Landmark Panorama Route lodge turns 45

One of the oldest family-run resorts in Mpumalanga, Misty Mountain is celebrating its 45th birthday this year.

The charming mountain lodge, situated on the beautiful Long Tom Pass on the R37 between Lydenburg and Sabie, is renowned for its warm hospitality and unforgettable views, as well as its convenient location on the Panorama Route.

At 1 700 metres above sea level, on a clear day one can see Piggs Peak in Swaziland, some 100 kilometres away as the crow flies.

The property was initially bought by Robert and Ann Sheard in 1966 as a weekend getaway for their family. The Sheards lived in Johannesburg where Robert worked successfully in the computer industry and the remote timber farm, with its single farmhouse, provided some much-needed rest and relaxation for the businessman and his wife.

Soon the majestic scenery, the rolling mist, the crystal-clear water and the clean air crept into their hearts, and in 1974 they relocated permanently to the farm and started a self-catering holiday resort known as Misty Mountain Chalets.

By 1975, the Sheards had built 12 self-catering chalets and a trading store that serviced not only the guests at Misty Mountain, but the local forestry community as well.

In the early 1980s, the Sheards added a couple more chalets and in 1986, purchased the 208-hectare timber farm next door for R125 000.

In 1987, Misty Mountain was declared a South African Natural Heritage Site due to the prevalence of certain rare and endangered fauna and flora on the property, most notably the endangered Blue Swallow.

Twenty years after Misty Mountain was started, Robert and Ann’s son James Sheard and his wife Lisa moved to Misty Mountain to take over the running of the resort. By late 1996, a new restaurant and entertainment complex had been built and the following year, all the existing chalets were renovated.

In 2000, 10 new studio chalets came on stream and a conference/function centre was completed two years later. Another four studio units were built in 2004, bringing the capacity of Misty Mountain up to 84 beds. 

Misty Mountain now offers a variety of leisure activities, including the innovative Long Tom Toboggan, guided quad biking, trout fishing, walking trails and bird-watching, and Lisa and James continue to warmly welcome regular and new guests with the same Sheard hospitality that has characterised the lodge for 45 years.

“James and I are constantly amazed by the number of people who return to Misty Mountain over the generations,” says Lisa. “We had a family here in March who were married at Misty Mountain 19 years ago.”

She says it is also a sentimental place for many people. “We have families returning whose children were conceived here and we’ve had people asking to scatter the ashes of their parents here, because Misty Mountain was so special to them.

“We have also had some ‘Fawlty Towers’ experiences. Once a man did not leave his chalet for two days and we heard no movement inside. We thought he was dead and wondered how we were going to find his family and move the body. It turned out, however, that he was recovering from malaria and had slept for two days solid.”

Another incident Lisa remembers vividly was when a tourist went missing for 24 hours.

A British tour group decided to go for a walk shortly after arriving at Misty Mountain one afternoon. When the group turned back, an elderly man decided to walk on. By 7pm he had not returned and panic set in.

“We swung into action and sent our staff out on quad bikes to look for him. James set off in the bakkie along all the forest roads. Meanwhile, the tour company contacted its emergency response company and they sent a search and rescue team out.

“Most of the night was spent traversing the plantations with headlights beaming all over the place. By the next morning, he had not been found and we activated resources from local forestry companies and security companies, the SAPS and any other willing helpers.

“By then the mounted unit from Middelburg had arrived and the police deployed a helicopter. Things were getting desperate. It was now into the afternoon of the next day and the man had been missing for 18 hours.

“We had also alerted our neighbours and one family from Rhenosterhoek decided to take a slow drive up to Misty Mountain to see if they could see anything.

“They found the British tourist sitting on a rock alongside one of the more remote forestry roads, more than 24 hours after he had disappeared. He couldn’t understand the fuss, saying he had been walking and the green slopes in the distance had looked so inviting that he had simply carried on going.

“Besides a few scratches, he was fine,” chuckles Lisa.

Visit www.mistymountain.co.za for a detailed article on Misty Mountain’s history and its 45th birthday special.