This large red steel structural design is often where you still find a fisherman dangling his fishing rod from the side while sitting in the shade of a cross beam or some youngsters jumping into the river from its red structural beams, with the sound of bubbling laughter drifting over the otherwise quiet river. It’s here that locals splash around in summer away from the crowded beaches, and enjoy the coolness of the mountain born river
This was the third bridge built over the Knysna River before it became the lone red structure waiting patiently for a visitor. 1916 the low water bridge that crossed the Knysna river was washed away due to floods in region and in 1923 the beautiful Red Bridge with its 46m spans was opened.
The design of its time was forward thinking, completely different to previous designs and positioned upstream on better founding conditions and most probably the reason it’s still standing. But unfortunately, the demand of progress stepped in and it was succeeded in 1955 by the new and wider, concrete bridge, fondly known to us as the White Bridge, which was situated further downstream again. The Red Bridge remained in use by local traffic until 1973 then became a forgotten icon until the initiative was taken to completely refurbished it in 2014.
The story begins way back, I mean really way back! When Knysna was still a farm area, with hunting opportunities, forestry was thriving and bush pigs, leopards and elephants roamed and ruled the area. On one visit a young man by the name of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie who originated from Scotland changed the face and the future of the piece of land called Belvidere…
It is during the early morning that I arrived at Belvidere, I stopped in the small parking lot under a huge oak tree and strolled down to the water’s edge. The calm waters of the estuary was covered in a soft blanket of mist and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Heron doing his balancing act on a lonely skiff, his reflection as still as him. It is in this stillness that I took a deep breath and slowly let the calmness of this tranquil place soak into my soul. It’s truly beautiful.
My destination this morning is Belvidere Manor, the original home of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, described by many as an intellectual and a gentle individual. In the little that I know about him, I have discovered that this young Scottish soldier was eagerly invited by Mr George Rex to visit his farm in Knysna on one of his excursions along the coastline to the Eastern Frontier. This eligible bachelor eventually came to Melkhout Kraal much to George Rex’s delight and the young Duthie adventured, hunted and fell in love, not only with the area but with George Rex’s daughter, Caroline.
It’s not hard to see why the area was so appealing, it was a wild piece of utopia back then, but the beauty has not dissipated. The name Belvidere derived from the Italian word “Bella” which means beauty and “Videre” which translates “to see” and it makes perfect sense.
The golden morning light fell softly on the huge Manor porch as I walked up the stairs, it was set for breakfast and the warm sunlight filtered its way charmingly into each corner of the place, as I step onto the wooden floors of this age old building I can almost feel the history in it, my eyes rest on the yellow wood inserts everywhere and the creak under my step assures me it has been there for a while. these were spaces that were created over time.
I peer into every room and take in the moments, wondering what it was like to live here almost 200 years ago. It is with a great inquisitiveness that I stare at the historical faces on the wall, each from within its picture frame, from young to old, with edged character lines that only time can shape.
I met up with Mike and Sue for an early coffee, the owners of the Belvidere Manor business which they bought over 20 years ago, it is an interesting story of growth and potential here on the edge of the estuary, and as Sue and I walked, chatted and explored the property together it was inevitable why it was such a popular place to visit. All the cottages on the property are designed in such a manner that you can enjoy the environment to its fullest and appreciate the historical facets of the area all while you can still enjoy the flair of modern in each cottage. They are designed for self-catering so if you truly feel like escaping the normal B&B aspect, but still have the luxury of being lazy and prefer to a enjoy a breakfast on the sun filled porch overlooking the water, you can.
Not only does Belvidere boast with a great breakfast but it has a little pub called “The Bell” This little eating spot has built up a reputation of its own in the area and is normally filled with locals and visitors alike, it has a variety of mouth-watering dishes with an added English Pub flair. The original building was thought to be a hunting lodge in the 1800’s and later became the home of Thomas, Caroline and their growing little family before the Manor was built and completed in 1849. It is here you can sit in the fresh air while enjoying a cool bottle of wine and feasting on a light meal or where you huddle up inside on a cool evening for a cosy pub meal of hot-pot pie and a tall Ale. You choose…
Knysna is not without its legends and the Manor has a few of its own mysteries. Sue was casually sharing her story of the pipe smoking Vicar that would appear every now in then in the upstairs room of the Manor, it seems to be that the Duthie’s had a love for the calling of the cloth and it might be one of them still looking out over the vista of Belvidere and not wanting to leave, just yet.
