Off-the-grid accommodation in Zoetendalsvlei, Overberg

Posted by Colin Hancox on 11 February 2014

On an epic self-supported, stage-by-stage journey on Honda scramblers from Cape Agulhas to Kunene River on the Namibia / Angola Border, Colin Hancox finds first-night accommodation at Langrug Lodge in Zoetendalsvlei (southern Africa’s largest natural body of fresh water) and pays a long-awaited visit to Elim in the Overberg.

 

Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas has marked a turning point in many people’s lives. In older, tougher times, courageous seafarers battled fierce storms to round the cape and journey on. For some, treacherous unmarked reefs ended their journeys on the rugged coastline. Today it marks the start of numerous overland journeys by enthusiastic travellers wishing to head up Africa on a new venture. For some, this is a turning point in life rather than a turning point in a journey.

 

Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Photo by Colin Hancox

 

Langrug Lodge, Zoetendalsvlei

The word ‘lodge’ conveys the idea of huge rooms, splendour, sipping on port next to the fire and great hunting parties. Langrug Lodge is simpler than that. It is a 100-year-old cottage and a shining example of what it means to be off the grid. It has a wood-burning donkey, filtered drinking water that comes from a rain tank, ground water for general purpose use, paraffin lamps, a gas cooker and local fire and braai wood.

 

Langrug Lodge, Zoetendalsvlei

Langrug Lodge, Zoetendalsvlei. Photo by COlin Hancox


Langrug Lodge is a prolific spot for birding and looks over Zoetendalsvlei which has a large variety of bird species. A pleasant ‘open hide’, for want of a better name, is in the reeds a few metres down from the lodge and makes a comfortable viewing spot for waterfowl and brightly coloured weavers.

Find out more or book a stay at Langrug Lodge here

 

Zoetendalsvlei

Zoetendalsvlei comprises about 1 000 hectares of wetland and is reportedly the largest natural body of fresh water in Southern Africa. The vlei is named after a Dutch ship Zoetendal that ran aground in 1673 on the coast near Strusibaai. This was a sad turning point for the seafarers, as even those who made it to land appear not to have survived long in the harsh environment. Looking out over the flattest parts of the vlei, sunsets and sunrises seem more spectacular: there is more of an horizon to fill, more colours to capture and more distance to enjoy.

 

Sunrise, Zoetendalsvlei, Overberg

Sunrise over Zoetendalsvlei, Overberg. Photo by Colin Hancox


During our early morning coffee, we saw what looked like a fuzzy ball moving over the adjacent field. It was a porcupine! I had never seen one live in the flesh, or the quill so to speak, so rushed inside to fetch the camera and rushed out across the field. I discovered that a porcupine travels only marginally slower than a person wearing flip flops, hampered by shorts constantly falling down and carrying heavy camera equipment. I took shots on the fly in the low light and it disappeared behind a thick hedge. I ran parallel to the hedge dodging large molehill holes trying to catch it. At last, a break in the hedge! I scrambled through and saw the porcupine disappear down a large hole next to a tree. Next time, I thought, I will sleep in my running shoes.

 

Elim

The town of Elim (read more about Elim here) has been on our list for too long and so we set off past Zoetendalsvlei for a visit. A mission station in the past, it has attractive stone and thatch cottages in various stages from renovated to being renovated, to being in minor disrepair. In some cases, additional structures have been attached to the cottages and accommodation needs have overridden aesthetics.

 

Elim Watermill Restaurant, elim, Overberg

Elim Watermill Restaurant, Overberg. Photo by Colin Hancox


Next, we set off to the fishing harbour of Struisbaai where fishermen work hard out at sea and jokes and smokes are distractions to lighten the day.

 
fishermen, fishing, struisbaai

 






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