Small Town Joy, Tulbagh III: Picnics and Velvet Noses

As children, Sundays mostly meant picnics somewhere interesting. More-often-than-not this entailed some traipsing after our parents, over-or-through barbed wire fences stretched just wide enough for us to get through, across farmland, around old family cemeteries where we’d stop to read the headstones, through any streams we could find (remember, I grew up in the drought-stricken Free State and dusty North West) to find the perfect shady spot at which we’d eat our sandwiches, our shorts covered in black jacks and our heads filled with adventure.

The prospect of a picnic brunch while we tasted Saronsberg’s wines overlooking the beautiful mountains on a Sunday, therefore, was welcomed with blissful reminiscence and the smell of khaki bush in my head. That sounds weird but when I think of those long ago picnics, it’s the aroma that overwhelms my memories. So fresh and young and filled with wonder.


We headed off early on Sunday morning, which dawned cool and gray, a welcome respite from the heat. Taking a little drive toward the mountains looking moody under the grey clouds, my predilection for old buildings was satiated. The beauty in the breakdown.

Then it was time for us to meet up with Carol at the well-known Readers Restaurant in Church Street, where we picked up our picnic basket (with two hands, it was full-to-the-brim), stopping to chat about our mutual adoration of cats amongst other things. From there we drove out of town to Saronsberg.


Saronsberg is a treat for both wine lovers and art lovers (and those who love staying on wine farms or marrying on wine farms, apparently … I didn’t try either of those bits of the farm this time, but I plan to visit again!). Welcomed by a spectacular piece, of a naked man with rocks on his head, looking particularly incredible backed by the grey clouds bulked up behind him, everywhere you look, there’s a piece of art, both indoors and outdoors.


Greeted by the wonderful hostess – who’s name I’ve also forgotten, eek, WAY too much delicious food and wine – we settled ourselves at a table outside, overlooking the dam and overlooked by the gorgeous lady sculpture, and spread out our picnic. And boy, what a picnic it was!

Fresh baguette, a box filled with cold meats, another with cheeses on a wooden board with fresh fruit and a bunch of salady stuff (and even a tiny olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Meatballs, olive tapenade, pickles and patés. I’m still dreaming about the smoked snoek paté. There was even pudding … brownies that melted in my mouth. I should’ve got more food pictures but I was too busy filling my mouth with deliciousness. It was superb.

While we slowly ate our way through the feast, we tasted our way through Saronsberg’s delicious wines, making sure we bought a bottle or two to take home to remind ourselves of this heavenly place. Now that is the way to Sunday.

All good things come to an end – a cliché that I could happily do without, but clichés are clichés for a reason – and, after checking out more of the art, we had to bid our new friends at Saronsberg, including the two wonderful swimming ladies at the entrance, adieu, to start dragging our feet back to the city.

Luckily, we still had one more stop, Fynbos Guest Farm, on the Wolseley road. What a fabulous place. They have camping and a couple of chalets and an entire menagerie of rescued animals all living their last days in this piece of paradise. Goats, emus, llamas, ducks, rabbits, pigs, zebra, donkeys … they’re all there and happy to meet people and eat snacks (they tell you who likes what. The lovely guys who own the farm, not the animals).

We took an amble around and met some of them. They were all most polite, including Guido the llama who is known for his fondness for the ladies. When he saw us, he was miles away on the other side of the field and bounded over at speed, only getting shy when he got close. I learnt that pot-bellied pigs fall over in a blissful trance if you brush their backs and emus sound like drums in the distance. And I got to stroke the donkeys’ velvet noses … my very, very best.

And then it really was time to head back to the city, but being lovers of back roads, we took this one, and were rewarded with these views. The perfect end to a perfect weekend, a picnic and some velvet noses.


Wheelchair Accessibility

Readers Restaurant is up a few, relatively short and wide old stone stairs, so a little challenging, but nothing a few strong arms couldn’t help with if you’re not worried about being lifted up stairs. The picnic baskets, however, are completely accessible … they can bring them out to you in the car. I’m telling you, you really don’t want to miss out on Carol’s cooking.