Belvidere definitely has a soulful environment with a certain serenity. Visit, sit back, breathe in the fresh air and just enjoy this tranquil place with its immense bird life, gardens and views
Somewhere between a “Groot” River and a tiny dorpie called Vanwyksdorp, placed on the foothold of the Rooiberg Mountain Range lies a little olive farm called Blue Sky Organics. It’s here that I go to when I need to find solace for my soul and rejuvenation of my being. Beside the edging of the olive trees is a lone cottage with your name on it, there if you need to escape the magnitude of mankind.
Be prepared to hear nothing but the chirping of birds, the call of the baboon troops, the creaking of the roof in the changing heat and the whispering of the wind.
The scenic afternoon route I planned took me via Mosselbay then a sharp right at the Herbertsdale turn off, aiming for the mountains as you head past farmlands and all while the landscape changes from soft coastal views to hard rocky outcrops. It converts to a Karoo type topography with sheep farming the predominant source of income as you head deeper into the hills.
The road switches to gravel just after Herbertsdale so be prepared for a dusty drive, but nowhere in my Karoo travels have I come across a more picturesque drive than this one. The wide curves in the road seem to compliment the panoramic sight as you almost swoop past the mountain and then dip into a river bed, rattle over a cattle grid just to get ready for the next surprise.
It’s along one of these dips and swoops at a nearing sunset that I noticed the moon, bearing her fullness over the peaks of the mountain tops in the soft pink glow of the sinking sun. Even if time was ticking and I worked against the clock to get to my destination before sunset, I just couldn’t help myself and I grabbed the minute to stop, appreciate and capture the moment on camera.
It’s when I encounter these little bits of delights in my life, that it actually becomes more meaningful. It wasn’t planned or forced, it just happened and nature paints her own pictures without the help of man.
So my arrival was at the deep onset of dusk and a cheerful wave greeting from owner Liz to hurry me up the rocky driveway to the cottage with no name. Pooped I stumbled out of the car and distributed my luggage all over the stoep and cottage before taking in the moons display as night softly fell on God’s land.
The rest of the evening consisted of nibbling on nothing healthy and with a cold beer in hand while trying to find the pages of the book I’ve been trying to read for several months now. Not minding the time it takes to find my lost place in the untouched book, a whilst sitting under the outside light and feeling the warm air on my skin, I was just happy to be here.
The next morning, after spending the night on top of my bed with a book on my chest, I was woken up by the sunlight pouring its rays into my bedroom. I lazily stretched myself out like a cat and got up to make coffee.
The great thing about travelling on your own is that you can literally do anything you want, and grabbing my morning substance of the dark brew and my book, newly discovered, I nuzzled my way into the chair on the outside stoep and started the reading process all over again. It’s was only during the late morning when the worms in my stomach were protesting the lack of food and threatening a strike action that I decided to make a hearty brunch and still the lot.
It was way after 2 pm when my conscious saw the light and started nagging me for a walk. I dressed in some comfy kit, grabbed my floppy hat, walking sticks, camera, water bottle and headed for the kloof.
The walk starts at the cottage and works its way past the pale olive trees and stony fields of the hillside before hitting the riverbed of boulders in the kloof. For most of the hike, you will stone hop and balance on rocks, clamber and climb the pale gibber until deep into the kloof. It’s a slight challenge so the best thing to do is to be tenacious and surefooted and why rush? The rising cliff faces are a dramatic sight and standing and just staring up for long lingering minutes are part of the process. Liz’s dog Jed “i” accompanied me on my lone expedition and the hearty companion was a welcoming addition to my walk and kept me entertained for the +- 2 hours I spent in the kloof, not without compensation of course. Dogs are like that? They love to share and share the love. So nibbles were an inevitable part of the walk.
It was the late afternoon that I eventually stumbled out of the kloof and headed back up the road, the wind has picked up and was shaking everything around me. The tall blue gum next to my accommodation was rustling up a storm and it sounded like he was orchestrating the whole lot while a small out building’s roof was sounding like a symbol in an out of tune street band.
