After I peaceful night’s rest at the Green Fig guest house we woke to the smell of coffee merrily percolating along on the wood-fired stove in the kitchen. We gathered in the courtyard enjoying the fresh, crisp and misty morning. Arriving in the breakfast room, we recognized the ladies preparing our meal. They also helped with the amazing dinner served at Paradise Organic restaurant the night before.
Breakfast was delicious! Fried eggs, chopped kidneys braised with onions and herbs, corn fritters, and vetkoek, a local specialty. Translated as, ‘fat cake’, these sourdough balls had been fried in lamb dripping from our oven-grilled dinner the previous night and were served with sour fig preserve. The figs, called ‘suurvytjies’ by the locals, are the fruits of a succulent ground creeper. The sun dried fruits are naturally sweet and sour, and the juice and seeds are preserved.
The sun was sitting high in the sky when we said our goodbyes and headed north. The gradient of the road increased as we slowly crawled up the Tradouw Mountain Pass, originally called ‘The Way of Woman’ by the Khoi people. We stopped at various viewpoints to treat our senses to the beautiful surrounds. It took quite a bit of persuading to get our guests back into the van. Cameras were clicking away as they did their best to capture the moments to enjoy later as memories of their tour.
After traversing the steep and narrows of the pass, we eventually reached Route 62, the longest wine route in the world. We turned right, and after a few minutes we entered Barrydale, a fairly large Karoo town.
Barrydale is situated on the border of the Klein Karoo, a fertile and semi-arid region. The town’s history goes back to the very early 18th century, when the local Khoi people were forcefully pushed off their land and it was given to European settlers to farm. The settlers could not believe their good fortune, and built a church to thank and worship God for the fertile land that had been bestowed upon them. This church was built where the R324 and the R62 meet, but has since been left to ruin. In later years, a distillery was established, providing a major boost to the wine industry in the region and in 1940 the Barrydale Cooperative Winery was formed.
We stopped for refreshments at a quirky little shop called ‘Karoo Bevolk’ and then set off towards Ladysmith. We stopped for a short spell at the cheese factory, and after quick perusal of the town, we settled for lunch at the charming Kanna Kombuis restaurant. After leaving Barrydale behind, we passed Zoar and Amalienstein, two missionary towns founded by the Berlin Mission Society.
We turned left off the R62, off the beaten track once again. The dirt track was fairly well maintained and it lead us into a valley with towering mountains enfolding us from either side. One of our guests remarked: “This must be where the angels have their meetings!” We all absorbed the beauty surrounding us and the exhilarating experience of traveling through that truly breathtaking landscape.
Eventually we reached the resort where we would stay overnight. The chalets were nestled between the road and a nook created by the majestic cliffs. A refreshing shower later, we were ready for dinner and seated around a large table all set up with shiny cutlery and crystal clear glassware. Something smelled very good, and we could not resist lifting the lid of a well-used terracotta dish revealing a delicious-looking chicken curry. The second dish was a string bean and lamb casserole, one of my favourites since childhood.
Our friendly hosts, Ben and Maria, joined us at the table, bringing with them a couple of bottles of red wine. We were served a vegetable soup as starter and thereafter helped ourselves to the hearty main course. We enjoyed a wonderful evening by the dinner table, listening to our hosts’ stories and their answers to many of our guests’ questions. The end of our 2nd day on tour was a festive and unforgettable occasion!
The next morning a group ‘meeting’ was called and over steaming cups of fresh coffee our guests enquired if they could stay another night. At first, we were worried about what had to be discussed, but were relieved and in fact absolutely delighted that they were thoroughly enjoying their time. At Zee’s Cape Tours, we pride ourselves on flexibility – making every effort to accommodate the needs of our guests, as far as is practically possible. We saw no reason why we could not stay another day. We made the necessary arrangements and Ben even offered to give us a tour of the surroundings. A quick change of plans, but we were still heading towards the Garden Route with a happy detour along the way!