Saronsberg is completely accessible, with ramps and pathways. The gallery is upstairs, but there is so much wonderful art (and wine!) downstairs and outside, that it’s not too serious.Sorry, I know the picture doesn’t show that … I wasn’t very clever with my picture-taking of the paths because I was blown away by the art and distracted by the picnic!

Fynbos Guest Farm has dust and gravelled roads, so it’s a bit of a rough ride, but well worth it. The little cottage near the donkeys and llamas looked like it could be relatively accessible, but we didn’t go in. Contact them to ask and you could have a couple of llamas, some alpacas and some donkeys as across-the-road neighbours for a few days! If you’re lucky (and a lady), you may even get a pic with Guido!


*We were graciously hosted in Tulbagh by Tulbagh Wine and Tourism. Thank you, Patty, for all the organising!

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Small Town Joy, Tulbagh II: Dining like Royalty at Rijk’s

Continuing with my amblings in and ramblings on the lovely Tulbagh, after our trip at the beginning of the month, kind favour of Tulbagh Tourism. I left off after lunch at Waverley Hills. Stuffed to the gills with the most divine food, watered with delicious wines and eye-treated with the beautiful views of the valley, it was time for that necessity – the Saturday afternoon nap – in the cool room at Manley Wine Lodge with a view across the vineyards. And then to Rijk’s, with this vista:

Western Cape tourists (and locals) are often of the opinion that, for fine dining, there are the standard staples in Cape Town and a couple more in Franschhoek. It’s a misconception, I am here to tell you. Tulbagh is right up there amongst the culinary stars. On Saturday night, we were treated to the four-course fine dining dinner at The Governor’s Restaurant at Rijk’s Country House. Chef, Tracy Young creates different menus using seasonal ingredients and transforming them into the culinary version of magic.

Rijk’s, itself, is pretty magical too. On arrival, we were welcomed with bubbles and canapés on the veranda which has holiday-brochure-like views across the vine-covered valley to the mountains on the other side. The Weatherman was being particularly fabulous that evening and treated us to some emotive clouds letting golden sunlight through as the mountains turned from blue to deep purple to black. The canapés were bloody delicious too.

The manager popped over to welcome us and waxed lyrical about Rijk’s signature cocktail, fondly referred to as the Gin o’Clock. Obviously we had to investigate. With a glass the size of a goldfish bowl, the barman fixed gin and tonic and a splendiferous mixture of berries, mint and ice. It was almost too beautiful to drink. Its deliciousness, however, meant not drinking it was not an option. We sipped as we perused the menu, a delight-filled thing indeed.

The food, as it was served with accompanying recommended Rijk’s wines, mirrored the Gin o’Clock … unbelievably beautiful and perfectly delicious. We started with French parsnip and apple soup with just the right amount of appley sweetness, topped with crispy parsnip slivers. Duck-filled wontons was next on the cards, with a mesmerising citrus-soy-honey sauce decorated with gorgeous frilly pea tendrils: my favourite.

Had I not read the menu before, I might’ve thought that the pineapple sorbet brought at this point as a palate cleanser, was pudding. And I would’ve been perfectly fine with that. Fresh, zesty, sweetness.

I’m always a little wary of venison, as I find it is often tough (as one would expect from an animal living it up in the rough neighbourhoods of the bush). The kudu loin threw my wariness out of the window. It was as tender as can be, perfectly complimented by the blueberry jus.

Dessert. It may be hard to believe I had space, but I come from a family that has a completely separate pudding tummy. It’s very lucky that I do, because the dessert was a trio of strawberries … tart, sorbet, and the real deal, dipped in chocolate. Pure strawberry bliss. Accompanying it, was a miniature glass of liqueur, whose name I can’t remember now (too much delicious food and wine!). The perfect end to a perfect dinner.

Thank you, Rijk’s, you’re damn fine!


Wheelchair Accessibility

While Rijk’s is positioned on a gentle slope, there is a ramp down to the main lodge on the left of the parking lot. From here on everything in the main lodge and restaurant is completely flat.

I do remember somebody saying that one of their rooms (possibly more) is accessible, but you’d need to check with Rijk’s Country House. It is a beautiful space if you’re looking for gorgeous views and top-notch service a little way (a couple of kilometres) out of Tulbagh.

