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It’s been 16 months since our last holiday. Covid-19 cancelled our annual November Klein Karoo-Garden Route road trip in 2020 so our 10-day road trip is a Big Deal. The idea is to go to new places (to us) and familiar ones, off-the-beaten track spots in the Cederberg, Klein Karoo and Overberg.
I pick places that I’ve found on Instagram and been waiting to visit. I don’t factor in exactly how we’re going to get from A to B in our small Yaris. How difficult can it be? We want big skies and birdsong and an open road. The details can get sorted when we’re on the road, right?
Our budget is about R1,000 a night on average and we’ll be self-catering most of the time, ranging from a one-room cottage with a tiny kitchen in the Cederberg to a guest house in Montagu. From a house on a farm in the Klein Karoo to a rondavel at De Hoop.
In case there’s a dearth of sourdough in the Cederberg (our first destination) we plan to take two loaves with us, from C’est La Vie bakery in Fish Hoek. They bake exceptional bread from tiny premises near the beach and if you don’t get there early, you lose out. The loaves are ready for the trip and so are two banana chocolate muffins from the bakery: these are also exceptional with real dark chocolate bits mingled with the banana.
We forget to pack the bread. We remember the muffins.
We are heading into a remote part of the Cederberg so we buy a “farm loaf” at a farm stall on the way, expecting something rustic and chewy. The chew is very important, a bit like the crumb of a scone. I want a crunchy crust, soft but slightly stretchy bread and it must be strong enough to hold toppings. When we get to Enjo Nature Farm in the Cederberg, I discover the bread is a bit crumbly and can’t withstand my tower of toppings at lunch. It’s fine with jam, though.
Fortunately, I have a jar of Marinella Garuti’s apricot and ginger jam, bought at the monthly Clovelly community market and jealously guarded by me. Marinella is the maker of marvellous jams and marmalades. She lives in a house on the side of the mountain in Clovelly where she tends a small veggie patch with vine tomatoes and cooks batches of sweet stickiness. Her apricot jam with ginger is the best, followed closely by the orange and ginger marmalade. The small bursts of ginger combine with the tartness of apricots in Marinella’s jam, leaving me with elevated jam expectations. Sadly, with stone fruit out of season, there’s no apricot jam available but I manage to eke out my last jar (I buy three jars at a time, it’s that good).
Enjo’s Oak Cottage is a fine place to start our holiday. When we arrive I realise that it is six months to the day since I fell and broke both ankles. Being able to go away and walk in the labyrinth on the farm, explore nearby Wupperthal and wander about, I can feel myself starting to return to my “normal”.
The nearest town to Enjo is Clanwilliam where we find a farm stall that also sells plants and good coffee. Microwave heating spoils the quiche that I order when we go there for lunch. I’m not completely anti-microwave but there are some things that don’t stand up to a blast of rays, number one being pastry. I hear another customer (a local) asking for chips that are “extra crispy” and reckon it must be code for “not in the microwave”.
Back at the farm we read. Look at the stars and do nothing. After three days the spell breaks and it’s time to head for Montagu. The designated driver asks the farmer what the roads are like and could our Yaris make it and is told: “No way.”
We set off intrepidly on a less hazardous dirt road, for Montagu, and a night at Kogman & Keisie guest farm in Montagu West. It’s a special treat, slightly blowing the budget, but I want to explore this organic farm on the edge of the town, adjacent to a nature reserve.
Owners Liana and Petrus Jansen bought the property 14 years ago and have rebuilt the original farmhouse, adding a second storey and turning it into a serene guest house. There are terraces and views, bougainvillea and books.
Guest house manager Joy recommends a pizza place in Bath Road called Piccolo Tesoro for supper. “The pizzas are excellent,” she assures us as we set off.
Piccolo Tesoro is a tiny restaurant filled with Italian memorabilia and mad art (we sit under a painting of the Mona Lisa holding a slice of pizza). Pizza is all that’s on the menu so we order thin-crust ones, slightly charred from the pizza oven. No need to book these days and they’re open from 5 till 9pm.
The next morning breakfast at Kogman & Keisie is in one of the rondavel-shaped rooms downstairs. It’s a warm cocoon. I help myself to fruit, muesli and yoghurt and decide to skip the cooked breakfast and go for more muesli with all the trimmings. Then I see the quince jam and, mysteriously, a quince “cheese”, something like what Mexicans call membrillo. It’s not a cheese but it has the texture of cheese, say, a Gouda. And it goes very well with cheese so I have some with toast and my second cup of very good coffee.
