Swans on the property! Have you ever seen a Black Swan?? I haven’t! I don’t even think I have seen a White Swan! (We are going to Switzerland in a couple weeks, so I’ll take pictures of them then). Our Swiss friend, Chris, said he thinks the Black Swans are native to Australia. They are beautiful! AND, not only did we see those birds, there were 2 random zebra hanging out! The picture I took doesn’t show the zebra well, but they were there! Who would have thought that on a green backdrop, black and white stripes would be so wonderfully disguised?? Well…I guess God did, that’s why he made them that way, duh…
Another trip we made to this area was to the Cradle of Humankind. If you have never heard of this place, it is actually quite cool, educationally speaking. OK I’m going to nerd-out for a second to explain this: It is home of the Sterkfontein Caves in which a 2.3 million year old fossil, called “Mrs. Ples”, was found in 1947. Hers was the most complete skull fossil every found of her species, Australopithecus africanus, which was the first of an ape-form species classified as a hominin (closest to humans). SO…you can go there and see these caves and other fossils found in the area in the museum. The Cradle has a high density of millions of year old fossils still to be excavated.
Everyone speaks Afrikaans in Harties and expects you do, as well, so it can be quite humorous when they start speaking to you. Afrikaans is derived from the West German language and evolved from the Dutch settlers in South Africa/Namibia. It seems to be an extremely hard language to learn and speak, for me anyway. But at the same time mesmerizing when people are speaking it because it’s only spoken here in Southern Africa. If you don’t come here, you will never hear it.
I would definitely recommend going to Harties if you live or are visiting near Johannesburg. It’s great for a day trip or a weekend getaway!