It should only be a week or two before we hear from the Swartland Municipality and (hopefully) receive our signed plans. In order to distract ourselves from the impatience of having to wait before we can begin building work on the container house project, we decided to take a week off work and go away on a short holiday.
Kevin and I usually take a week off in winter and go away for a bit so the timing worked out quite well. One of our favourite places to go away for a break is Oudtshoorn.
And the Cango Caves, which will always hold a special place in my heart. I first saw them when I was seven years old.
I love Oudtshoorn. The town itself is clean and well-maintained. In the area’s heyday, many a fortune was made from the Ostrich industry. Great quantities of Ostrich feathers were sold for the benefit of wealthy women who had their hats decorated with the huge plumes. Ostrich leather (and meat) was also a lucrative side-venture. This past wealth can be seen by the large percentage of impressive heritage buildings in the area.
The area itself is semi-desert, as it is part of the Klein Karoo. It is located on South Africa’s (tourism) Route 62, and includes many wine farms. However, some wine farms in the area are suffering with the increasing dryness of the area thanks to climate change.
There are amazing places to visit on any of the roads leading out of town. It can be difficult to believe that you are close to civilization when faced with miles and miles of the area’s grey-green shrubs stretching in every direction.
Take another road out of town and you will find yourself winding between the foothills of the Swartberg mountains, looking down at the small farms, nestled in the narrow valleys.
Even the flora in the area is interesting. The plants consist of fynbos (common to the Western Cape), interspersed with the aloes, acacia trees and cacti that you expect to find in more arid areas. For our international readers, Fynbos itself is amazing. It can withstand arid conditions, swamp-like conditions, the extremely hot temperatures of summer, and frost and snow episodes in winter. Some seeds will only germinate after a bush fire has roasted them.
Here are some of the places we enjoyed on our trip:
De Oude Meul
Accommodation options in Oudtshoorn are almost endless. We stayed at De Oude Meul Country Lodge, located only 15km from the Cango Caves. This lodge offers both self-catering and B&B options. Their restaurant is situated in an old flour mill and you can have a look at the remaining workings of the mill as you feast upon your meal. They specialize in game meat, but also have some vegetarian options.
We were extremely happy with our stay at De Oude Meul. The rooms are pristine, the staff are very friendly, and the food delicious. They have also put a lot of thought into the rooms and they all offer spectacular views.
Read more about De Oude Meul here.
Grundheim Wine Farm
If we find ourselves near Oudtshoorn, Grundheim wine farm is a definite stop if you enjoy wine. We particularly enjoy their Shiraz. The wine farm was established in the 1850s and has now been run by six generations of the same family. I also absolutely love their logo which features a happy-looking bull-terrier dog. If you’re not into wine, they also offer gin and brandy.
Here’s their website.
Montagu Pass And Herold Wine Farm
This year, we decided to take our little Kia Picanto through the Montagu Pass. This gravel road was opened in 1848, and I very much doubt that much has changed since then. It’s an amazing road – well worth the time spent on it.
On this pass we came across another wine farm – Herold Wines. We saw their signboard on the side of the road and decided to investigate. The signboards led us about 2km through the farm. It really did feel like we were trespassing but no-one seemed to surprised to see us. When we got to the guest area, we were blown away by this gem. The owners are extremely hospitable. We were the only people there but they were willing to build a fire just for us! We told them not to worry with the fire, but ordered a coffee from their beautiful restaurant (it was very cold), and enjoyed chatting to them about their wines while majestic mountains towered over us.
If you’re looking for something different in the line of wine, this is a definite stop to make. I’m not going to spoil the surprise for your trip to Herold, but you can read more about the farm here. They also have a few self-catering cottages.
We were so impressed by the Montagu Pass and Herold Wines, we decided to try out another pass. The next day found our little Kia braving the Swartberg Pass which opened in the 1880s. This pass is my new most favourite place. The majesty of the Swartberg mountains can hardly be described in a mere blog post. The essence of ox-wagon permeates this place. You have to see it to believe it. My emotions swung between total awe of the place and conviction that we were going to drive over the edge.
The Trip Home
We decided to take a slow trip home, and therefore spent a night at Karoo Pride, a working farm situated between Barrydale and Montagu. This well-equipped and clean self-catering place offers peace, quiet and amazing views. The farm offers hikes in the fynbos as well as swimming facilities.
If you’re looking for a rustic getaway, this is a beautiful place to be. Here’s the website.
Breederivier Brewing Company
Our last two nights away from home were spent with our friends who live in Worcester.
Whenever we are in the area, we always stop by Breederivier Brewing Company so that Kevin can buy a bottle or two of his go-to beer; The Beehive craft beer from the Breederivier Brewing Company is a light and easy-drinking beer.
Learn more about the Breederivier Brewing Company here.
The Mountain Brewing Company
However, this time around, our friends took us to another place we had never visited before although Kevin has tried this craft beer before. The Mountain Brewing Company is situated in the Klipbokkop Nature Reserve. Their restaurant is perched on the side of the mountain, and serves general pub fare along with a nice range of craft beers, where each and every type differs from the rest of the range. Well worth the visit.
We had a lovely chat with the owner who was very kind to share quite a few insights of the craft of brewing beer/lager/ale. It was overcast so I didn’t take any photos of the views.
Learn more about the Mountain Brewing Company here.
It stormed over our last night in Worcester and we woke up to snow covering the mountains. We decided that the only way back to Cape Town, to end our Oudtshoorn trip, was via the Bainskloof Pass (this pass was tarred). Our drive was accompanied by rain and hail.
I therefore end this post with some photos of this beautiful pass and the ice we encountered.