30th December ’21 – 2nd January ‘22
We headed out of the city of Cape Town, all meeting at the Cape Town International Airport, just before 09h00 on Thursday 30th December. Centurion Tours had brought Alice and Theresa from Tokai, Joan from Sea Point. and Carol, Ingrid & Marie in our tour vehicle – we were all excited to be ‘escaping’ for four days into the country!
The route chosen for our trip to Swartberg Country Manor was via the N2 and, of course, as per usual, first stop is Peregrine, where coffees and cappuccinos were the order of the day! The road was quite busy with many vehicles looking as if they were loaded up, heading off on holiday.
We left the N2 at Swellendam and took the fabulous road up the Tredouw Pass to Barrydale where another stop was made to fetch Siptje and John who were joining us on tour. We spent a lovely lunch hour at Diesel and Crème who have a ‘fabulous’ system going – you go to an on site caravan and place your order and it is ‘speedily’ delivered to your table. Their coffee milk shakes are legendary, and Joan was pre-warned by her son that she just ‘had to have’ a milk shake. Evidence of the popularity is how many milk shakes go out of their restaurant as take-aways!
We arrived at the Swartberg Country Manor just after 3.30pm – and from the very start one feels instantly at home when Leonie, Riaan (GM of the Hotel) and Dean our hostess for the period, met us in the car park – their website says, “THE PERFECT GET-AWAY TO RE-DISCOVER YOUR SOUL” and this could not be truer! The staff at the lodge are so welcoming and will do absolutely anything to make sure your time spent there is comfortable and relaxing.
Views from their patio with the Swartberg Mountains, literally beside you, are fabulous. These mountains take on a different view each day – and the ‘teenager’ ostriches beyond the patio add to the great atmosphere!
Food is sublime served by their chef and his assistant – Fresh fruit / yoghurts and home baked breads make sure you start the day off on the correct footing! We enjoyed all our evening meals which are quite honestly wholesome and hearty and ever so tasty.
On our first day we left at 09h00 to head to the Swartberg Pass – Chris our coach driver, is a mine of information and gave us interesting anecdotes the whole way up the pass. We took a leisurely drive stopping at various vantage points – amazing the first stop was SO chilly and then as we went over the summit it became warmer. Interesting to see cyclists at the summit – of course, we all cheered them on – they looked exhausted!
The summit of the Swartberg Pass is at 1583m with an altitude of 1568m. – (Higher by far than Table Mountain at 1068m!) When finally, after many stops, Chris suggested another short stop at the base of the pass where the road has a little stream running over it; this was most welcome – a great morning spent on the pass.
There was sufficient time to browse Prince Albert – some went to their little market; others found a white jersey they ‘had to have’; and others walked up to Gays Guernsey Dairy to buy cheese to take home to Cape Town. We spent 2 full hours waiting on our lunch at Lah-di-Dah which was disappointing (considering we were asked to pre-order) – service painfully ‘slow’ for what we ate!
After lunch we took the road past Klaarstroom and Meiringspoort – and ending up in De Rust where sadly the one business we had in mind to visit, having previously been to their farm – Mooikaroo seemed closed since the Covid pandemic. The Village Trading post also had shut early being Old Year’s Eve. The lady in the De Rust tourism office, however, made us feel very welcome and a few of the ladies found things ‘they just had to buy’ in the little shop called Karroo Rouge attached to the Information office.
For our return journey, Riaan had suggested we take the gravel road from just outside De Rust eventually coming out very close to the Cango Caves – this ordinarily would have been a ‘short cut’ saving more than 50km – However, it turned out that recent rains had caused problems with the surface of the road, and we were on a windy, twisty road for over an hour – with many negative comments – they quickly turned ‘positive’ once we were back on terra-firma of the tar road!
A short rest and then everyone dressed in WHITE for the Old Year party, gathered on the patio. They started dinner very early (19h45 and so dinner seemed to be over by just after 21h00) – However, this did not deter anyone as music was put on & the dancing began – resulting in our group being told ‘that for our age we did better than guests half our age!’ What fun we had, and of course, the countdown to midnight came very quickly and the evening was MOST ENJOYABLE with everyone staying until well after midnight – a first for Old Year tours as often people fade earlier than midnight!
Next morning, we all had a LATE breakfast and then relaxed the morning away – some at the pool; some under their stunning trees; some on their patio horizontally. They served us a fabulous lunch of freshly baked breads and salad on their patio.
In the early afternoon we drove up to Jan Se Gat and must say did enjoy the view from this restaurant 5km from Swartberg Country Manor – but not much else! The restaurant lacks atmosphere, but this didn’t stop the group of ladies chatting away idly.
Sadly, our last day had come – and it was time to leave. Their chef had very kindly baked us all breads to take home and on leaving Swartberg Country Manor there was a wheelbarrow waiting so we could all take marrows back to Cape Town with us! Country Hospitality at its finest – and it was ‘emotional’ saying goodbye to Leonie and Riaan.
We will return – an art course in winter is the carrot dangling at present and sounds fabulous.
The group did a ‘site inspection’ of Sip’s fabulous Country Home and she has done exceptionally well in re-modelling this home into a superb get-away from Cape Town.
Lunch at the Barn on 62 was, once again, a slow affair – we spent nearly 2 hours waiting on salads and light (albeit very tasty) lunches, but the restaurant was extremely busy with travellers – and a pleasant time was spent under a lovely, old tree.
To sum up – thanks to all for the awesome, fun time we all had. Sadly, Brian missed out due to bronchitis but perhaps we can encourage him to do art with us all in winter.
“LET YOUR DREAMS TAKE FLIGHT THIS COMING YEAR OF 2022”