The Road to Mecca

Anybody who knows me is well aware of the fact that my heart resides in a tiny village surrounded by hills under an enormous sky in the middle of the Karoo. I wrote a whole blog series on it – Karoo Dreaming – when I went to live there for two months and I wax lyrical every time we go, and we go as often as is mortally possible.

I was, due to my love of Nieu Bethesda and all its people (and its book shop and Huxley, swoon), thrilled to go and review the opening night of The Road to Mecca at The Fugard last night. I love The Fugard, with its old stone walls whispering of days gone by, and it was made even lovelier by the fact that, on entering the theatre, I felt like I was there, in The Owl House, the smell of Karoo dust lingering in the air. Brilliant, brilliant set design. And on to my review, which was written for What’s on in Cape Town.

Helen Martins was an enigma. Plenty has been written on her since her death in 1976, Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca, based on her friendship with Elsa Barlow toward the end of her life, is undoubtedly the most well-known.  An outsider artist in a tiny, dusty Karoo town, she attracted the attention – and derision – of the village gossips and the inevitable dominee, despite having grown up amongst them.

When Fugard wrote the play in 1984, he was living in Nieu Bethesda, just around the corner from what is now known as ‘The Owl House’ – Martin’s house and garden that had been her canvas. She filled the garden with cement creatures: owls, camels, wise men, religious icons of every persuasion, all with eyes made of bottles and colour splashed everywhere. Inside the house, she crushed glass – much to the damage of her eyes and hands – and plastered the walls with it, turning the small house into a glittering palace when the sun shone through the windows or she lit her multitude of candles at night.

Martins’ fear of darkness and her seeking of the light is one of the major themes of the play, along with love and loss and the heartbreak that goes with it.

The cast reads like the guest list of an intimate dinner party gathering of South Africa’s acting elite. Sandra Prinsloo plays Martins, bringing to her character a naiveté of life with a passion for the one thing that filled her with joy: her art. Prinsloo is perfectly dusty: an adjective well-suited to the story of Martins in her dusty Karoo village.

The play focuses on Martins’ friendship with a young, headstrong teacher from Cape Town, Elsa Barlow, played impassionedly by Emily Child. There are seams of similarity that flow between the two: their passions (Martins’ art, Barlow’s teaching and anti-Apartheid sentiment) and their loves and losses.

Marius Weyers is brilliant as Reverend Marius, head of the church council and, despite an outward aura of judgmental bullying, Martins’ friend and not-so-secret admirer. His inward struggle between the strict decrees of his religion and his recognition of the beauty of her art – and the beauty it shines on her – is palpable.

The Oscar goes to Saul Radomsky for set design. The stage has been converted into Martin’s house, the walls glittering, candles flickering, all watched over by a menagerie of Martins’ concrete creatures. It’s outstanding and provides the ideal backdrop for these three master actors to play out a story that still resonates, 30-odd years after Fugard wrote it.

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I wrote a book, I did.

They say things work in 7-year cycles. That’s according to 19th century philosopher and mystic, Rudolph Steiner. He was a handsome chap, if his Wikipedia pic is to be believed, and he established Anthroposophy (try saying that three times). According to this philosophy:

The three seven-year segments, from 21-42 years old, are associated with the Sun, and the elements of sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul.  The next seven-year segment is associated with Mars (42-49 years old), when the soul works hard to impress the full forces of its personality upon the world.

While I am distinctly unmystical (although occasionally philosophical, in the most simple context), this fits in nicely with the beginnings, middles and final production of my first novel, One Night Only. Yip. A book. With 59 841 words, and a dedication of 123 words. All written by me. I guess I can call myself an author now, but that doesn’t seem real or, frankly, right.

I started it in 2011, when I was 35 (and just entering my sixth 7-year cycle, dealing with my sentient, intellectual and consciousness soul-parts, if I were an anthroposopher). I had been wanting to write a book, well, since my first forays into book writing as a small girl. Somewhere in my treasure trove of childhood memorabilia, are numerous handwritten and (badly) self-illustrated books … stapled together papers filled with koki words and pictures.