 

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Small Town Joy, Tulbagh I: Exploring in a Wheelchair

As I’ve said a gazillionty times, I’m a small town girl. Free State-born-and-initially-bred, North West-bred-through-my-teens, Grahamstown-bred-into-the-freedom-of-adulthood. Well, if you consider 21 as adult. When one is truly ‘An Adult’, though, is not what I’m here to talk about today. The point I’m making, is that for the first 22 years of my life, I lived in small, mostly dusty, towns. Towns where a quick trip to buy bread and milk inevitably meant bumping into at least one friend, and where going to play at somebody’s house usually didn’t require any mode of transport more complicated than my lace-up roller skates or rickety blue bike, because everyone lived within a 1 km radius.

And I loved it.

This could be part of why I loved Tulbagh so much. It is a proper small town, with friendly people and a bustling, vaguely dusty (that may be due to the new pharmacy currently under construction) main road, parallel to the gorgeously kept historic Church Street. It’s small enough to walk around, between historic buildings, museums, art galleries, restaurants and pubs. This, for a small town girl, and someone in a wheelchair, is a win.

Tulbagh Wine & Tourism invited us to visit this beautiful old town and check out its accessibility. The town, ringed by majestic mountains, under a fabulous early-Summer’s blue sky, dotted with kid’s drawing fluffy clouds, was looking majestic as we arrived, late Friday morning. I wrote about the 21 things I learnt in our treat-filled weekend in my last blog and this one’s on some of the universal accessibility aspects of the town.

As I said above, the central area of town is small, meaning that you can visit many of Tulbagh’s attractions without having to get in and out of the car. Church Street, with its perfectly restored Cape Dutch houses – many containing shops and restaurants – is flat and broad. Perfect for a stroll, perfect for wheelchairs. The houses date back a couple of hundred years, and many have three to five stone steps up to their porches, so some of the shops and restaurants may be challenging in a wheelchair. Heavy electric wheelchairs may struggle with these stairs, but manual wheelchairs (with relatively light occupants) … well, this is small town, offers of help at any barriers we came to were prolific.

On Tulbagh’s ‘main modern drag’, Van der Stel Street, accessibility is far easier, with most places on street level. Getting from Church Street to Van der Stel Street – parallel to each other, a block apart – is easiest at either end of the street as the slope is slightly less steep than the road in the middle of the street that joins up. At the southern end is the Oude Kerk (old church) Volksmuseum (accessible, if over some rough stone pathway, first pic), which is well worth a visit.

I could have stayed a month exploring the streets and eateries (and all the surrounding wine farms, olive farms, and a chocolatier!) but we were there only for a weekend, so could only fit so much in. And, let me tell you, we managed to fit in the most extraordinary amount of delectable food and delicious wine over a 48 hour period! Its hard not to, in a town that prides itself on its culinary talents. Beside that, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bacchus himself had retired from the Greek Isles into this fertile valley!

The Tulbagh Hotel, plum in the middle of Van der Stel Street, has a ramp up to a gorgeously shady veranda, The Olive Terrace, which serves drinks and food. The perfect spot for an icy glass of a local Sauvignon Blanc in the late afternoon heat. Across the road, we ate at 1699, on street level (one step in, if you want to eat inside). Outside they have those fixed-bench-tables that are the bane of any non-transferring person in a wheelchair’s life. They saw me arrive though and whipped out an accessible table and set it up for me, so that we could enjoy their fabulous food while watching the sky turn pink. Small town hospitality at its best and bobotie like ouma made it. Delicious.

Our lodgings just out of town at Manley Wine Lodge, too, were relatively accessible, with a ramp leading up to the vine-covered shared stoep. The room, the corner one, was huge, with plenty of space to manoeuvre and an accessible desk/dresser. The bathroom was big, but not universally accessible (shower has step, no grab bars). I could get to the basin, and front access to the toilet is possible.

From the L-shaped building where the ultra-comfortable rooms are, it’s a slightly-sloped grassy walk up to the restaurant which serves a fantastic breakfast. The pool has a lapa, too, which I’d imagine, is a wonderful place to chill out on summer evenings.

