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Thu Dec 18 16:24:25 SAST 2014

Breakaway to beautiful Ballito

MABUYANE KEKANA | 30 November, 2012 00:34

Magical beaches, sparkling blue sea, wonderful atmosphere and stunning weather: all this just about 600km from Gauteng in KwaZulu-Natal.

My trip to this beautiful province rubber stamped my assertion that KZN is the gem of South Africa.

Despite the humid weather, KZN is, in every respect, perfect. My plan was to take the BMW 520i long-term test car on a trip to KZN, even though choosing the area to visit was a bit difficult. I eventually settled for Ballito, about 30km north of Durban.

Our home for the weekend was Hotel Izulu, situated about a kilometre from the N3 freeway. You don't have to drive around trying to find the place - even at night there's clear signage just after you take the off-ramp.

It was raining when we arrived as can be expected in this part of the country. Upon arrival at Hotel Izulu, I immediately recognised it as one of the hotels I had stayed at on a car launch many moons ago.

You see in this job, we tend to forget the places we have stayed at as the launches are usually tightly planned. This means we check in late in the afternoon or early evening, get ready for dinner, go to bed and then check out first thing in the morning.

Basically it's in and out, no time to appreciate the place (not complaining though) hence my failure to remember that I had stayed at Izulu before.

It was an hour before we reached our room, all thanks to the BMW key that had decided to play hide and seek in the car.

We first realised that the smart key was missing when we stopped at a garage in the Free State. But this technology has made things so easy - the fact that the key was still in the car was such a relief.

We decided to proceed and to look for it when we reached our destination. The smart key operates smartly indeed. The car would not have gone anywhere if the key was not detected.

In this case, the key was hidden somewhere in the car. This meant we did not have to stop - the only thing you can't do is leave the vehicle unattended as anyone can hop in and drive off. After reaching Izulu, the mission to locate the car key began. After a long search, I succeeded with my good eye sight and the torch light of a smart phone in locating the smart key under the passenger seat.

Apart from hiding the key from us, the BMW 520i is a perfect road car.

We filled up in Johannesburg and there was no need to re-fuel until we were ready to return home.

Achieving an average of 8.8l/100km is amazing. When you drive in KZN you learn quickly that you stick to the speed limit, or suffer the consequences.

Some background on Hotel Izulu: it is an intimate hotel, entertaining a small number of guests at a time, so you don't feel invaded at all.

This is the place for those who love their peace and quiet - reading a book while staying at Hotel Izulu would not make you feel odd.

At this time of year when people need time out from their demanding jobs, this hotel comes highly recommended. The décor is a combination of ancient and modern touches, giving a sense of harmony and peace.

History and geography books can be found at reception, and you can browse through these while waiting for a spa treatment or for your car to be brought to reception.

The suites are big with modern furnishings. Nestling among lush sub-tropical vegetation, sand dunes and shimmering Indian Ocean, Hotel Izulu has as its backdrop a breath-taking shoreline.

Just short drive up the coast from Durban, the resort is an ideal starting point for a trip around the province.

An internationally celebrated executive chef selects the finest local ingredients to create unimagined delights, each beautifully presented. The hotel cellar stocks many rare, sought-after South African vintage wines, to be enjoyed by the bottle or glass. We dined in the opulent atmosphere of GiGi's, but for those who enjoy privacy dinner can be prepared in the intimacy of your suite, or at a table set in the charming wine cellar.

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