A friend introduced me to NaNoWriMo, an incredible online writing convention, in 2011. For the month of November, you set out to write 50 000 words. That’s 1 666.666* words per day. Don’t laugh. Some days that 0.6666* of a word messed with my mind.

At the time, I was still working full time at The Ivory Tower and I’d get up a little earlier and trundle up there, spending the quiet dawn hours type-type-typing away as I watched the Cape Flats wake up from my turret. At one point near the end of November, I found myself 10 000 words behind and persuaded my trusty travel partner to flee to a farmhouse near Riebeekkasteel for a weekend to catch up. Poor GM was left having to do her own thing while I type-type-typed away (I say ‘poor GM’, but actually it was probably a relief not to have to have me nattering away all weekend.)

The result on 30 November 2011: 50 275 words in a row.

Words that had been written, without looking back, without an iota of editing, without a check of any sort. And I’d (mostly) loved it. The making myself sit down to write? Like herding cats. But once I started, it thrilled me.

Things got hectic at The Ivory Tower, I took on extra work on top of what I was doing, I got distracted by other bits of writing, I fell in love, then out of love – perhaps more than once, but that’d be telling – and nursed a broken heart (a not terrible thing, really, from a creative point-of-view. Well, if you’re looking for some sad bits), I found fabulous travel to do and got whisked away by books and movies and life itself, really. You know, the usual stuff. But throughout it all my novel sat on my shoulder, ruffling its pages every now and again, just to remind me it was there, slowly getting more restless and more loud as time passed. Then my 40th birthday loomed and joined the book in its rustling, with one of those blowy, whistle things that throw out their paper tongues when you blow them. Hard to ignore.

So I set about editing, and re-editing and getting input from various lovely friends and editing some more. In between, I’d drop it all and ignore it for months on end, but finally, a couple of months short of my 40th birthday I did the final draft and sent it to a lovely editor at Books Live who praised it and said she was sure it would be published. On my 40th birthday, while in my beloved Nieu Bethesda, I sent it to the first publisher.

And waited.

The usual story unfolded, the one I’d been warned about. The slow twisting of the gut, with each rejection letter. ‘Thanks, but we’ve got our quota of chick lit’, ‘It’s great, but no’ and many formulaic, template answers from faceless and nameless people. Soul-destroying, so I dropped it for a bit and got on with life and travelling, but it was still rustling away at me. Finally, I sent it to a couple more people to read, and adapted various bits according to their suggestions and published it myself, using my fabulous (and extremely patient with my OCD-ness about the design) friend Chloe as designer, and a gorgeous pic of and by my friend Lisa, as the cover.

I ordered one, and got it delivered in London when I was there in July last year and got my mother and sister to read it. More changes, but they loved it. Then another, post-changes, and a third, with cover changes until, finally, I was happy with the result (or exhausted and could do no more).

At 42, seven years after first starting it and when my soul was anthroposophically entering its phase of working hard to ‘impress the full forces of its personality upon the world’, I finally published. Maybe old Steiner was right.

Still, I waited weeks until announcing it on Stalkbook, the anxiety of putting it out there similar to what I imagine it feels like sending your first born off on its own for the first time.

But I did, and people bought it and I’ve had lovely comments from people who’ve read it and, even though I know they’re biased because they’re from people who love me, I’m so eternally pleased when I hear good things.

After having numerous requests for a South African version (Amazon’s P+P and customs are exorbitant!), I have done a small print run here (more backing-and-forthing with design and proofs and, and …) but they arrived yesterday and they feel heavy(ish) in my hand and they smell gorgeously of book and my name is on the front. I am brimming with pride.

I finally did it. I strung just under 60 00 words in a readable row, to make an admittedly fluffy beach read, but still. The next one is darker and deeper. Perhaps I can now call myself a writer (I’m even getting a tiny royalty cheque that should make up for about one-millionth of the time I spent on this), but that still makes me feel like a small girl playing grown-up in my mother’s high heels, her lipstick smeared across my lips.

I guess I’ll have to get on to the next one to claim the title. Hopefully it’ll take a little less than seven years.


