DeZeekoe in Oudtshoorn

Heat shimmers in waves off the tar, the air is as dry as ostrich biltong and smells faintly of the fynbos that thrives on either side of the road in the rich rust coloured earth. Mountains frame the views in distant washed out greys and the land changes to shades of green as we turn off to De Zeekoe.

DEZEEKOE TREE DI BROWN

This luxury accommodation is on a working farm on the R328, just ten kilometers outside of Oudtshoorn .  It is far enough to get the rural feeling but a five minute drive will get you into town so it really offers the best of both worlds.

Farm life

De Zeekoe has three separate areas offering accommodation to cater for different needs. The luxury suites are at the main reception next to the restaurant and pool flanked by a true Karoo wind pump, play area and fire pit.

DEZEEKOE FIRE PIT DI BROWN

At the top of the hill are the self catering stone cottages offering privacy and views forever and down in the dip are the rustic wooden chalets overlooking the dam.

DEZEEKOE ROADS DI BROWN

Bellowing cows joined the dawn chorus and sunrise called my name. The tick tick of the huge water sprayers drew me like a magnet pulling me in for an unplanned shower, and the horses in the field laughed.

sprinklers early DeZeekoe morning DiBrown

The colours are on steroids and I have to drag myself away to go for breakfast.

DeZeekoe farm machinery Di Brown

This huge digger passes me on the farm path. There is something very sexy about these giant working vehicles.

DeZeekoe farm living Di Brown

The farm is already busy with farmy type activities as I wander back to my room to shower, dress and head off for food.

SMITSWINKEL FRONT DI BROWN

Fed and well coffeed up, it’s time to visit some locally recommended places and Die Smitswinkel is the first stop. The interior is a great collection of #Karoomobilia, I just quickly made up that word, but think of little wind pumps, mugs, keyrings, meerkats, carpets, clothing and of course food, all made in true Karoo style or depicting something iconic from the area.

OWL SMITSWINKEL DI BROWN

Good for an hours browsing at least.

SMITSWINKEL SHOP DI BROWN

Then  go out the back and top up with some more coffee, this time from Blacksmith, the roasters with heart. Called the Blacksmith Coffee Movement,  it’s about making fantastic coffee with a good conscience. Fair trade principles are adhered to, and the Barista Upliftment Program offers real hope and opportunities for the youth. Please go and look at their website, buy their coffee and drink some goodness.

BLACKSMITH COFFEE DI BROWN

Oudtshoorn is a perfect starting point for a circular drive you will never forget. You need an early start and a whole day to really enjoy this, and probably the next two days to return to your favourite finds.

Some highlights of this route include R328. Known as the Cango Route, there are plenty of attractions on the 50km you travel before reaching the start of the mighty Swartberg Pass. Olive estates, Karusa Winery and Tapas, Kobus se Gat country pub, Wilgewandel Holiday Farm and Bella Mia Olives and Pottery to name just a few.

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Plan a day or three to visit and explore the fine wines and ports from the Klein Karoo Wine Route.

Take your time as you navigate the Swartberg Pass, stop at the viewing points and marvel at the genius engineering of Thomas Bain. The building of the pass was completed in 1886 and used only by carts and wagons. The first time a car  traversed the pass was in 1904.

swartberg pass views Di Brown

These views have to be photographed somehow, and I was forced by Anje to resort to extreme measures to get the shots I wanted.

ROOFTOP DI BROWN

We left too late to do the whole route and after passing signs telling us that the road might be closed we passed a lorry coming the other way who said we could continue. We got totally side tracked by the burned veld and the proteas that survived, that we never made it to the top.

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flower Di Brown

Burned proteas Swartberg pass Di Brown

Earlier in the year when I planned to drive this amazing pass, a short way up, this happened and the pass was closed. Maybe next time 😦

OVERTURNED TRUCK ON SWARTBERG PASS DI BROWN

On completing the drive over the pass, you can either carry on for about 10km to the town of Prince Albert, well worth a visit, or turn right onto the R407, continue on to the N12 and drive along the prettiest pass in South Africa, the Meiringspoort Pass.

This will take you into De Rust. Visit the Village Art Scene, enjoy a donkey cart ride, and do not miss the Doornkraal winery just out of town or Mons Ruber  directly opposite. Pot stilled brandy, witblits and entertaining conversation await you. From there a drive of 25km will take you back into Oudtshoorn.

Curious ostriches come to say hi, or buzz off from their home on the lower slopes of the Swartberg Pass.

Hello ostrich Swartberg Di Brown

Driving back into De Zeekoe the dipping sun got our attention and the race was on to find the best spot for some pics.

DeZeekoe road Di Brown

DeZeekoe river sunset Di Brown

We raced around the farm like lunatics, stopping to gasp, click and do another 360 scan before we finally settled at the river.

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Joggers and cyclists passed us as we sat here in awe.

DeZeekoe irrigation Di Brown

We waited until the very end, silent, humbled by the show that the Karoo sky put on.

The next night we went to the dam and were rewarded again with a spectacular show.

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The only sounds are the birds and the frogs and the click of a camera.

 

DeZeekoe sunset over dam Di Brown

DeZeekoe dam sunset Di Brown

DeZeekoe is a nature lover and photographer’s dream.

An activity not too miss is a Meerkat Encounter on the property. Ethical, incredible and discounted to DeZeekoe guests, you can read about my experience here.

