Wondering if Ceres is actually the place where fruit smiles, if Tulbagh is still on the map and if Wolseley is pronounced the way it’s spelt, I sped off on a whirlwind tour of the Witzenberg area of the Western Cape to gather a little bit of intelligence and of course a healthy dose of wine, food and scenery. Here are my top 8 things to do when visiting the area:
1. Gourmet picnic under the trees
You know you’ve arrived in heaven when a long table, covered with a crisp white tablecloth, has been set up underneath the trees just for you and is loaded with the most delicious looking platters of food and chilled bottles of wine. Not being one to judge a book by its cover, I took my place on one of the hay bales ready to dive in. Ladera Artisan Wines in Wolseley is one of those unpretentious farms that has a wonderful work ethic that ensures that passion, authenticity and quality carry though into their final product. Winemaker and farmer Charles Ochse, took time from tending fig orchards and testing grapes (we all know that’s what they secretly do all day) to tell us his roots and where his passion for wine all began. His salmon pink Blanc de Noir, with its fresh acidity and strawberries and cream on the nose; his slightly wooded Wild Child Chardonnay, with its notes of ripe apple and nuttiness and his deep ruby Zahir Syrah, with its characteristic ripe black cherry and white pepper tones were a gorgeous compliment to the pear and blue cheese salad, malva toast and chicken liver paté and caramelized onion spread. Our afternoon rounded off with picking a punnet of ripe figs from the orchard to take home.
Tel 072-536-0055, [email protected], www.laderawines.co.za
2. Sleep in a tree house
There is something primal about spending the night up in the trees where you have a bird’s-eye-view of your surroundings and the smell of fresh pine awakens your senses. At Vindoux Luxury Tree Houses in Tulbagh you get to become one with nature without having to compromise on the creature comforts. Dotted along the edge of the orchards, with the Saronsberg mountains beyond, the four luxury tree houses are spaced far enough so that lovebirds can make out in peace and quiet or for you to find your zen. A relaxing spa bath (big enough for two people) is a perfect way to ease tight muscles. My breakfast of fresh fruit, muesli, croissant and filter coffee went down a treat on the outside deck as the sun danced its way up from the horizon. Complete your experience with a little backstroke in the pool, a massage in the day spa or casting a line at the dam for a spot of fishing.
Prices: Luxury tree houses and honeymoon suite from R1 300 a unit a night and tree lodge (minimum of 4 people) from R2 000 a unit a night
Tel 023-230-0635, [email protected], www.vindoux.com
3. Take a sunset horse ride
Leaving all inhibitions at the car door, I mounted my well-trained horse Freddie for a sunset trail through Fable Wine Farm in Tulbagh. Led by Jo and John of Horse About, any beginner would instantly feel at ease in the care of these two passionate and expert riders. Having a ‘little birdie’ telling me to steer left or lean forward was a great confidence booster, especially when the horse responded to my commands (a first for me). We wound our way through groves of trees, down gentle slopes and through green vineyards as the sun slowly set behind the Witzenberg mountains and the full moon began to rise. I got a taste (we also sipped on a glass of chilled wine) of the incredible peace and beauty that the people of this area experience everyday on horseback. A romantic picnic can also be arranged en route.
Prices: Rates start from R275 a person for an hour trail ride and sundowner stopover
Tel 082-884-9881, [email protected], www.horseabout.co.za
4. Feast on good food
Made with loving hands by chef Carol Collins, the gourmet food dished up at the Readers Restaurant in Tulbagh is the place to go for a mouthwatering dinner or a tasty picnic basket. Although we didn’t eat at the restaurant, Carol put on a spread in a wine cellar of honey-glazed chicken legs, fresh salmon topped with wild rocket, baby spuds dressed with a rosemary dressing and sundried tomato and butternut petit quiches, to name but a few. My glass was seemingly never empty, as Carol dutifully topping up my wine without me even noticing it. Thankfully, I wasn’t taking the horse home, although I’m positive Freddie would have led me straight to my doorstep (no reigns attached) should I have requested it.