If you want a copy, it’s available on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback) or send me a comment and you can buy a copy from me for R100 plus postage+packaging.

 

Posted in Arts, Music & Culture, Books & Films (& TV), Family & Such Creatures, Navel-Gazing & Storytelling | 7 Comments

McGregor Meanderings

Finally … the second installment of our McGregor adventures, following Monday in McGregor. Dust roads appeal to me. There’s something a little more adventurous about them, with their ruts and roughness and tiny stones lying in wait. In a wheelchair, dust roads can be challenging but, with my Freewheel, they’re easier. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal: the challenge. And that’s why my visit to McGregor was so cool. Well, part of the reason. The lovely people we met were the biggest part of the reason, the gorgeousness of the place, another.

McGregor caters to both dust road and tar road lovers. The main drag – Voortrekker Street – and a few of its offshoots being tarred, the rest dust. All of its roads are sprinkled with pretty buildings: the ornate big church, with its spire piercing the clear blue sky, Temenos sitting peacefully in its lush garden, old houses with broekie lace and the old jail that looks like a cake with white icing and green piping.

On Tuesday morning, we woke to a refreshingly cool morning, grey clouds gathering above the mountains. After delicious homemade cheese scones with Jenny at Le Bonheur, we headed a little out of town to taste some olives.

Olive cheesecake. Now there are two words I would never have thought I’d see next to each other. After a wonderful visit to Annalien at Rhebokskraal Olive Estate, two minutes out of Mcgregor, I have it on good authority that they do in fact go well together. The Olive and Ginger Marmalade, apparently, makes a brilliant topping on a cheesecake.

The marmalade is just one in an incredible range of olive products produced on Rhebokskraal, most of which we tasted during our visit. Annalien – who’s also a singer and author of ‘Ek Woon in ‘Skildery‘ (I Live in a Painting), and she really does! It’s beautiful! – and her husband bought the farm 30 years ago. It was a grape farm and they planted the first olives, learning as they went and bringing up the children on the farm. The grandchildren now bring life and laughter to the beautiful old farmhouse. 

They produce everything olive you can think of, from traditional pickled olives (in a multitude of flavours), to dried (think olive biltong), to relishes, jams, moisturising creams and, my favourite, olive salt. 

The ‘Road to Nowhere’, which leads out of McGregor and into the mountains in the direction of Greyton, which sits prettily on the other side of the Boesmanskloof, winds up into the mountains revealing spectacular views and ending abruptly on the farm Die Galg. After our visit at Rhebokskraal, we took a leisurely drive up the pass, gorgeous clouds still massing over the valley. As we neared the top, the clouds burst, plopping deliciously fat raindrops onto the dust road and kicking up that smell … rain on dust … that makes my heart squelch with joy.

Depending on who tells the story, the road between McGregor and Greyton (less than 20 km apart, if you’re a crow), was abandoned at this point, either because World War I broke out, or due to the money running out, or due to squabbles between the road makers. I’d go with all three, really, and I’d have squabbled too … it must’ve been back-breaking work through extraordinarily rocky land.

It is now possible to hike between the two villages and one thing everyone agrees on is that it’s a beautiful hike with an even more beautiful waterfall cascading to an even, even more beautiful pool to swim in. Sadly, that bit’s not wheelchair-friendly but those who like a bit of an amble (and this is an understatement, if you’re going the whole way to Greyton, it’s a full day hike), it sounds wonderful.

We stopped in at Lord’s Winery for some lunch and a tasting. Ian guided us through their fantastic range of wines as we nibbled on a cheese platter and watched the clouds roll over the hills and the building of the new tasting room, which promises to be spectacular. It’s the kind of place you could easily get stuck at: great wines, incredible views and a chilled atmosphere.

The Monster Munch Food Truck, an old repurposed fire truck, comes to McGregor every Tuesday evening, parking in the main drag and offering incredible gourmet burgers. After GM enjoyed her turn for a massage with lovely Atholl, we ambled down. Locals gather at Grape De-Vine to enjoy their burgers with great wine and a good old natter.

