The Insider SA visits the Jewel of Eastern Free State with Mpumi Mlambo, and finds out what makes Capitec’s merchant service and rates stand out for a local wellness establishment.

South Africa has a wealth of natural beauty and homegrown creative talent and Clarens, a small town situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State, is undoubtedly a local travel destination that showcases this and so much more.

Media personality Mpumi Mlambo visiting Clarens.

The Insider SA seized the opportunity to visit the highlands with media personality and social media influencer Mpumi Mlambo to discover and share what this unique area has to offer.

The vibrant, online content creator and award-winning radio and TV host grew up in Orange Farm where Mpumi believes her passion for the entertainment industry was cultivated. There, her journey with MC-ing, acting and music began.

“It’s been one of the most exciting places to be a part of. The community is amazing and loving. That is the place that created me,” she shares.

A self proclaimed style addict, Mpumi managed to combine her passion for fashion and music effortlessly in her everyday life. She discloses that she remains on top of the latest trends thanks to social media, “Social media is definitely what helps me stay current. I love that I can use Pinterest to check out the latest trends on fashion, music and even digital platforms on music, view Instagram for inspiration on drip and go to Twitter for political conversations.”

Mpumi grew up on the same street as local artists Lebohang Sithole and Themba Khumalo, whose friendship strongly influenced her appreciation for the arts. In honour of that we kick off our Clarens exploration at the local gallery.

Co-owner of Blou Donki Art Gallery, Colleen Viljoen.

The Insider SA was warmly welcomed by Colleen Viljoen, Blou Donki Art Gallery‘s co-owner, who shared that Clarens had for many years been seen as South Africa’s art mecca. These days though, it is considered more of a family destination that caters for activities for both young and old.

“In 2007, we realised that Clarens had a need for a contemporary art gallery. One that didn’t focus on academic art, but nice, big and bold art pieces from brilliant artists around South Africa,” says Colleen.

The gallery caters to diverse tastes in art with lovely fun works from the likes of Ann Gadd, unique African art from Elga Rabe, and striking pieces by mixed media artist Danie Marais, amongst many others.

No visit to the country side is complete without taking time to relax and unwind. Our next stop was at Clarens Wellness Day Spa, where owner Janine Burls and her team got ready to spoil our guest.

“I started Clarens Wellness Day Spa about 17 years ago. At first I operated on my own, but soon realised that I would need some help and that led to my brilliant idea of empowering locals by training them up to do treatments.”

What started as one treatment room, has since grown into five treatment rooms and the spa now employs 12 locals and offers an extensive range of treatments. They focus on relaxation methods that include different types of massages for a therapeutic experience that aligns the mind, body and soul.

Mpumi got to enjoy a hot stone massage. “A hot stone massage increases your blood and lymph circulation. It’s also eight times more effective than a normal massage because of the heat in the stones we massage with,” explains Janine.

“Taking time out to rest is extremely important because we work in such a busy industry. So coming out to Clarens to enjoy this beautiful scenery of trees, mountains and total silence, barring the birds, has been absolutely beautiful for the mind, body and soul,” says Mpumi of the experience.

The Clarens Wellness Day Spa is a Capitec Bank merchant and Janine explains, “It was an obvious choice to go with Capitec Bank as our merchant provider – not only do they have the best rates, their team makes every effort to ensure we’re updated with the newest technology and upgrades that are available. Through them we’re also able to offer various payment options to our clients, including Scan to Pay, and Tap & Go… and they come in to do the necessary training, which makes our lives so much easier.”

Venturing a few kilometres out of town, we next visited the magnificent surrounding landscape of the Maluti Mountain Range.

Golden Gate derives its name from the rays of the setting sun that casts a soft shade on the west facing sandstone cliffs and turns them into a glowing gold colour. It’s situated in one of the most important water catchment areas in South Africa, and it’s estimated that the rivers that are born here feed water to about 30% of South Africa.

Park Manager at Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Paddy Gordon, shared what makes this location unique. “The number of activities, ranging from a variety of hikes, drives, horse rides and the wildlife you see here makes this a truly special place to visit. We don’t have any dangerous wild animals here so our hiking trails are safe.”

“I had an amazing time out here in the Free State. It’s a small town but there are wonderful experiences – from the spa, art gallery, and the beautiful landscapes. It has all just been amazing.”

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