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On Saturday morning we popped in to Twee Jonge Gezellen and met up with the lovely Patty, of Tulbagh Tourism, to enjoy a Krone tasting under the enormous trees in their beautiful garden. Here, too, they made the effort to bring it all to us, as the tasting room is upstairs. Their bubbles are fabulous, so phone ahead and arrange for an outside tasting. As an aside … buy a bottle(s) to take home. The bag they come in feels like velvet.

We left Krone late – the company was too good, as were the bubbles! – and rushed off to Waverly for lunch, a pretty drive out the other side of Tulbagh toward Wolseley. Waverley Hills is wonderfully accessible. My initial panic, on seeing the flights of stairs up to the tasting room and restaurant were quickly allayed when I saw the ramp to the side. It’s beautifully spacious, has an accessible bathroom, and is entirely flat throughout. add to that, exquisite views across the valley and even more exquisite food, and I almost asked if I could move in.

Part two will come next week, this is getting too long because I have too much to gush about when it comes to Tulbagh.

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21 Things I learnt in Tulbagh

  1. Churches were well built in the 1740’s

    So much so that they still stand, looking calm and pretty, watching the comings and goings on Church Street with their thatched roof and holding all sorts of wonderful old things in their (now museum) tummies. Laurencia, who works there, is fabulous, with lots of stories to tell.

  2. There are sighs and swirls in old churches

    Even when old churches are turned into museums, the echoes of whispered prayers, wails of funeral goers, love-filled sighs of newly marrieds and enthusiastic cries of babies being baptized still swirl around the eaves.

  3. Danie Theron used to live outdoors

    It used to be possible to nick his (huge, heavy) bust off the lawns. In fact, somebody did. He was missing for around 15 years before the museum got a call from a farmer in a nearby town saying he’d ‘found it on his farm’ and asking if they’d like to buy it back. A gentle conversation about contacting the police, as it was a stolen item, resulted in the potential for an exchange of money flitting away. Danie was found one morning, back on the lawns. No note or explanation. Now he lives indoors.

  4. There’s a green oasis at the The Olive Terrace

    Situated at the Tulbagh Hotel, in the main drag, it’s the perfect spot for a cool drink after exploring town. Their staff are friendly and welcoming.

  5. Both Tulbagh and its people are lovely

    In fact, every person we met, or even passed in the street, in Tulbagh was just lovely. As is the town itself. Being surrounded by beauty, wonderful people, delicious food and wine and fresh air will do that I guess.

  6. Sicilian reminiscing is entirely possible at 1699

    I’d put money on it that Tulbagh is the only place on earth that has Arancini, a delicious Sicilian rice ball, on the menu, just above bobotie. A fabulous throwback to our Sicilian adventure. Delight at 1699.

  7. Dusk is a magical time in Church Street

    Church Street, as dusk turns into night and the sky turns that deep blue and the full moon rises on one side and the sun sets behind the gum-treed hill on the other, is magic.

  8. Nightswimming deserves a quiet night*

    Or a noisy one. The pool at Manley Wine Lodge is gorgeous in the moonlight and the song of frogs accompanies all swimming. But not the frogs. They hang out at the dam and in the river.
    *Apologies, REM, for the swiping of your lyrics.

  9. Manley Wine Lodge has very good breakfasts

    Manley Wine Lodge breakfasts: Yum. Very. Very. Yum. Manley Lodge views: Also yum.

  10. Twee Jonge Gezellen and Krone deserve a crown

    James, the new guy at Twee Jonge Gezellen is fabulous. As is the Krone. The setting is the cherry on the top.

  11. Wildebeest and hounds can be best friends

    It is entirely possible for a wildebeest to be friends with a small, highly-unpedigreed dog. The best friend hound may even be called Bubbles. This is not in Tulbagh, but on the farm of the lovely Patty’s (of Tulbagh Wine and Tourism) family further North. Tulbagh is full of surprises, though, so I can’t be sure such things don’t exist there too.

  12. Waverley Hills has salmon that tastes like heaven

    The people at Waverley Hills are also lovely. Even when you’re late because the Krone was so delicious, and the company there so good, you didn’t want to leave. The view across the valley is spectacular. The salmon is even more spectacular.

