I’ve been quiet, I admit. This year started roughly. If the beginning of my year were one of those inspirational posters with twee pictures, it would say: ‘You have to have the dark days in order to see the light’, or some such wisdom. It had left me unable to get out and about, to explore, to write, to escape the claustrophobia that threatens to throttle me when I’ve been in the city too long. The light, however, as it always does, has slowly shone through the crevices and a new normal is establishing itself and, when the opportunity to escape the city limits arose and the forest invited us to stay, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’!
And so it was that we found ourselves in The Little Bluebird of Happiness (who shook out his tail feathers excitedly as we turned on the ignition and said those golden words, ‘road trip’), wending our way in the direction of the Garden Route. The fields of the Overberg were looking superb in their winter finery and the canola was just starting to bloom, creating a gold-and-green quilt.
A short stop for lunch-with-a-view in Mossel Bay revealed the most amazing thing. When you order sweet potato chips, they come sprinkled with sugar and mini marshmallows. No need to order pudding!
Onwards, towards Sedgefield, where I still get the same thrill seeing the horse-fence at the vets as I did when we used to drive through there while visiting my grandparents in Plett. Their latest reincarnation includes a fantastic skeleton one.
We turned onto the Karatara road, where evidence of the terrible fires of 2018 is still visible, but the regrowth between the heartbreaking, but stately, remnants of burnt trees makes your heart sing. The clouds gathered moodily above us as we turned in to Teniqua Treetops, who were hosting us for two nights. Before I start to wax lyrical, they score a bonus 10 points for being eco-friendly.
How to describe this magnificent spot? Basically, you’re a bird, living in a nest up in the treetops of the emerald forests of Knysna. That is, if you’re the kind of bird who likes its luxuries. The cabin/tents are a mixture of canvas and beautifully carved wood (if you go, be sure to look carefully at all the carving – there are old men and smiling profiles in the wood), set on stilts above the forest, on a hill that falls into a magnificent valley filled with indigenous trees and every bird imaginable, with a stoep on each side, to braai on and sit on and observe the splendour for hours on end.
The word ‘tent’ gives a bit of a false impression of the challenges of camping: trying to set them up and finding, always, that there’s a large root right under where you’ve lain your ridiculously-thin camping mattress. There’s none of that here. Far from it, in fact. The cabins are equipped with absolutely everything you could need, including crisp white linen and feather duvets on a superbly comfortable bed, a heater to ward away the winter chill and a fan for those hot summer days.
It also has a fully equipped kitchen, with a two-plate gas stove, microwave, fridge and all the pots, plates and utensils you need to keep fed and happy. Speaking of such, each morning a basket of breakfast goodies is delivered to the door by the fabulous staff (all of whom are lovely). Cold meats, cheese, yoghurt, fruit juice, fresh fruit and the most delicious mini chocolate croissants. It’s like manna from heaven.
The bathroom deserves a paragraph of it’s own. Located between the outside patio and the bedroom, it is in the open air with a massive bath which looks like it’s jumped out of a travel brochure and settled in its corner. Luxuriating in your bubble bath, you can see across the whole valley (and don’t worry, there is nothing in the whole valley that can see you). A composting toilet sits next to an open shower. Basically, it’s bathroom heaven.
Beside all the creature comforts, the main thing about Teniqua, is that you can totally unwind. There is nothing to do but lie on the bed with the tent flaps open overlooking the forest, or sit on the stoep//balcony with your book and read. I found myself, on occasion, ignoring my book and just marvelling at the busyness of the birds in the trees and the little creatures that call this place home. They are incredibly lucky to call it home. Two days felt like a week, but it was totally not long enough. We had to drag ourselves away from this paradise.
I was somewhat dubious when I saw on the website that Teniqua had a wheelchair accessible cabin. I fully expected it to be right next to the main camp, with little privacy. I could not have been more wrong. Green Beard, in which we stayed, does indeed balance on the side of the hill, with unbelievably beautiful views of just forest, no neighbours, and it’s totally accessible.
A relatively steep ramp leads down from where you park the car, straight into the cabin, which is do-able alone, if you’re strong, or with some help, if not. There are no steps anywhere, once you’re in, and it is incredibly spacious, considering it’s a tent, with plenty of maneuverable floor space.
The bed is a great height with plenty of space for transfers, the bathroom is outdoors but equally as spacious, with seating below a handheld shower and a bath which currently has no grab bars, but a revamping is planned. The toilet allows for front transfer and possibly a side transfer (see pictures) and grab rails will probably also be added there. The owners, Taryn and Anthony, are keen to make it completely universally accessible and are absolutely lovely.
What a gem of a place.
*We were kindly hosted by Teniqua Treetops for our two nights.