Route 62: Ladismith and Calitzdorp

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 26 September 2018

Most people don’t take the time to explore what’s beyond the main roads of Ladismith and Calitzdorp. However, you’d be amazed at what they have to offer!

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Most people drive through the towns of Ladismith and Calitzdorp, perhaps stopping to put in fuel, but not taking the time to explore what’s beyond the main road. Here’s a selection of things to do in these towns if you choose to stay a while and explore.

Ladismith

The farming town of Ladismith was established in 1852 with her most famous claim to fame being the legend of Towerkop. The story goes that an angry witch flying over the mountain struck the peak with her wand, causing the split. Here are 12 things to do in Ladismith if you choose not to fly through, but rather stay awhile.

1. The House of Allsorts

Contact: Tel: 0796151700, or follow them on Facebook

Photo by Rachel Robinson

If you are looking for collector’s items or antiques then do make time to snoop about in the newly-opened House of Allsorts. Dee Cristofoli, is a true magpie and every room, from the kitchen to the bathroom, is overflowing with trinkets from yesteryear. However, there is some order in the chaos and if there’s something specific you are looking for, be it a novel salt cellar or an enamel chamberpot, Dee will be sure to find it in a flash. Everything is negotiable and everything is for sale! She also stocks delicious locally-made Aloe Jam which is not something you are going to come across very often.

2. Gert’s Junk Stall

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Next door to The House of Allsorts is another treasure trove of ancient things! Oom Gert is 91 years old and it’s quite possible that most of the things in his shop are much older! You’ll find anything from commemorative coins to stamp collections and paraffin lamps to garden tools. Do take a stroll through the yard down Memory Lane where you’ll find old farm implements, shop signage and all manner of upcycled junk. It’s quite fascinating!

3. Parmalat Cheese Factory

Contact: Tel 0285511030

To be honest, I was looking forward to tasting Ladismith cheeses as I was in Ladismith after all! However it turns out that while you can buy Ladismith Cheese and butter from various outlets (including the petrol station) they don’t offer formal tastings. If you want to do a Parmalat cheese tasting, then pop into the Parmalat shop for a free cheese tasting. You can also buy Parmalat dairy products, from their award-winning Mature Gouda to Aylesbury ice cream, at very reasonable prices. They are so popular that they sell, on average, three tonnes of cheese every month!  Their garden perfect for a padkos break and they also have thick fruit yoghurt shakes that are a meal in themselves. Note that a few days notice is required if you want to do a cheese tasting.

4. Architectural Walking Tour

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Ladismith has its own buliding style, known as the Ladismith Style (a simplified Georgian style) and there are some wonderful old buildings that have been restored, some of which are now National Monuments. There are also plenty of magnificent churches! The Tourism Bureau is housed in the Neo-Gothic Otto Hager Church, built in 1874, while the Lutheran Church, built in 1856 has Bible texts painted on its inner walls. The old Synagogue is probably the only example of Lithuanian style in South Africa and it was here that Jewish children were taught Hebrew in the afternoons. There are also “feather boom” houses, the most famous being The ‘Volstruis Paleis’ (Ostrich Palace). If you fancy staying in a National Monument from the ostrich era, Albert Manor is a beautifully restored guesthouse that was built in 1892 for an ostrich baron. The wallpaper is the original wallpaper, while the windows still have the origianal handmade glass imported from Holland. No expense was spared in building this home with its cast iron broekie lace and Oregon pine ceilings and floors.

5. Mymering Wine Estate

Contact: Tel 0285511548, mymering.com

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Mymering is a working farm in the Dwarsrivier Valley that produces Hillock Wines in their state-of-the-art boutique cellar. Here you can experience the wine-making process and book for a dinner with a wine-pairing. The menu is seasonal and you can choose between a two-course meal with no wine pairing, or have a four-course feast with wine. I really enjoyed my beef brisket with carrot mash and their vanilla pannacotta was the best I have ever had. They also offer luxury suites if you want to stay longer and enjoy the view of the Towerkop Mountain from your own private jacuzzi deck.

