A star-spangled country escape at Sutherland’s Rogge Cloof

Posted on 30 November 2022

With all the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s sometimes difficult to catch your breath when it seems the city has swallowed you whole. But not in Sutherland.

By Tauhira Ajam

So every now and then, the sudden urge to pack your bags and flee the city creeps in, and it’s almost impossible to resist. The time has come when this urge can no longer be fought. The bags are packed, and the tank is full.

Just under four hours away from Cape Town, in the heart of the western Roggeveld Mountains in the Karoo, lies the hidden treasure of a true country escape – and this is where I headed.

Almost everyone knows that there are three things Sutherland is known for: snowy winters, a star-spangled night sky, and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) – the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere.

A star-spangled country escape at Sutherland's Rogge Cloof

Like those who had tread across Sutherland so many years ago and wove the wisdom of planets and stars into the rhythm of their lives, the great minds at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) spend their days in awe of the universe beyond.

Through its advanced technology, SALT provides a lens into deep space. It offers an opportunity to study the births and deaths of stars and planets, discover distant galaxies, and record the age and scale of the universe and all it encompasses billions of light years away.

Close by is The Blue Moon restaurant, and I made sure to stop there for a good ole’ traditional Afrikaans melkkos. Milk, flour, butter, a pinch of salt, and cinnamon. A soul-warming dish made from the simplest of ingredients, served by the most charming waiter.

A star-spangled country escape at Sutherland's Rogge Cloof

After marvelling at the wonders of the universe with a tour of SALT and filling your tummy, it’s time to find a place to sleep.

A quick 15 minutes outside of Sutherland, you’ll stumble across the main gate of Cape Country Routes’ newest member, Rogge Cloof Private Nature Reserve – “Home to the Greatest Heavens on Earth”.

Accommodation options are situated 12 kilometres from the main entrance. Perhaps it’s the remoteness, the vastness of its expansive plains, or the quaint beauty of the reserve peeking beyond the horizon – but something made me feel at ease.

Whatever it is, you can almost feel the pressure of life melt away as you drive along the dirt trail towards the eco-village. With each bump and bokkie you encounter, serenity takes over.

Pro tip: For a great driving experience, consider a Ford Ranger Stormtrak. Ford wasn’t kidding when it said it’s bringing luxury to the fore, no matter the terrain.

Self-catering accommodation comprises different cottages, each one lovelier than the last.

For solo travellers and couples, Rogge Cloof offers its unique and cosy Heike’s Cottage and eight luxurious open-plan Orion Suites. It’s inclusive, fully catered, and runs entirely on the reserve’s own solar power.

Each Orion suite is equipped with complimentary hot water bottles, a fireplace, and a mini coffee station to keep you toasty during the nights. A king-size bed, lounge area, and patio all overlook the valley. Just like that, you thank the universe for urging you to pack your bags and flee.

In the Rittersaal, an authentically restored historic farmhouse dating back to the late 1700s, there’s no a-la-carte restaurant, but Chef Paul Nienaber will treat you to gourmet dishes using ingredients fresh from the greenhouse. All meals are based flexibly on your schedule and your dietary requirements.

Conveniently nearby, the bar and lounge area overlooks an outdoor fire pit and part of a growing vineyard that will soon bear grapes ready for harvesting.

Pro-tip: Leave some extra space in the boot. You’ll want to take home a wine bottle or six after tasting it. One might even say it’s sinful to leave the reserve without having had a Rogge Cloof wine-tasting experience. Their in-house brand offers an opulent selection of six wines, Cape-to-Cairo’s Timbavati Chardonnay and Letaba Pinot Noir as well as Emineo Malbec.

Being slightly higher than the surrounding Sutherland area, combined with the extraordinary clarity of the Karoo’s cloudless night skies Rogge Cloof is the ideal destination for stargazing.

Facilitated by the knowledgeable Head Guide, Cara Coffee, and her trusty telescope, guests can meet Orion the Hunter, count the number of belts on Jupiter, and distinguish the colours of a nebula while taking in the magnificent spectrum of the milky way.

Picture: Unsplash

Suddenly, the claustrophobia vanishes and you can breathe again.

To view the night sky unpolluted by the city lights we’ve grown so accustomed to is an experience like none other. It’s tranquil, it’s beautiful, and it’s strange to think this place is simply a car ride from Cape Town.

Picture: Unsplash

A lesser-known Sutherland gem lies in the plains of the reserve. A three-hour guided hike will take you to where South African poet NP van Wyk Louw and his brothers spent their childhood days. The spot is now aptly known as Poet’s Cave.

Once you settle inside the cave, guide Heindre Gericke will grace you with a beautiful recitation of one of NP van Wyk Louw’s Afrikaans poems (fear not, he recites the English translation too).

A star-spangled country escape at Sutherland's Rogge Cloof

Apart from soaking in the remoteness of the reserve, there are several other activities to dip your toes into:

  • Game viewing(Rogge Cloof has approximately 80 enclosed springboks within the eco-village, with countless more roaming the reserve)
  • Cheetah tracking
  • Salpeterkop volcano guided hike
  • Nature drive and fossil field outings
  • History drive and walk
  • Biking
  • Karoo farm-dam swimming

This urge to flee the city is exactly what Cape County Routes (CCR) South Africa caters to, and you won’t leave disappointed.

With a vision to promote the splendours of our home, CCR offers adventure, tranquillity, and pleasure with its collection of establishments along the historic, scenic routes between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

Rogge Cloof is one of over twenty 4 and 5-star establishments belonging to CCR’s collection.

The details:

  • Location: R354, Sutherland
  • Rates: From R1 100 per unit, self-catering, sleeps four
  • Bookings: roggecloof.com
  • Contact: Phone +27 23 004 1161

Pictures: Tauhira Ajam

ALSO READ: Sutherland: South Africa’s brightest star


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