  13. Tulbagh has views and more views

    Tulbagh is encircled by the most beautiful mountains. The air is clear and the sky is blue-blue and the clouds look like kid’s drawings. The vines in early summer are vividly green.

  14. Rijk’s also has views. And gin

    The view from Rijk’s (do you see a Tulbagh trend here?) is superb. Especially at sunset on a day when the golden setting sun rays break through dark voluminous clouds. The gorgeousness of their berry-and-mint-filled Gin o’ Clock is almost too beautiful to drink in this light. But only almost.

  15. Food, food, glorious food is made at Rijk’s

    The food on the fine dining menu at Rijk’s is also beautiful. So beautiful you almost don’t want to eat it. Its deliciousness, however, makes you unable not to eat it.

  16. Picnics from Readers are spectacular

    Carol from Readers Restaurant loves cats. She is also wonderful and makes picnic baskets bursting with delightful things.

  17. A naked man welcomes you to Saronsberg

    You are welcomed into Saronsberg by a naked man with rocks on his head. He is just one of the incredible art pieces on the farm. He looks particularly imposing with rain clouds puffing up behind him.

  18. Picnics and wine are very well matched

    Saronsberg wines are sublime, and the picnic basket from Readers is so well matched to them, that they could marry. Saronsberg would be the perfect venue for the occasion too with a lawn (and indoor venue for if it rains) made for celebration and vine-covered stoep for ceremonies. And so much art!

  19. Pigs love having their backs scratched

    The pigs at Fynbos Guest Farm will fall over in a blissful trance if you brush their backs. Guido, one of the llamas there, loves the ladies. He will come running – at speed – when he sees you but then gets shy just before he gets to you. Guido may be an alpaca.

  20. Google is very clever

    It will allow you to learn the difference between a llama and an alpaca. In theory. The real-life classification is slightly more difficult. It’s better to just call them by their names. Like Guido.

  21. Always take the dust road

    Taking a wrong turn is always good. It’s one of my favourite things, really. It may lead to perfectly beautiful dust roads through farmland under a spectacular sky.

    *We were hosted in Tulbagh by Tulbagh Wine and Tourism

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Twenty One. Twenty. One.

Public Service Announcement: the navel-gazing is real in this one. 

Twenty one. Coming of age and all that. But what if it’s, like, 21 x 2, but with a catch? 

It was a perfect day, like the Lou Reed song that had made its comeback that year, 1996, in Trainspotting. We all loved it, for its blatant attack on 90’s society, and for the beauty of Ewan Mcgregor playing Renton. Forgive us, we were 21 and he was beautiful in his heroin chic. 

And it was. A perfect day. Until our car rolled under a vast blue Eastern Cape sky and I crushed my sixth vertebra into my seventh. Then it wasn’t quite as perfect. I didn’t know in that moment, when the sounds of twisting metal and crashing glass stopped, leaving in their wake only the hot silence of the Karoo, that my neck was broken, irreparably  

I didn’t know for days after, really, while I got shuttled from that spot under the hot sun in the Karoo that I love so much, to Cradock and on to PE in a variety of ambulances. I still thought I’d broken my arms and legs and that was why I couldn’t move. The X-rays blew that theory out of the water. 

Still more days and a flight to Cape Town, a move from one hospital to another, screws drilled into the sides of my skull to put me in traction, plenty of morphine (thanks heavens for morphine) and then, finally, a week later, an hours-and-hours long op to fuse my spine and to allow the doctors to have a good squiz at my spinal cord. 

When I emerged from my morphine haze, I knew things did not look good. I knew because they told me. 

“Mush”, they said. “Your spinal cord is mush.” They said I’d done a very good job of it. I have always been a fan of doing whatever I do properly but I wouldn’t have minded doing a hash job of that. 

But I didn’t, and now that’s half my life ago, today. From tomorrow, I will officially have spent more of my life in a wheelchair than out. I was 21. I am now 42. 

I am finding this hard to believe. 