6. Mountain Passes and Mission Stations

Contact: Tel 0722055632

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Spend the day exploring Seweweekspoort Pass, the Hoeko Valley and the mission stations of Zoar and Amalienstein with Desmond Sauer who knows the area extremely well. Hear about Oom Stanley’s Light while bumping along the dirt roads and into Seweweekspoort, which was used by the Attequa and Inqua people and also by brandy smugglers in the 18th century. The pass has magnificent rock formations, indigenous plants and river crossings. Visit the rural mission towns of Zoar and Amalienstein, along with the charming Lutheran-style church, built in 1853 that still has the original organ in working order. If he’s at home, you may be lucky enough to meet Oom Paul who makes dolls houses and at 85 years old still delivers them to outlets in Cape Town!

7. Porcupine Rest Camp and Overlander Bar

Contact: Tel 0724482016, porcupinerestcamp.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

If you take a drive through the picturesque Seweweekspoort Pass from Ladismith towards Lainsburg, you’ll see a sign on the R323 saying “Ice cold beer sold here”. I strongly urge you to turn in here! The Overlander Bar is a great spot to enjoy a cold beverage and a pizza while listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin and taking on the locals at a game of pool. Porcupine Rest Camp offers individual campsites under shady trees and you’ll have the whole campsite to yourself, whether there is only one of you or ten. The (huge) campsites are well maintained and have private showers, flush toilets and a large braai area. They also have camping gear for hire, from tents to potjie pots and they are happy to set everything up for you at no extra charge.

8. BKH Products

Contact: Tel 0715239905, bkhproducts.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

All those enamel mugs, placemats and windmills you buy along Route 62 most likely come from the talented husband and wife team at BKH Products. They specialise in sandblasting, laser cutting and laser engraving of products and gifts, including mugs, tot glasses, wine glasses, cutting boards and even 3D pieces. If you are looking for a unique Route 62 memento then pop in here. You’ll be overwhelmed at the amazing products they create and for a fraction of the price you’ll pay elsewhere.

9. Post House Coffee Shop & Deli

Contact: Tel 0647977397, or follow them on Facebook

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Once the post office for the town, this newly-opened coffee shop and deli serves up coffee, breakfasts and light meals, as well as stocking locally sourced goods from coffee to confectionary to waterwise plants. Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for here and they also offer a Sunday Roast with all the trimmings served with a complimentary glass of wine or homemade lemonade.

10. Roadside Roosterkoek

If you are feeling hungry and love roosterkoek, then look out for Melinda near the Parmalat Cheese Factory. You’ll find her there every Friday and Saturday and her roosterkoek (jam and cheese or boerewors with tomato relish) is definitely worth stopping for! 

11. Towerzicht Guest House

Contact: Tel 0826982407

Photo by Rachel Robinson

This grand old dame was bult in 1912 and has been lovingly restored over the past six years by owner, Andre Brits and his family. If you stay here you can expect a home-away-from-home experience, complete with good helpings of Boere kos served with lashings of laughter over dinner around the table with the family. In the morning the smell of bacon wafts up the stairs, while their Jack Russells, Tiger and Bobby, eagerly wait at the foot of the stairwell for you to throw a ball. The three rooms are cosy and comfortable, each with their own Victorian bath. The Red Room overlooks the Otto Hager Church and if you are there on a Sunday you can expect to awaken to the sound of church bells. The guesthouse is perfectly situated to explore the town on foot and it’s a wonderful spot to stoep-sit!