This is what village life is about and we happily met our new friends for all of the above after a wonderful amble through this most picturesque village. With tummies sated, we ambled back, as the almost full moon played amongst the clouds and a tiny weather vane pig frolicked in front of them, to Little Haywards, where we lay our happy and tired heads on possibly the best bed I’ve ever slept on.

The next morning after a quick pre-breakfast haircut by Dennie (and what a fabulous job she did!), and then breakfast in the gorgeous tranquil garden of Tebaldi’s with Dennie, it was time to head home. It felt way too soon. 

McGregor, we will be back! Thank you for having us.


Wheelchair Accessibility

McGregor is surprisingly wheelchair friendly, situated on a very slight slope. The main road is tarred and the side roads are firm gravel, which were fine in the hot, dry weather, but may be more challenging in wet weather.

Lord’s Winery has a ramp which is at a rather steep gradient, but doable with some help. I’m sure the new premises will be much better. The front stoep is flat, but has those bench-attached-to-table tables. Inside, the cellar and tables are down some stairs. They were very kind and brought a suitable one up for me, so phone before you go and I’m sure they’ll do the same again.

Grape De-Vine is a little hole-in-the-wall right on the road, flat all the way through to the lovely courtyard out back, where there are comfy chairs and where owner, Susan’s, cats play happily.

Tebaldi’s, too, is ramped from the road and should not be missed. It’s gardens are absolutely gorgeous.

Little Haywards, where we stayed the night, was wonderfully accessible, with ramps everywhere. Big and airy, our hosts David and Lesley, were so welcoming and helpful, and keen to improve any accessibility issues.

The self-catering unit is huge, with plenty of space to manoeuvre in the living area, bedroom and bathroom. The beds are quite high, but David was going to make a little platform for that and, as I said above, they’e incredibly comfortable! The bathroom has a level shower (no grab rails) and a toilet that allows front access.

 

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Monday in McGregor

There’s something deliciously decadent about heading out of the city on a Monday morning, when everybody else is heading to work/school/stuff. One of the joys of funemployment is that I can. While it sometimes means working over weekends, it’s totally worth it. Last Monday, we headed to McGregor, just two-and-a-bit hours from Cape Town. It was a beautiful day to drive out there.

We arrived to sweltering heat. Really, really sweltering, but were welcomed by the lovely Jenny at Le Bonheur. After dumping our luggage in our spacious en-suite, separate entrance room, we headed into the main drag in search of a cold drink. How Bazaar provided just such a thing – grape juice made locally. We sat outside on the covered stoep, admiring the garden. It was cooler inside, but the lure of the gorgeous garden was too much.

Suitably refreshed, it only seemed right to do some exploring, so we ambled hotly through the oven main road, up to the Tourism Office and tiny museum within it, marvelling at the church diagonally opposite. I’m glad we made it, because it’s choc-a-block full of old bits and bobs from McGregor’s past and has a wonderful book detailing McGregor’s history by local, Gerrit Davids, who sounds like a character and a half. He leaves no scandal or triumph untold. Edna Cox, in whose house the mousetrap and sickle were found, seems like a woman nobody (and no mouse) should mess with!

And then we were too hot to continue, so had to take ourselves back to the oasis that is Le Bonheur – me to repose on my bed beneath the fan, GM to splash about in the pool in Le Bonheur’s fabulous garden filled with little creatures. Well, I reposed until I had to flop onto my belly, in order to have my massage by the fabulous Atholl Hay. Now that’s Monday decadence. What a treat.

As the sun set over the hills and the valley blushed in its glow, we ambled along the dust road and around the corner to The Sandbag House. Fiona, of Destination McGregor (who also helped organise our trip), cooks amazing 3-course meals, usually on a Sunday, but on a Monday for us, opening her and husband, Tom’s gorgeous home to visitors. They had set a table out under the trees in the garden, from where we could watch the sky turn pink and the almost-full moon rise, along with newest (and fabulous) McGregor local, Dennie, who joined us for dinner.