After a brisk shower and some clean clothing, I decided on an early braai and pottered around the kitchen to gather some eats that may be considered healthy. A light salad, blanched broccoli, few minute steaks and a cheesy toasty to scourge on the fire. It seemed pointless to make a fire for one, not to even mention that it was for a few measly minute steaks, but for the ambience, it was worth it.
As the fire worked its way through the wood pile I sat back and indulged in the rest of my book and an ice cold beer in hand. Life’s Good
It wasn’t until much later that evening that I dragged myself off to bed after enjoying the company of the fictional characters in my novel. It was in a bright moonlit bedroom that I dozed off to dream the world.
When I opened my eyes the next morning the cloud base was hanging low over the valley, the promise of rain was in the air! The rain spider above my bed confirmed it, and even if I don’t like the fury creepy crawlies they are never wrong. I normally engage in a tap dance with theses eight-legged creatures but today I just decided to let it be, I have been living in the area for long enough to be used to them by now…..um maybe.
It was a lazy start to the day and the idea of actually packing up and heading home was not exactly appealing. Reluctantly I packed the few things I threw in a bag for the weekend tossed it in the car, stared back at the view, took one more deep breath and headed out to back roads of these red mountains and its sweet curves. The long awaited rain softly started falling and I watched mother earth sigh with relief as it welcomed the moisture.
One more escape, one more journey, one more place to be discovered and explored this is what road trips are made for. This is my simple passion and I live it and love it. #HowzitSouthAfrica
So a bunch of us decided to head for the Swartberg Mountains and spend the weekend soaring with Veraux Eagles in this edged mountain pass. Staying at the very comfortable and affordable Wilgewandel Holiday Farm chalets that is nestled in the foot hold of the pass and offers a variety of activities and eats, but we were more interested in the wind and thermal activity of the escarpment.
After checking in early Saturday morning we headed out to the mountains. Our fearless leader and windfinder Johan Anderson briefed us at Kobus se Gat re: the landing areas and wind activity of this rolling topography of hills, dales and the infamous ostrich farms.
Once we reached our destination, gliders were rigged and decisions were made. Johan was the first to take flight and soon after the others followed suit.
I myself had the title of “Bakkie Bokkie ” and had to retrieve our pilots from all the interesting landing spots around.
The paragliding pilots were definitely the most entertaining and popped up in a few amusing places like the back of bakkies etc etc.
The day ended with a late lunch and a few beers as we sat back and enjoyed the company of each other, reflecting on the days accounts while soaking up the last rays of sunlight.
Day 2 and the chill factor was still hanging in the air but fortunately not as severe as the previous day.
We spoiled ourselves with a latelish breakfast at the Cango Estate and washed it down with some excellent coffee, where after we headed back to launch and patiently waited for the wind to blow.
Not a great day for paragliding and Trevor and Olaf had to eventually submit defeat and pack up to drive down with me to see the smiling faces of J and Gideon waiting for their pick up.
A slow drive home with some sleepy pilots in the back reminded me of when I was little and had a long day out… happiness galore.
In a whole, it was a great weekend and will do it again in a heart beat.
Thank you Oudtshoorn for the great hospitality ❤ in the #kleinkaroo
It is not often I come across something that was developed completely from passion, but today was one of those days, today I met Colin Stunden …
It was a while ago that I saw the first indication of the www.themotorcycleroom.co.za in Knysna, and with peaked curiosity, I stepped into this warehouse today filled with motorbikes, a dream destination for the enthusiastic rider, collector and petrol head dueller. But when I started chatting to Colin the real passion came forth. This is not just a simple collection of motorbikes, part motorbikes, yes part motorbikes, and other paraphernalia. This is a place filled with stories, memories and nostalgia, almost like a cartoon movie of iron and engines.
As he introduced me to each “member” of his family, so to speak, there was a story, and each story was unique. There is not chance that you visit this place and not feel attached in some way to one of these beautiful machines. They might not be your million dollar prize collection, but in Colin’s eyes, they are! From the one he saved in a backyard barn in the middle of a desolated town, to the one that almost became scrap metal, he is attached to each. And the history! There are bikes here that were built in the days when time was still valued and craftsmanship still a precious skill, this all near forgotten until founded by Colin. In the caring hands of him and his team, the true beauty of each creation came to life again.
