Writers’ places: Oudrif

Posted on 28 April 2020

Words by Karina M. Szczurek

Oudrif. Oudrif. Oudrif. A spell. A promise. Every time my partner John and I are about to embark on another trip to Oudrif we keep repeating the word to each other with longing. He had been visiting the straw-bale cottages in the northern Cederberg for a decade before we met, and it was one of the first places we travelled to together when we became a couple nearly three years ago. It’s the only destination in South Africa we return to regularly, whenever we’re desperate to get away from the perils of everyday.

Image supplied

‘Our’ cosy cottage, the one hosts Jeanine and Bill Mitchell always reserve for us, awaits at the end of a long and winding dirt road which leads through fynbos country to the banks of the Doring River where the lodge is perched, overlooking the unpredictable river – silent after periods of drought and burbling with delight after rain. Cape leopards and aardvarks still roam this landscape and the veld smells of earth, smoked honey and quiet content. The light is kind here, the peace absolute. No cellphone reception, no Wi-Fi, no worries. The isolation is perfect.

Each time, Jeanine and Bill greet us with ice-cold beers and welcoming smiles. Delicious food and wonderful stories follow. Their knowledge of the surroundings is spectacular and their environmental consciousness something to aspire to. The place is totally independent of municipal electricity and water grids. Any negative environmental impact is kept to a minimum.

A mug of freshly brewed coffee on the stoep of our cottage gets us going every morning. After breakfast, there’s the possibility of a walk. Whether it is to see the rock-art sites nearby, or the chandelier lily in full bloom, or a flock of speckled mousebirds, the hikes are soul-restoring. All around rooibos is grown and every breath you take is infused with the soothing scent of the tea bush. The Oudrif hills speak of prehistoric times; each layer of dust and ochre records human activity and holds a different secret.

In the afternoons, after a light lunch, dry heat lures us back to bed and the setting sun invites us for a swim in the balmy water of the Doring’s rock pools. The laziness of those tipsy hours of sleep, lounging about, reading, sunbathing and playing Cribbage is priceless.

Dinners are enjoyed in the company of like-minded, solitude-seeking guests from across the globe and end each day with laughter and stories exchanged around the communal table in the boma. In my native Polish, we speak of such secluded spots as ‘the places where the Devil says good night’. But Oudrif is paradise on Earth, day and night. Late in the evening, solar-powered angel lights and the Milky Way guide us to our dreams.

A collection of heart-shaped stones of all sizes decorates the central dining area and all the cottages. The ones I found on our walks lie beside my keyboard as I type and remind me of how my own heart refuses to leave Oudrif whenever it’s time to go home. But our next visit is only three weeks away and I whisper: Oudrif, Oudrif, Oudrif.

• Karina’s latest book is Hair: Weaving & Unpicking Stories of Identity.


This article was first published in the January 2020 issue of Getaway magazine.
Get this issue →
All prices correct at publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before booking or buying.


yoast-primary - 1012443
tcat - Accommodation
tcat_slug - accommodation
tcat2 - Accommodation
tcat2_slug - accommodation
tcat_final -