But there it is. There’s no stopping time and all that. In those 21 years I have, as in the 21 years before them, lived, travelled, fallen in love, and out of love, been ecstatically happy and tragically heartbroken and all the other emotions in-between. Hell’s Bells, I even saw Eddie Vedder this year. In Sicily. Twice.

I’ve worked and loved it and worked and hated it. I’ve learnt lots of things and taught a few. I’ve written and read and listened to music. I’ve eaten and drunk and tasted deliciousness, and yukkiness. 

Basically, I’ve just carried on carrying on, just like everybody else, because I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have the most supportive and wonderful family and friends. Family and friends who have helped me get anywhere and do anything my heart desires. Family and friends who rock.

I’m not going to lie, there are times – lots of times – that leave me wanting to throw myself on the floor and kick my legs about while screaming but, well, that’s impractical. I’m paralysed. I can’t kick my legs, and the screaming on its own just seems a bit under-dramatic. 

So, today I’ll be going to add some birds to my tattoo and then heading out, away from the city lights, for a weekend surrounded by mountains and fresh air, with some bubbles to celebrate life. 

It is a 21st of sorts, after all. 

Continue reading

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Donkey Noses and Vrolijkheid-ness

Can there be anything better than donkey’s noses? Well, I mean, there’s chocolate cake, and sticking your finger in the little tornado thing the water makes when it goes down the plughole, and Dwayne head butts and conversations with the Delicious Nephews and, and … Okay, there are lots of particularly lovely things in the world (and boy, is it important to focus on them with the state of the world) and donkey’s velvet noses are right up there.

A couple of weekends ago we packed our bags, climbed into the Silver Unicorn, and headed for the hills, in the direction of McGregor, to hang out at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. Cape Nature are wanting to assess the accessibility of their reserves – big up to them! – and get input, so we joined up with some other fabulous people to do just that.

It was perfect timing, as a break away from the city was becoming a necessity after a particularly busy three weeks and some serious city claustrophobia making it hard to breathe.

Down the rabbit hole we went. That’s what I call driving through the Huguenot Tunnel, in an attempt to allay my fears while driving through there. I hate going through it, petrified that we’ll get stuck mid-tunnel, in that foul, oppressive air. Perhaps it’s because I’m a geologist’s child, and grew up on the gold mines, where thousands of miners spent hours in the hot dark maze of tunnels seamed with gold, underneath us. I went down once, not very far down. It was not a nice place.

People snigger at my fear of getting stuck in that there tunnel but it really happened once to G, when a truck broke down. She was stuck in there for an hour. An HOUR. Eek. Anyway, let me get back to happier things. Things on the other side of the tunnel, where the air is clearer and the sky is bigger. And on toward McGregor after making a quick stop in Robertson for supplies.

To Eseltjiesrus, one of my favourite places. It’s a donkey sanctuary and you can ‘adopt a donkey’. Kitkat, with his stripy legs – I’m convinced his great-great-grandpa was a zebra – was adopted for me for my birthday by my friends some years ago. Last visit, he singled me out and rushed over to say hello. This time, he snuck up behind me while I stroked the nose of one of his friends. They are too lovely and the sanctuary is a fabulous place, run by wonderful people. (The chicken pie at the restaurant is pretty spectacular too!)

Vrolijkheid is a nature reserve just before you reach McGregor and has five spacious self-catering cottages on the opposite side of the road to the reserve. It’s a good place to go if you want to explore McGregor, but not stay in the village. Verandas with views across to the mountains and braai places are a perfect place to sit and just be.

It’s one of those places that’d be great to go with lots of families with kids – clubs and balls for the putt-putt course are in each house and there’s loads of space to run, explore and play. I kind of expected to find a woman teaching people to do the cha cha – a’la Dirty Dancing – on the huge lawn opposite the cottage. I cold almost see the ghost of Patrick Swayze dancing, as we made our way back from a braai with the lovely neighbours on our second night there.

There’s nothing better, really, than a weekend away from the city, some exploring of the countryside and good sleeps after days in the fresh air. Add to that, a spectacular lunch at the Lady Grey restaurant at Lord’s Guest Lodge – the place is kind of storybook guesthouse with ducklings, a chapel (when my prince finally asks for directions and rides in on a white horse, this’ll be where I marry) and stone cottages with breath-taking views – and you’ve got a good recipe for a weekend away.