This is such a unique concept in the true sense of the word and home for the lost and the forgotten, where each machine can still glow in his glory and be admired by those who appreciate them the most.
So, if you are an admirer of man and machine, this is definitely a place to visit. Reminisce of times gone by and that time when you raced around on your little 50 cc Suzuki motorbike and dodge a cop or two, or the time you saw the first Ducati or the time you bought your first road bike and hit the road, there are so many memories ……
Spending time on the road in South Africa is probably one of the most rewarding ways to travel. But head for the Garden Route and Klein Karoo, where the traffic is easily managed and the roads pretty open, and you will discover what it’s like to travel with ease. Here the hustle and bustle of the city does not exist, so open your window, breathe in the fresh air and drive.
There are a few routes here that are an absolute “must-do”, with en-route stop over’s, viewpoints and iconic sites to visit as you wend your way through the Southern Cape.
Head along the R 62 to Oudtshoorn, South Africa’s heartbeat of the Klein Karoo. Visit the splendid Cango Caves and stand in awe as you admire the illuminated dark caverns. Get tickled by some ostrich interaction and indulge in a good old-fashioned “padstal” along the way. Then wind your way to Mosselbay via the R 328 Robinson Pass which is set in the curves of the Outeniqua Mountain Range. Stop at the summit of the pass and take in the spectacular view of these Mountains before winding your way down to the coast.
A Day in the Bay:
Mosselbay the Point of Human Origin, is a place of seafarers, with history entrenched in its very being. A trip to Pinnacle Point to explore the forgotten caves and experience 90 million-year-old ancestry is essential. Head to town and explore the Diaz Museum to learn about ocean history, and then make your way to a harbour restaurant to treat yourself to some fresh fish. Adventure in the Garden Route starts here; find an interesting activity to do before leaving for George. Drive the R102 along the coast prior to joining the N2 to travel to the next coastal town, as many a whale has been spotted along this road.
Heading for Eden:
Wilderness. As you drive through the Kaaimans River Pass the Eden stretch of your journey starts, most probably the prettiest drive along the Garden Route as it has so much to offer. First, stop at Dolphins point; this overlooks the old train bridge and the mouth of the Kaaiman’s river, take in the scenery here and then head to the Touw River for a paddle and a short hike along the Kingfisher Trail to visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area.
There is no shortage of restaurants in the region, but a stop at Timberlake village along the N2 is a real treat with a variety of places to eat and shop. The next spot to visit along the N2 is Gericke’s Point at Swartvlei Beach. Also known as the Sphinx of the Garden Route, this fossilised dune formation is quite a sight to see and lies half immersed in the ocean.
This is the Sunset stretch of the coast so make sure you are prepared for a good sundowner experience at one of the many viewpoints, recommended viewpoints are, Cloud 9 or Myoli Beach in Sedgefield, closer to Knysna there is Brenton on Sea or the Water Front. Whichever you choose, you will not be disappointed.
There are many different facets to this coastal town that originally became famous for its timber. Knysna is a combination of coast, farms and forest. Moulded into the foothold of the Outeniqua its beauty is unparalleled once you start exploring. Grab a map and visit the forest areas. Find one of the old trees and just stand and admire its majestic splendour. The oyster is another delight for which Knysna is famous, and can be found in many a restaurant in town. Then there is, of course, the view from the Heads of Knysna, an absolute must see. It is the portal of many a passing ship and one of the Garden Route’s’ iconic views.
The emerging bubbly and boutique wine estate route
Cruising to the Crags
Next stop, Plettenberg Bay and beyond. During your first visit to the area you definitely need to visit Robberg Nature Reserve and a morning hike along its sheer rock face and a beach swim should be on the cards. It is not a difficult walk and extremely scenic. Then off to The Crags for lunch at one of the budding boutique wine estates, where tapas and bubbly is highly recommended. There many soft adventure activities here and an afternoon exploring The Crags is an afternoon well spent.
End off your day by visiting Tsitsikamma Village, before journeying to your next destination.
You might want to try the crazy bungee jump off Storms River Bridge before leaving the Garden Route or if that is not your thing perhaps indulge in a canopy tour in the natural forest or a visit to Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve.
One thing is guaranteed, this will have been the trip of a lifetime!
