Mpumalanga is magnificent

Some of the most beautiful women in the world gathered in Mpumalanga to sample the magnificent beauty of the province, bask in the warmth of the people while immersing themselves in the captivating culture that sets South Africans apart.

Some of the most beautiful women in the world gathered in Mpumalanga to sample the magnificent beauty of the province, bask in the warmth of the people while immersing themselves in the captivating culture that sets South Africans apart.

After landing in their specially branded jet, the women, who were warmly received, were treated to soft drinks and music before being divided into four groups.

The hired buses were to take us to breathtaking Mpumalanga flagship tourist destinations like God's Window, Three Rondavels, Bourke's Luck Potholes and Lone Creek Waterfalls.

I was fortunate to be on the same bus as Miss South Africa, Tansy Coetzee. We chose to sample the wonders of the Three Rondavels. It was the furthest from all the other destinations, something that proved to be a blessing in disguise because of the scenery.

As we settled for the drive, we had the opportunity of admiring the lush green beauty of the Mpumalanga forests neatly laid out like newly-braided corn rows on a maiden's head.

The forests stretch for kilometres on end, varying in their shapes and positions which are sometimes thick and tight while others are elegant in their sparse demeanor. They look as if somebody shaved the bottom part, and left the top leafy to whisper secrets of the forests to each other. Such is the lot of the man-made forests.

Casting our eyes on the opposite side of the road, which snakes between the two batches of forest land, one could see the natural forest. The contrast is fascinating in that it grows freely and unrestrained.

The beauty and wonder thereof, leaves you breathless. The only thing that comes to mind as a city slicker, is the question of all the creatures that may be lurking in that overgrowth.

On the occasional farms we passed through, we noticed that farmers had been hard at work on their banana plantations.

Nonetheless it's the lush green scenery, stretching as far as the eye could see, that captures the imagination. I was grateful to be away from the concrete jungle and to be able to breathe in the heady aroma of pine and eucalyptus.

Standing majestically with the wisdom of those who have seen it all, are the mountains in their varying shapes.

They compel you to look, and strangely, you never tire because what you see is the result of millions of years of nature at work and now the artistry that stands before you, makes you feel like bowing your head in gratitude for such a beautiful country.

I could tell that the Miss World contestants were intrigued in as much as they were awed.

Just before we turned the last corner to the Three Rondavels, we caught a glimpse of the cone structured trio. But this does not prepare one for the magnificence of the structures that stand together like the huts of a wealthy man happy to provide for his wives.

Through the spaces among the three, you catch the smoky blue mountains and the lush green trees in the far distant background. I stopped dead on my tracks when I finally came to rest in front of the railing, keeping the tourists and their adventurous hands away.

The Three Rondavels are surrounded by miniature sky blue lagoons and until the day you join the ancestors, you will never drink in that stunning beauty. I felt my breath caught up in my chest, and time stood still. I was alone on that mountain and the wonders of God's creation.

As I broke the spell by slowly dragging myself away from that magnificence, I began to notice the beauty created by the people of surrounding villages.

There, in the scorching heat typical of the province of the rising sun, I saw elephants, buffalos, zebras and other creations captured by the artistry of those now ready to eke a living out of their creatures.

Their creative art reproduction techniques, which tourists travel long distances to see, enable the visitors to take a piece of South African art back with them. The dishes and jewellery are also exquisite.

The journey back to our hotels was characterised by silence as I assumed everyone was reflecting on the beauty of nature and such warm people. The celebrations were far from over as we all had to get ready for the gala dinner.

Set in a park-like venue, the venue partly boasted a huge marquee, but before we could even settle down to dig into the fare offered by our wonderful host Charles Ndabeni, chief executive of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, and mayor Lassy Chiwayo, it was clear that they had outdone themselves with their red carpet treatment.

Traditional dancers melded Zulu, Swazi and Indian culture with the late Mfaz'Omnyama's Khula Tshitshi classic providing the backdrop. What harmony and elegance and rhythm. I felt goosebumps coming as I revelled at the beauty of our culture. With all these beautiful women in tow, the world was really going to know that there is more to us as South Africans than the crime that always mars the beauty and strides we have made.

The dinner did not disappoint but it was Ndabeni's "get-downs" that remained the talk of the evening. He could not resist the smooth, rhythmic tones provided by Stimela, one of the country's best groups.

As I dragged myself back to my hotel, mellow from the best SA wines and satiated by the bliss of great music, I knew that my country was happening and I did not want to be anywhere else in the world.