12. Oaks Rest Vineyards

Contact: Tel 0285512027, oaksrest.com

Photo by Rachel Robinson

If you love hiking and biking, this is the place to be! Oaks Rest have numerous walking and mountain bike trails and have even gone so far as to supply a backpack in case you forgot yours. The Chenin Blanc Cottage has incredible views across the Dwarsriver Valley, the Swartberg Mountains and Towerkop and can accommodate up to eight people with two bedrooms, both having en-suite bathrooms, with four beds in the loft. The Pinotage Farmhouse (originally a school) sleeps up to nine people, while the Crimson Cottage sleeps two and makes for a perfect couple’s weekend away. All the self-catering cottages have everything you could possibly need, including braai areas that are well-stocked with wood for nights under the Karoo stars. There’s also a beautiful dam where guests are welcome to enjoy a dip and have a picnic or sundowners. Bottles of Oaks Rest wines are available for purchase and can be found in each of the cottages – their Pinotage is very agreeable indeed!

 

Calitzdorp

Mention Calitzdorp to most people and their immediate association is port! While they (very deservingly) are famous for their port and wine cellars, there are some other hidden treasures in this town. Here are a few to get you started.

1. Gamka River Safari Company

Contact: Tel 0789879852, gamkariversafarico.com

Photo by Rachel Robinson

It’s not often you get to enjoy a slice of carrot cake with a cowboy while giving saucers of tea to his aging Jack Russell and watching the farm roosters strut their stuff inbetween the giant feet of Percharons! When he’s not taking groups of people on horse safaris through the Karoo, Hans van Vreden spends his time restoring old saddles, taking care of his five dogs, 32 horses, 10 donkeys, too many cats to count. Hans’ life revolves completely around his horses and he’s also involved in community projects, including a donkey feeding program and replacing old tack on the donkey carts. His trails include day outrides or a few days in the saddle exploring the area. Trot along oxwagon trails, meet local artists, learn basic survival skills and about medicinal plants, along with plenty of starry nights, endless space and good food. Whilst some of his clients have included British Cavalry officers, anyone is welcome to go on safari as his horses are extremely well trained and gentle. However, if being on horseback is little unerving, you can always organise a ride in the cart, fondly known as the Karoo Uber!

2. Succulent Walk

Contact: Tel 0716000109

Photo by Rachel Robinson

There are over 400 succulent plant species that are endemic to the Klein Karoo and there’s nobody better than Kevin Koen to take you on a walk to discover Duck’s Foot, Lizard’s Tail and Baboon Grapes. Kevin lives and breathes succulents and has even discovered a new species of plant that was subsequently named after him. He’ll open your eyes to the fascinating world of succulents, including how they cope with their harsh environment, their medicinal qualities and their many uses, including making of brooms, preserving fruit and manufacturing soap. After this tour you will be very aware of the many tiny living plants that you probably step on when you walk through the Karoo!

3. Calitzdorp on Foot

Contact: Tel 0845051071

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Calitzdorp is filled with historical buildings, many of which have some interesting stories to tell. Pick up a map from the Tourism Bureau and take a stroll past homes that belonged to wagon builders, dressmakers, teachers and ostrich farmers. A visit to the museum, housed in the original Standard Bank Building (complete with orginal bank vault), will give you a better idea of the lay of the land and how the Calitzdorp community lived. They have a vast collection of photographs, farm implements and local artefacts, including an original washing machine and a very interesting General Directory of United South Africa from 1912. A map is available from the Tourism Bureau, but if you would rather have a guide who is passionate about the town take you around, then give Merith a call on the number above.

4. Ebenharts Handmade Pipes and Restaurant

Contact: Tel 0442133569, ebenharts.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

When Ebenhart Botha moved to Calitzdorp, he wanted to open up a shop in town, but it had to be more than just pipes and curios, so he started with a patio and served tea. Today you’ll find a restaurant serving breakfast and light meals, along with a smoking room because that’s what Ebenhart specialises in! He is one of only a few pipe-makers in the country and has been crafting pipes since 1993. He was trained by Willie Mattner, who was well known to South African pipe smokers of the sixties to eighties and his handmade briar pipes were much sought after. Ebenhart uses only the best local woods that have been tried and tested and only the best imported Briar. His pipes also have a lifetime guarantee. You’ll find all manner of pipes available and Ebenhart is only too happy to share his passion with you. He also collects classic cars that are worth taking a look at while you stretch your legs and get some fresh air.