I am very excited to share the following story with you. It is one of forgotten times, forgotten people, a time when the earth was a place to survive on, a time when people were faced with the raw elements and imminent change.
I was invited to spend a morning (and part of the afternoon) with Dr Peter Nilssen from the Point of Human Origins and step into their discovery of the Pinnacle point caves in Mosselbay, their archaeological finds, research and theories that have sprung from the interesting artifacts and stone found here. He, his colleague and the teams that have worked for years around the clock, in these crevices of earthly soil, to bring forth their finds in these series of 15 caves, each with its own unique shape, micro existence and geological development through the ages
It starts with his introduction to the human race and their mindset towards the planet they inhabit. The next hour or so I was completely captivated by his journey into the history of mother earth and her souls she so carefully selected to survive her growth. Of how we have become disconnected from our environment and if we can learn from our past while looking towards the future.
Peter has a very spiritual approach to his findings, a consciousness that is slowly returning to us here left on earth. It is clear that we have to relook our lives, how we live it and what we can carry over to our children. Stepping into these earth crevices with the knowledge of what has taken places here within the space of 30 – 90 million years leaves one in awe and respect of our ancestry.
As you descend towards the edge of the ocean, while looking up at the rock formations, you can not help wondering how the landscape was formed over this vast amount of time. Things we only dream to understand all while we scratch the surface of our planet. Peter talks about survival, tools, fire, food foraging and intellectual decisions made here by our stone-age descendants. You can’t help throwing yourself back in time and ponder of whether you would have survived this era.
In reality, we are only a small spec of dust, a tiny blue planet in the huge galaxy of stars and suns. In our tiny existence isn’t it time to put away our egos and look back to where we have come from and how we can harmonise with this beautiful body of energy and life.
As Peter states in Cave 13b “Welcome Home” I urge you to take the time discover and maybe rediscover the primal heartbeat inside you. One of standing still and looking back to see exactly how far we have come.
It has been a while since I have been to a golf course, or even a golf estate as a matter of fact, so when I received a phone call from Pinnacle Point Golf Estate to invite me to their invitational golf day and the launch of their events venue I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, bearing in mind that this happens to be one of my most favourite coastlines in South Africa.
I have had glimpses before of this coastline, near Mosselbay via Vleesbaai and Gouritzmond; it is where the St Blaize trail edges along the staggered coast of rock and stone leading to some of the most breathtaking view point’s I have seen. So you can imagine hoe I felt when I saw this golf course for the first time, it was like discovering the most beautiful picture in the world. The mere fact that someone has taken the time and effort to sculpt this piece of golf art into the cliff side leaves one in awe. It definitely is unique in its making and will be iconic for the rest of time.
Pinnacle Point has re-launched the estate making it a “live the lifestyle” destination, giving the public the opportunity to experience a game of golf, visit the new La Vita spa, or host a banquet, wedding or a conference. All at venue which overlooks the ocean. Added to this I highly recommend that you book accommodation and make full use of all the facilities on offer here.
For the golf enthusiast Pinnacle Point offers a driving range, a Pro Shop and full facilities for testing that golf swing.
I watched as golfers enjoyed the invitational golf which was hosted over 2 days, while family and friends indulged in the facilities of the La Vita spa. Visitors smiled and enjoyed the place, the people, and their surroundings. Greatly appreciating all effort that had been put in to making it a perfect weekend away.
But, I think my favourite activity for the weekend was watching and interviewing the kids as they had their caps and rugby balls signed by some of our rugby legends. Their faces beamed as they looked up at these “giants” of sport. One of the kids I interviewed was so enthusiastic about rugby that he blurted out that he was one day going to play “the game” for the Springboks. So watch the name Jamie van Zyl!!
Thank you, Fourie Du Preez, Handre Pollard, Johan Heunis and Werner Greeff for engaging so keenly with these young future sportsmen of the region. Let’s hope that we see them out there on the field one day.
Then to the young man Seamus Mchugh that puts so much effort into developing the sport of golf for our youth, you really made my day. Your passion shines through in every moment of what you do. Keep up the good work. Pinnacle is so lucky to have you.