From Montagu we take the short drive to Barrydale and we’re on an antique shop mission, looking for a place David’s seen online. We can’t find it but we discover something better: Die Ou Kerk is an antique store in an old church. Plus a separate cottage full of stuff salvaged from old buildings. We fall for three old barn shutters. Perhaps the ventilation shutters in a barn? We buy them and cram them into the car where they shed flakes of paint all over everything, like rust.
After lunch at Barrydale’s Blue Cow Café (a regular stop on our Route 62 road trip) I buy a muffin and a scone to go. “Would you like jam and cream with that?” says owner Hannette Cooke when I’m paying. I don’t want to make a fuss so decline the offer but Hannette insists. “People love our ‘special’ cream,” she says, pouring some into a takeaway coffee cup for me.
Onward to The Place, between Barrydale and Ladismith. There are only two cottages to rent and we’ve booked The Studio, a converted ostrich house. Owner Lizelle van den Bergh promises to have an olive and rosemary sourdough loaf waiting for our arrival. It makes me happy to see the loaf, draped in a soft cloth, sitting on the breadboard in the kitchen of The Studio. Still warm.
The Studio is spacious and comfortable, all the doors and windows are upcycled and there is plenty of outdoor seating around the house. I spend hours reading, resting and listening to birds. Enjoying the stillness and isolation, forgetting about the phone. Our old shutters are right at home and Lizelle confides that she would have bought them too.
The veld is scattered with bright green growth, thanks to the recent rains and the bird life is having a party, swooping and trilling. I find a small stoep area (there are many) with cushions and a view and continue my dedicated holiday activity: eating, drinking and reading. Hannette was correct: the cream is special and I finish off the last of my precious jam with the scone and cream.
We hunker down, gradually making our way through the olive loaf. I ordered a large, a small would have been big enough for the two of us. I think I’ve got the rhythm of taking time out. And doing the bare minimum. How did I ever manage to do more than this?
After three starry nights at The Place it’s time to pack up the shutters and take our chances on some more dirt roads on the way to De Hoop. There’s been flooding in the area and we do a fair bit of slipping and sliding but we get to De Hoop and discover the watery wonderland that’s been restored by the downpours.
The vlei is full, the birds and frogs are chirping and burping from dawn till dusk. Friends told us about the rondavels, sitting above the lagoon, offering affordable accommodation for local yokels. There’s a small fridge, a kettle and a toaster in the rondavel that’s kitted out with comfortable beds, linen and lights. The only glitch is that you have to navigate the stairs from your rondavel to the shared toilet/shower (outdoor) block. But hey, there is only one other couple in one of five rondavels on the night we’re there and we don’t bump into them in our communal spaces.
For supper we order pizza (again) from The Fig Tree Restaurant (another surprise) and watch the glorious sunset. I am up at pre-dawn the next morning and greet a spectacular sunrise while warming my hands on my mug of tea. It’s almost camping but without crawling around in the dark on your hands and knees.
It’s the last day of our trip and we treat ourselves to breakfast in the restaurant. It’s just us and one other couple. David is the cooked breakfast eater and he pronounces the De Hoop Collection breakfast “the best breakfast by far, this holiday”. “Everything was just right – crispy rashers of bacon, creamy scrambled egg and pork sausage,” he says.
I order the Continental and forget to mention that I don’t eat meat so the charcuterie is wasted on me but I enjoy the fruit salad, cheeses and pastries. And a wander around the infinity pool near the restaurant, imagining guests relaxing on loungers in the summer and a time when we can reconnect once more.
On the way back from De Hoop we go via Napier where we revisit Napier Farm Stall. It’s been years and the food is just as I remember, fresh and tasty. I find a jar of nastergal jam on the shelves. The luscious indigo purple jam is made from the wild African Nightshade berry and I’ve been keen to try some. When we get home I buy some fresh sourdough from C’est La Vie, cut a slice and spoon out the jam. It stains my fingers and the small berries burst gently in my mouth. I think about our slow road trip and simple pleasures like bread and jam. DM/TGIFood
C’est La Vie bakery, 2A Recreation Road, Fish Hoek. Open 7.30am till 12 Wednesday to Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
"Thou almost make me waver in my faith to hold opinion with Pythagoras" ~ Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice
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