5. Rose of the Karoo

Contact: Tel 0442133204, roseofthekaroo.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

The owner of Rose of the Karoo, Sandy Du Plessis, is so popular with the locals that one might say that she is the rose of the Karoo! She is delightfully charming, energetic and passionate and this all reflects in her restaurant, deli and gift shop. When it’s warm, you can relax on the patio under vines, or cosy up next to a warm fire on chilly days. They serve breakfast all day, along with light meals that are tasty and well-priced. The deli offers treats and takeaways for those on the move, while many interesting local products and trinkets can be found in the gift shop. They are also pet-friendly if you are travelling with your dog. As a side, the carrot cake I enjoyed with Hans was also procured from Sandy so she’s the one to go to for a good piece of cake!

6. Red Door Guest Room

Contact: Tel 725250150, or follow them on Facebook

Photo by Rachel Robinson

You won’t believe what’s behind the red door in Barry Street! A bathroom of absolute magnificence! This bathroom is so breathtaking that home decorating magazines have even photographed it. Think harlequin floor, Victorian bath, every type of bath bubble and body lotion, plush towels, soft fluffy dressing gowns… it’s every girl’s dream! Your hosts even give you a bottle of wine and Sweetie Pies upon arrival, so you can seriously indulge in bathtime bliss! But apart from the bathroom (which really does steal the show), the whole place is a work of art, from the flowers on the dresser to the lights strung up on the stoep and the tin mugs gently clanging in the breeze. Pieter and Trudy van Niekerk are lovely hosts whose attention to detail is really what makes the Red Door Guestroom special. They truly go the extra mile to make sure your stay is comfortable, including providing jars of rusks and treats, muffins, yoghurt and fruit. They also have some interesting stories to tell if you take the time to get to know them.

7. Groenfontein Meander

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Other than the best bathroom in the world, this is possibly my favourite find in Calitzdorp. Follow a dusty circular road that takes you to Nels River Dam (where you can have a braai), to olive and wine farms, artists homes that have open galleries and tea rooms and a quaint restaurant that serves breakfasts, and light meals, served with some intersting local stories on the side.

Pop into Du SwaRoo Wine and Olive Farm, the smallest wine farm in the Klein Karoo Wine Route, where you can do a wine and olive tasting and purchase tasty treats like atchars and olives, along with bottles of their wine.

Photo from Du SwaRoo

Relax on the stoep and taste award-winning wines while admiring the view at Peter Bayly Wines. Over a glass of their famous white Port, you’ll be captivated by tales of marauding baboons and laugh at the antics of the chickens who are forever trying to get into the house. While you are there, find out about their Portly Pig Project!

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Next door you’ll find Oude Postkantoor Coffee Shop and Gallery, owned by the charming and humorous Mike Muuren and Peter Giani, who actually live in George and only come to their restaurant at weekends. Their shady deck is a great spot to enjoy a cappucinno or a toasted sandwich (or whatever they feel like cooking that day).

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Artists along the way include Roger Young and Phyllis Midlane who also have a coffee shop in Roger’s Kruisrivier Gallery where you can get something to drink and a snack while admiring his beautifully captured and somewhat haunting Karoo images. He also offers cosy self-catering accommodation if you are in need of a place to stay. Phyllis is part of the Handspring Puppet Company team and has her studio across the road.

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Finally make a turn at Marcia’s Studio where you’ll find all manner of interesting pieces and if you are there on a Sunday, she may well be hosting one of her movie nights under the stars which are popular with the locals.

Tip: Make sure you take in the famous red sandstone hills at sunset before re-joining Route 62.

Also read: Route 62: Montagu and Barrydale

Next > Look out for the next installment of Rachel Robinson’s Route 62 trip in the coming week: Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert






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