I had sworn it was going to be an early night, having had a particularly busy on call shift ending that morning, but the company was too good, the food too delicious, and the common threads (Rhodes, Zimbabwe, a love of travel and Africa) were too lovely, so we stayed much later than ‘early’, revelling in it all. We left having made three new friends, which can only signify a very good night.

A short walk back to the comfort of Le Bonheur, under a star-filled sky was the perfect end to a perfect day. Mondays in McGregor are to be recommended. Tuesday will be the next blog. And is also to be recommended. Do you see a theme here?

 


Wheelchair Accessibility

McGregor ‘town’ is set on a gentle hill. A really gentle one. The main road is tarred and easy to negotiate, How Bazaar equally so, although, if you want to go into the garden, there’s a small step. Nothing a helping hand won’t negotiate.

The tourism centre and museum has a ramp up to it and is completely flat inside. The museum itself is a small room, but perfectly navigable.

Fiona’s Sandbag House has a bit of a steep driveway, which we coped with fine using the Freewheel, and if the driveway is too much, it is possible to arrive by car and get out at the top of the driveway. Once there, it’s fantastic.

Le Bonheur is a dream. It’s wheelchair-friendly, with plenty of space, a perfect height bed, and an accessible bathroom (no rails, but the basin is high enough to get under and the shower is level with the floor, with a plastic chair). Jenny, the host, is exceptionally lovely and very helpful. The only small challenge is the stone pathway to the room, but again, doable with the Freewheel, or a little help! It’s well worth it and Jenny’s cheese scones for breakfast are divine.

 

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A Night in Quirky Barrydale

Barrydale is one of those towns just far enough from Cape Town to have avoided being a ‘commuter town’ overrun with city people rushing in and out, but just close enough for it to be a pleasant drive for a long weekend. We decided to tack a day onto our trip to Grootvadersbosch and headed up last Thursday to stay at the fantastic Karoo Saloon and explore the little town a bit.

Arriving just in time for lunch, we headed to Klassikaroo, on owner, Janet’s, invitation and what a treat it was. Chef Dino and waitress, Yvonne, treated us to the most gorgeous meal. Again, one doesn’t need to be in the city to eat like royalty.

After freshening up (and checking out the lay of the land – a fabulous indoor section, and a lovely courtyard out back), we settled on the front stoep, with its view over the town of Barrydale, the Langeberge in the distance, a glass of chilled white wine grown in the valley to enjoy it with.

Chef Dino suggested I try one of the specials of the day – Kingklip con Cozze. I never argue with a chef’s recommendations and it’s never failed me yet. Mussels, cooked in vanilla, wine and saffron, over grilled-to-perfection kingklip, served with basmati rice and garlicky brocolli. Too divine. And oh-so-pretty, scattered with its purple pansies.

GM chose the chicken schnitzel – an incredibly generous portion with velvetty, paprika-infused (I think. I’m no food guru, but I’m pretty sure it was paprika) cheese sauce – served with fresh salad and chips.

After chatting to the fabulous woman who owns the Barrydale Hand Weavers (they have the most gorgeous handwoven goodies), and admiring both the range of face pots outside and the delightful pug, Ozzie, we took a drive around town.

Barrydale is pretty and old and a little quirky. Just the way I like my towns. We’d have taken an amble down the main drag, but it was in the high 30-degrees and our tummies were full of the delicious Klassikaroo food.

Barrydale, you’re mighty fine, we didn’t have nearly enough time to enjoy the galleries and little shops, so we’ll be back soon!


Wheelchair accessibility

Klassikaroo is totally wheelchair friendly, with a ramp from the parking space in front of the restaurant. Inside and out to the back courtyard is also flat and there is a big, accessible bathroom that would allow front or side transfer onto the toilet (but no grab bars) and easy access to the basin. The tables are high enough to fit under, too. Bravo!

Most of the little shops and restaurants along the R62, including the Tourism Office, have ramps up to them, incredibly, considering it’s a fairly steep little hill. Down in town, the main drag is relatively flat but, as I said above, it was just too hot to explore on foot.

We’ll go back, though, don’t fret, to check out the rest!