Wheelchair Accessibility

McGregor‘s main road is flat and smooth with lots of little shops and restaurants to explore. Some have a step or two, but it’s a small town, people are helpful. There are plenty of pretty buildings to look at and friendly people to chat to and some pretty impressive looking restaurant menus. Next time we’ll have to stay longer to try them all.

Vrolijkheid‘s cottages are huge and old school. The one we stayed in was relatively accessible, with a fabulous big bedroom on the ground floor (others have upstairs bedrooms too), but inaccessible bathroom. That’s why we were there, though, to give Cape Nature feedback, as they’re wanting to sort out the universal accessibility of all there places, which is amazing!

The nature reserve itself offers lots of pretty hikes. We attempted a short one, but had to turn back – too many rocks and stones. On the other side of the dam there is a wonderful, completely accessible bird hide, with wooden walkways leading to it. Take the Steenboksvlakte turning to get to it.

 

Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary has ramps to the restaurant, a wheelchair-friendly bathroom and a (fairly steep) ramp down and across a gravel road to the donkey enclosure. Doable, with a little help.

 

Lord’s Guest Lodge apparently has an accessible cottage. We didn’t see it, so I’m not sure of its specifics. The whole place is balanced on a steep slope with dust roads, so I think the lowest cottage, with easy access to the pool, pub and restaurant would be best. The restaurant is accessible (bathroom small, tucked under the stairs, so not accessible, but lovely staff who, I’m sure with some notice, could make a plan).

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Ambling Along The Liesbeek

I have driven along the Liesbeek River most week mornings for the past 19-or-so years. The most recent year, I did it less, having left the world of ‘9 to 5’ behind me. I’m back in the Ivory Tower, though, momentarily, to cover a friend’s maternity leave, so once again I’m being led through the ‘burbs each morning by the Liesbeek, leaving it to turn left up Station Street, down where I’ve seen it burst its banks so often during Winter storms.

It flows gently through suburbia, locked within its concrete confines, like the high walls of the houses around it. Contained. It’s not naturally like that – of course – and where it starts, way up on the back of Table Mountain, somewhere near Skeleton Gorge, I’m pretty sure it gurgles and dances around moss-covered rocks, winding this way and that, wherever its heart pleases. But here, in suburbia, it gets funnelled, neatly and uniformly.

Once it reaches Obz, though, the concrete ends, and again its free to flow as it pleases, creating channels and islands on which pelicans prance and seagulls shout. A neat brick path/cycle track was built along it some years back. I watched as, each morning on my way to work, it stretched further, the not-so-Yellow Brick Road.

Last week after leaving the Ivory Tower and meeting GM for a drink at The River Club, we decided it was time to finally amble along the path. What a treat. It’s a road that is so familiar to me, Liesbeek Parkway, yet here, just metres away from it, was another world, unseen by the rushing cars and their harried drivers.

It was a bit of a blustery day and the clouds were fussing about over the mountain, the sun dropping out of the sky, turning them silver above the desolate big top with its ghostly acrobats  flitting about inside it, vaguely abandoned.

Here was the sweet sound of water flowing (even at this drought-ravaged time), birds celebrating the beginning of Spring, dancing around each other and splashing in the shallows. The trees, blooming, their leaves that newborn green, and the grass filled with tiny flowers. A swing hangs from one of the trees on the bank, a daring over-water ride that would need some serious skills to disembark without falling into the river, but maybe that’s just it … the exhilaration of a daring swing.

We walked all the way into Mowbray, under the N2’s legs with its noisy rush hour traffic, through a bit of dense plant growth where it feels like you’re out of the city completely, and out the other side, the old water tower standing up straight, as if it’s just been told off by the principal of the school next door, the coral blossoms giggling across the road as the cold wind blew them about.

It was time for refried bean burritos in the warmth of The Fat Cactus.


Wheelchair Accessbility

The pathway is made for bicycles, so is completely smooth and flat. Crossing over under the N2 bridge is a little hairy at rush hour, but there are robots.

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