A four day ShotLeft to Oudtshoorn.

1. The Cango Caves and an Ostrich farm experience are iconic to Oudtshoorn, but this underrated town and surrounding area has so much more to offer. Please dont think you can “do” this area in a day.

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DAY 1. Coming from Cape Town on the R62  leave early and allow for 7 hours to travel the 380 km to Calitzdorp, where an overnight stop at the hot springs 25 km south of the town is the best way to wash away the any last remnants of the city.

A stop in Robertson, 150 km from Cape Town, for wine or brandy tasting, browsing the shops on the main road and a cup of coffee at “Spaces” after you have explored this cave of unusual goods.

A 60km circular detour along the R317 to Bonnievale for some cheese, wine estates along the banks of the Breede River, a river cruise  if you have the time, and scenic winding roads will take you back to Robertson. Just 16km on from Robertson, Ashton Kelder is well worth stopping at.

For me, lunch is always in Barrydale, and allow for at least an hour to wander around this arty village. InKaroo Jewellery always tempts me to buy something sparkly, and I can never resist the preserves and bottled delights at either Clarkes or the Country Pumpkin.

From Barrydale it is 125km to Calitzdorp. If you are a port lover, stock up on your favourite Boplaas port, and do pop in to DeKrans wines before heading to the hot springs at Calitzdorp Spa.

DAY 2. You can either travel on the R62 , just 51 km to Oudtshoorn, stopping to see the Rietfontein Ostrich Palace on the way, or, as I prefer to, take the Kruisrivier road that leads you through the Red Stone Hills along a silent, winding road before rejoining the R62.

Oudtshoorn is a large town with plenty of accommodation available.  Check in, dump your bags and head for either the Cango Caves or an ostrich farm.

DAY 3.  Make an early start and take a drive you will never forget. Be sure to take a camera. Leaving Oudtshoorn, head north onto the R328. Known as the Cango Route, there are plenty of attractions on the 50km you travel before reaching the start of the mighty Swartberg Pass. Olive estates, Karusa Winery and Tapas, Kobus se Gat country pub, Wilgewandel Holiday Farm and Bella Mia Olives and Pottery to name just a few.

Then take your time as you navigate the Swartberg Pass, stop at the viewing points and marvel at the genius engineering of Thomas Bain. The building of the pass was completed in 1886 and used only by carts and wagons. The first time a car  traversed the pass was in 1904. On completing the drive over the pass, you can either carry on for about 10km to the town of Prince Albert, well worth a visit, or turn right onto the R407, continue on to the N12 and drive along the prettiest pass in South Africa, the Meiringspoort Pass.

This will take you into De Rust. Visit the Village Art Scene, enjoy a donkey cart ride, and do not miss the Doornkraal winery just out of town or Mons Ruber  directly opposite. Pot stilled brandy, witblits and entertaining conversation await you. From there a drive of 25km will take you back into Oudtshoorn.

DAY 4. Leaving Oudtshoorn take the N12 to George on from there you are onto the N2, 480km to Cape Town. A stop in Swellendam for a leg stretch and a large slice of cake with coffee at the Old Gaol  before getting back on the road.

One last stop at Dassiesfontein  for a browse around, and to buy the biggest, best pies you have ever seen to take home for supper.

This #shotleft is so easy to do, four days, or you could easily stretch it to 6 or 8, about 1000km to travel and countless options to entertain, educate and enjoy. The journey there is half the fun. Thats what roadtripping and shotleft is all about.

Time warp

Do you remember  photo albums?

We always bought them, but either never got around to putting more than one batch of photos into it, or after a few years the sticky transparency over each page lost its stickiness and all the photos fell out.

These photos were then put into shoe boxes, inside books or drawers and usually disappeared over time or got eaten by fish moths. Occasionally a few photos reappear reminding you of long forgotten good times.

These pics appeared while I was hunting for a packet of curtain hooks !

Although I sometimes feel old enough to have had a pet dinosaur, this is me at Sudwala Caves 33 years ago. An epic 9000km trip around South Africa on a motorbike.

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This photo was taken when cameras and phones were never mentioned in the same sentence,and it cost a fortune to have all your pics developed when you came home… and you waited about 7 days for 18 great pics and 18 duds.

Those were the days of petrol restrictions, you had to plan ahead as petrol stations closed at 6pm and did not open on Sundays.

This was the dream bike we did the trip on, ultra modern in its day, a Honda 1000cc CBX 6 cylinder. All that means is it was heavy, fast and chewed petrol. So far nothing has beaten the feeling of riding that bike down the Long Tom Pass, or shivering in the mist up the Swartberg Pass and emerging into the sunshine at the top.

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Moving on a few years where children dictated the bike stayed in the garage and a second hand VW Kombi camper and tent was acquired. Fantastic inside with a double bed, cupboards, fridge and gas cooker, the engine was not so great and blew up on the second trip from Cape Town to Knysna. This resulted in a weekend in Swellendam as ATM’S did not exist, we had to wait until Monday when the banks opened to draw money for a reconditioned engine.  ZAR 2200, in those days that was the equivalent of about 2 or 3 months combined salaries.

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So the curtain hooks were not found, but I spent a few happy hours remembering good times and thinking about how things have changed.

Life was most certainly lived at a slower pace then, perhaps more planning was required, but the excitement of the start of a road trip is the same, time for another one soon I think.