Tel 023-230-0087, [email protected], www.readersrestaurant.co.za
5. Take a zipslide in Ceres
The little butterflies that had suddenly developed in my stomach were slightly annoying, especially when I’d heard that a 3-year old had just completed the tour ahead of me. Being the first in line (I think I was pushed) and in front of all the other jelly beans, I sped off with wild abandon on the first of 8 slides on the Ceres Zipslide Tour totaling 1.4 kilometers. Once everyone had overcome their fear of heights, being a sissie and breaking in time, the smiles and laughter were infectious. Sliding over the rugged rocks, gorges and waterfalls, with panoramic views of the Witzenberg wine farms, is so super easy you can’t help but start to enjoy each slide, with any fears or inhibitions taking a complete backseat. Our guides were fun, friendly and very safety conscious. All ages from three years older are allowed on the tour.
Tel 079-245-0354, [email protected], www.ceresadventures.co.za
6. Feed a rescued animal
There is a harmony that exists on Fynbos Guest Farm in Wolseley. It’s a place where guests can go and actively participate in a working farm as well as take some time out from the flurry of city life. The farm is home to rescued horses, donkeys, goats, pigs and llamas and children and adults have a chance to spend time feeding these critters and helping out around the farm where needed. The well-kept campsite has secluded sites amongst the Fynbos, which is being restored in certain parts of the farm. Guests are welcome to explore the farm on foot or take up a comfortable spot on the front deck with a refreshing slice of watermelon or bottle of wine and some cheese to watch the sun set.
Prices: Camping from R95 a person a night and self-catering cottages from R650 per unit a night (sleeps 2, 3 and 4)
Tel 072-223-4674, [email protected], www.fynbosguestfarm.co.za
7. Learn how to cook vetkoek
When someone tells you that they make the best vetkoek and sweetcorn fritters in town you ought to listen, at least if your stomach has anything to say about it. Eileen Baron, fondly known as Baba, is a bubbly character that started Baba’s Jêm in Ceres because of her passion for food, but also because she can cook: spicy atchar, vegetarian curry, chakalaka, chutney, rooseterkoek and sweet apricot jam. You’ll want to swing past her home in Ceres to see just how Baba tames fruit and vegetables into delicacies that will arrest your tastebuds. Groups can view a demonstration by Baba on how to make various traditional foods.
Tel 023-312-3545, [email protected]
8. Have morning scones and tea
The year 1969 was a significant year in Tulbagh’s history. Sitting on the shaded terrace at the Tulbagh Hotel over fresh scones and filter coffee, I wondered what this little town used to be like many years ago when tarred roads were dust and the postman delivered mail on horseback. One would never have imagined that a size eight earthquake ripped through this small town in that year, and even though the town suffered great loss, its rich heritage couldn’t be destroyed. The historic Winterhoek Manor, a heritage annex of the hotel, dates back to the 1800’s and is a national monument. Three suites have been refurbished to include original elements of the manor such as the four-poster beds, high ceilings and yellow wood floors together with modern conveniences such as air conditioning and extra length beds.
Prices: Winterhoek Manor rooms from R990 a couple a night, standard hotel rooms from R790 a couple a night and luxury hotel rooms from R990 a couple a night
Tel 023-230-0071, [email protected], www.tulbaghhotel.co.za
Other things to do in Witzenberg
Succulents, bonsai’s and crystals
If you’re looking for a momento to take back with you, make sure you stop in at Succulents and Stones in Tulbagh. It has an impressive assortment of indigenous succulents that have names such as crab eyes, sheep’s tongue, old man cactus, horse’s teeth and string of pearls. If you don’t have a green finger in your body, succulents make wonderful addition to your home. They require almost no care and provide a green element to your space. The gemstones and crystals are equally impressive covering everything from desert roses to tigers eye.
Tel 023-230-2977, [email protected]
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