Another thing that makes Pinnacle Point so unique is that it has one of the oldest Heritage sites in the world and has been declared a South African National Heritage site; soon they hope to be declared a world Heritage Site. This could possibly be where the small core population that gave rise to all humans alive today first began to exhibit their modern behaviour. It is here they harvested food from the sea, used complex bladelet technology, and ochres for symboling. The Caves are also significant because they may provide clues as to how our species reacts to climate change from 400,000 to about 30,000 years ago. Descending down towards the caves you are taken to the edge of the cliff face where hidden hollows are revealed, although picturesque it is quite daunting to think that people actually roamed and gathered food here.
The knowledge and understanding of the complex history, archaeology and plant life, that Christopher our guide so carefully shared with us, is astounding. If you are a student of life, a wide-eyed wanderer or an adventurer this place is definitely worth a visit. You will return from this trek enlightened and with a triggered sense of wonder,thinking about the possibilities and impossibilities of past life experiences right on the foothold of Africa.
O George this is the portal to the Garden Route, and not only is it the portal to this beautiful area but it must be the prettiest one in South Africa. When flying into George it’s normally with a wide sweep and you need to hold yourself back not to stay glued to the window. I guess if airline carriers had balconies you could hang over to get a better look; this would definitely be the place to do it. It is the portal of oceans, mountains, forest, farmlands and Karoo with fynbos synergies and a mumble jumble of smells on these salty air covered scrubs. Unspoilt by the human touch and with miles of natural land and beaches that you can visit without bumping into another soul, it all adds to the endless beauty that the area has to offer, however , do not be to misled, George is not without the infrastructure of modern man. But we are not here to shop; we are here to venture into the unmistakable allurement of this region. So let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer. Wearing a pair of slip slops and throwing some comfortable walking shoes into a backpack we head out to the seaside, the countryside and the back roads of George.
Our first stop is Wilderness’ famous outlook called Dolphin Point, it overlooks the Kaaiman’s River Mouth and the rusty remembrance of the Kaaiman’s train bridge that has piggybacked many tourists along this old scenic track. The dark waters of the Kaaiman’s and the ocean blues meet here at the base of its foundations, along with pods of dolphins and a few paragliders that hang over the point during the summer season, you only can imagine what it must be like to see this sight for the first time. A definite must see, it’s like an introduction to the George area.
We then wandered into the village of Wilderness and took the picturesque drive to the viewpoint called Map of Africa; it is here that you can see how the Kaaiman’s has cut its way through rock and stone to shape the point of Africa, it’s like the river knew that we will one day be looking down on her from above. It’s lush and green with natural forest and you can hear the birds sounds echoing from lower down while watching the dark river winds its way around the loving curves of this African shape.
After taking in all that beauty we meander our way back to the small Wilderness village and soothe our thirst with an ice cold drink and some dinner at a local restaurant called Cocomo and this while listening to the strumming sounds of a guy and a guitar
We end our day at Surfari, a hostel type of accommodation, elevated over Victoria Bay, also known in the surfer’s community as Vic Bay. First, you think “hostel” but don’t be fooled, this little place with it’s a clean edged finishes, retro decor, and crisp white linen puts it into a category of its own, maybe something like a 5-star backpackers. A very cool place indeed and with a fabulous view and throw in a room with a huge comfortable double bed, en-suite bathroom and it’s just what one needs when travelling to adventure paradise. Surfari has a communal kitchen in typical backpacker’s style, with its complimentary coffee and tea, which always comes in handy. But what I love about this place is that you meet other like-minded travellers and chat about your travels or about the swell and the righthand break at Vic Bay.
Early morning and the sun edges its way through my window, I bolt straight up, scramble for some kit to wear, throw it on, dash out the door with camera and phone in hand. A sunrise at Vic Bay is not to be missed. The east facing bay captures this moment perfectly and upon arrival we found a couple of sleepy surfers are already kitted up and all set to take on the crispy ocean. You cannot describe sunrise to people, you just have to soak it in and watch as the day unfolds into another picture display of colour. I understand why people love this place so much, it’s a personal feel, almost like a community of surf babes and dudes, of ALL ages, then throw in a couple of fisherman with tall tales, as few holiday makers and organise a “braai”. That’s Vic Bay!!
After a hot steamy shower we left Vic Bay and head out for the day. Our next stop is the Hoekwill Country Café for a wholesome breakfast and good coffee. And man, do people in this region know about good coffee! There is a large coffee culture in the Garden Route and it definitely shows; no matter where you stop there is always a fine coffee on offer.