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Rocking Out at the Karoo Saloon

The sign outside the Karoo Saloon reads:

BUSINESS HOURS
KAROO SALOON
WE ARE OPEN!
Most days about 9 or 10 occasionally as early as 7
but someday as late as 12 or 1
WE ARE CLOSED
About 5.30 or 6 occasionally about 4 or 5
but sometimes as late as 11 or 12
SOME DAYS OR AFTERNOONS WE AREN’T HERE AT ALL AND LATELY I’VE BEEN HERE ALL THE TIME … EXCEPT WHEN I’M SOMEPLACE ELSE, BUT I SHOULD BE HERE THEN TOO

It’s hard not to instantly love it, with a sign like that, so instantly love it, I did. Spending a night there, I loved it even more. Architecturally resembling a proper saloon in the Wild West, one expects to find a cowboy lounging, his booted feet resting on the railing, his cowboy hat tilted against the summer sun. The stoep overlooks the R62 and hills one way, the majestic Langeberg the other. It being a week day out of season, we one found it empty, except for the fabulous manager, Madre, who welcomed us with a smile and offer of icy drinks (it was in the high 30⁰C’s) to enjoy on that there stoep overlooking the world. I was sad I didn’t have a cowboy hat. The boots, though, would’ve been too hot.

Inside the Route 62 Rock Roadhouse is a bar and restaurant with the most incredible amount of rock memorabilia everywhere you look. One entire wall is painted like the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Need I say more? Back on the stoep we watched the clouds roll over the Langeberg and become tinged with pink in the setting sun, while we were treated to a soundtrack filled with great rockers … Bowie, Guns ‘n Roses, Juice Newton … you name them and they were there.

Just below the stoep is a large field and a bandstand. This is where they host various live music shows. I will have to go back for one, because they can only be epic in that setting. Watch their Facebook page for who’s playing when.

There’s something beautifully surreal about sitting about such Klein Karoo splendour, sipping icy white wine from grapes grown in that very valley, especially when Kurt Cobain . rocks the speakers. Something in the Way. Indeed.

At dusk, some locals arrived, ready to play pool and kick back a bit, as one should on a Thursday. This is a watering hole and we all know how I love being in ‘the local’, wherever I am. I am an unashamed eavesdropper, people watcher and chatter. Eating our delicious lasagna I got to indulge in all three. The food is great, too! Good pub fare, and they have a pizza called Red Hot. It has chilli and peppers.

After a good night’s rest behind the red door – the Karoo Saloon has 5 en-suite bedrooms, an 8-sleeper bunk room and camping – we emerged refreshed and ready for the infamous bacon and egg roll breakfast. Home-baked rolls, eggs done to perfection and crispy bacon. Breakfast never tasted this good.

Afterwards, we needed to head – literally – for the hills, as Grootvadersbosch was calling. Rage Against the Machine sent us on our way. The perfect farewell song.

I must mention Ozzie (a popular name for dogs in Barrydale). He’s a boerboel. A 5-month old boerboel with a fascination for wheelchairs. His best toy is a fluffy angry bird that he throws around. He’s very cool, so is the perfect dog for the Karoo Saloon. I must also mention Janet, the owner (of both the Karoo Saloon and Ozzie), who hosted us. She was rushing off to Cape Town but we, luckily, caught her before she left. What a fantastic, welcoming host.


Wheelchair Accessibility

 

The parking at Karoo Saloon is very gently sloped, but it is all one level all the way into the Rock Saloon and onto the gorgeous stoep.

The pathways are made with concrete and little pebbles – the cowboy version of a scattered cobbled road, so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride, but totally worth it.

Inside, the roadhouse saloon is completely flat and there are plenty of tables both inside and outside that are high enough for a wheelchair to fit under.

The accommodation, while comfortable, is a little bit difficult, with two steps up into the room. Once in, there’s plenty of space for transferring next to the bed. The en-suite bathroom is tiny and not accessible.

Taking all of this into consideration, if you’re not keen on staying over, do yourself a favour and pop in for a drink and a bite to eat … this place rocks!

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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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