Sitting at this corner cafe relishing every bite of my delicious meal I notice that most people walk, run or cycle here. Although the small parking lot is full of cars, most people arrive on foot, shopping bag in hand, purchasing local produce and chit chatting with each other before continuing with their daily lives. I had to, of course, leave with freshly baked bread under the arm before hitting the 7 Passes Road towards the start of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail that begins at the foothold of this mountain range, in a place called Beervlei.
Beervlei is neatly nestled at the edge of a pine forest and host one of SANParks offices. This is where you leave your vehicle and head up through the pines forest to start of the hike. The trail is a 7 day full on backpacking trip over and around the Outeniqua Mountains, with scenic drop downs into valleys and breathtaking elevated views. Or you can do one or two hour hikes here and just enjoy indigenous forest with trees that are almost a thousand years old and is surrounded by delicate intricate structures of moss, ferns and fungi.
Once in the forest you are left in wonder as the sunlight filters through the maze of greenery and leaves a magical glow all around. Hiking in the area is a definite do, even a short forest stroll is recommend, it’s just good for the soul.
Next we head back to the town of George, and travel along the 7 Passes Road built by Thomas Baine in the late 1800’s, it’s an undersized road but a very scenic drive, and every now and then you stop at one of the pass crossings and admire the bridge building of that time. Watching the dark tannin water flow under these historical bridges, it reminds me that it’s due to the lack of limestone in the area that the water never changes colour here. Yet you can still cup you hand into it the river and drink the sweet coca cola like water.
Barely back in town and we wind ourselves back up the Outeniqua Pass towards the northern slopes of this mountain range, for a stopover at a farm stall called Hop Valley. This little spot is very well-liked by the local community and if a local whispers in your ear about a place you have go to, well you go.
It’s not a typical farm stall, first of all, its smack bang in the middle of hops country, so everything you drink has some form of fermentation and beer aspect to it. I immediately grab a ginger beer, as it appeals to the old fashioned farm girl in me, but there is a variety of other interesting fermented drinks you can try out, among them the famous Khoi “karrie” beer that is made from honey, so pick and choose your favourite flavour as you go along.
On the other end of the farm stall, tucked in the corner, is a little section where they make pizza. It is here that Bobby and Ria bring forth their slices of delicious oven baked Italian pizza. Order a few and sit under the trees while you sip on a tall locally produced drinks.
We had to drag ourselves away from here as the next stop awaits us, Herold Wines.
An interesting little wine farm located on the Montagu Pass, where the sunlight caresses the northern slopes of Cradock Peak and the Karoo starts edging its way into the fynbos district. Originally a hops farm it now flourishes as a wine farm after the first vines were rooted here in 1999. Herold Wine Farm was not without its challenges, namely bush pigs, birds and baboons being the biggest ones and it was a rather lengthy process that eventually brought them into the synergy of nature versus man.
The vines here grow at 650m to 700m above sea level, in the changing seasons of the Outeniqua, making it on of the highest positioned wine farms in South Africa. Herold has a homely warm farm type environment where you can sit and chat away with the darling of the tasting room, Ingrid and take in her knowledge of the wines and the area. Herold Wines also offer a few guest cottages, so if you feel like kicking off your shoes and relaxing in this mountainous environment of the Outeniqua, with numerous hiking paths and bird life, this is definitely the place.
After hopping back in the car we decided to wind our way back to George along the historical Montagu Mountain Pass that curves through this area like a large snake, it is a beautiful drive and recommended for the adventurous wanderer that visits the area.
Beer tasting awaits us in George and besides, what’s the point of visiting hops country if you can’t at least have a craft beer made right here in the hops valley region.
Robertson Craft Brewery is where we have our last stop for some beer tasting. Beer with tones of citrus, banana, and other interesting flavours delight the tastebud. I love beer, and the Robertson Brewery is right up my alley, sipping on the tasters and rolling them around in your mouth until you find one that agrees with your palate. Then, of course, ordering tall ale and having a chat to Kevin Robertson about his beer making and all the craft beers that are popping up in the area. It definitely is such a treat enjoying this simple pleasure of ancient nectar and the philosophy behind it. A good way to end a day ….