To WIN! your own weekend to Graaff Reinet, valued at R4500, including two nights’ accommodation for a family of four to six & activities – answer this simple question in the comments-section of this post: ‘In what vehicle did the Tribe travel to Graaff Reinet?”
Competition is open from 19/06 to midnight of 28/06/2012 – anyone from anywhere in the world can enter.
Date Visited: 15-17 June 2012 (Winter)
Accommodation: We stayed in beautifully renovated historic homes, now known as Camdeboo Cottages. Each home has two bedrooms, a bathroom, lounge, kitchen and is fully serviced. It is perfect for a family stay. Comfortable with safe parking & a bed-and-breakfast option.
What we did: We experienced a guided tour through town with Chantelle the Tour Guide, enjoyed exquisite cuisine, took an early morning 4×4 trip high up into the mountains, had breakfast in complete isolation, visited museum, visited Noah’s ARC, visited The Valley of Desolation, made wonderful new friends, heard amazing stories & fell in love.
Recommendation: A trip to Graaff Reinet is a must do. You just cannot travel through Graaff Reinet, again, without stopping, staying for at least two days & experiencing something of this beautiful town. You could easily spend a week in Graaff Reinet & surrounds and still not have seen & experienced everything.
The Carpenters were passionately singing, ‘When I fall in love, it will be forever’, as we approached Graaff Reinet in the late afternoon.
It was an easy drive.
The Chrysler Grand Voyager more of a mobile lounge, than a car.
A vehicle with every comfort catered for.
The children each had their own space.
Their own climate control.
Their own window.
Nothing was squished or squashed.
Not even the luggage in the back.
Without hesitation anyone could see that this is the ideal family vehicle.
Theunsie loved the ‘buttons’.
To open the doors.
To change the seat configuration.
To adjust the mirrors.
Zuko loved the heated seats.
Whenever we’re in the market for a new vehicle, I’ll have to look for something with heated seats.
She’s discovered them & there is no turning back.
‘It will be forever, so I’ll never fall in love again.’
The Carpenters were coming to the end of their song.
It was a prophesy.
Or perhaps a clairvoyant moment.
Describing an emotion which has been growing, ever since our visit to Nieu Bethesda.
I don’t know if I’ll never fall in love again, but we’ve certainly fallen in love with the Karoo, Nieu Bethesda & its gem, Graaff Reinet.
At Camdeboo Cottages a warm-hearted welcome awaits us.
We’re shown our rooms & offered coffee.
Which we gratefully accept along with conversation at the pool-side.
Then Chantelle takes us on a pedestrian-tour through the streets of Graaff Reinet, talking of architecture & history. Telling stories from long ago as if she herself had been there & seen it.
We stumble into an antique shop with the most amazing stock.
Then a designer’s shop and another antique shop.
I get the feeling that we’re in a creative world, untouched by commercialization.
A place in which people give expression to who they are, just because they can & because it is fun.
We return to Camdeboo Cottages to refresh ourselves before an evening of exquisite cuisine.
If you never sleep in Graaff Reinet, you must stop and eat at Polka Cafe.
It is an easy walk in the cool winter’s night from where we are staying.
Supper is a slow luxurious affair.
We do starters.
Riaan, the co-owner & operator, takes the children on a tour of the kitchen & bakery.
Dessert & coffee is served just after eleven.
Patrons at the table next to ours engage in easy conversation. ‘The best food we’ve had in years’, they say. They’re passing through, from Johannesburg, on their way to Nelson Mandela Bay to visit a son. They were delayed. They’ve never stayed over in Graaff Reinet. They never expected this kind of restaurant.
They’ve never seen the Valley of Desolation.
They’ve never taken the time to walk the streets.
See the museums.
Or the succulent nursery.
Or the Camdeboo National Park.
We see it all (well almost) this weekend.
Saturday morning just before seven there is a knock on our door.
Guy & ‘Oom’ Buks has come to take us into the mountains.
We drive through beautiful scenery as the sun rises over this magnificent land.
We see Gemsbok.
Kudu & Zebra.
Graaff Reinet is the only town in South Africa which is right in the middle of a nature reserve.
Completely surrounded by conservation land, the Kudu even visiting homes on the outskirts of town towards the end of the winter when grazing is depleted and summer rains tarrying.
At the top of the mountain Guy sets up a kitchen & start making breakfast while we enjoy the silence, the isolation, the panoramic views.
Oom Buks talk of all the different plants.
How they got their names.
What they could be used for.
Their medicinal purpose.
And he talks of history.
Of a town loved by tourists from across the world, but often missed by South Africans.
The children’s excitement growing.
They know Guy has an Animal Rehabilitation Centre, with everything from tame birds to a rescued Zebra & Springbok.
Ninety-two different animals, he says.
They want him to name them.
And tell them how he got them.
How each one ended in his care.
Patiently he tells them & waits as they interrupt with more questions.
If Guy & Oom Buks are typical of the people of this little bit of world, then it is a world filled with warm-hearted, kind people.
People who have time.
To spend on relationship.
Not a single engagement goes by in which we’re not asked about where we come from. How it came about that we are the traveling tribe. How Zuko & I met or what we love & hope for.
These people are interested.
In more than themselves.
The kitchen is quickly dismantled.
The drive to the bottom of the mountain filled with more wildlife, nature & shared ideas.
Guy & ‘Oom’ Buks drop us at Camdeboo Cottages where we pick-up the Chrysler Grand Voyager & a fresh nappy for Maddi-Boo.
She is 10 weeks old on this trip.
I wonder if she’ll remember anything?
If even only in a feeling of love & warmth.
We drive to Noah’s ARC (Animal Rehabilitation Centre) where Guy & his family care for an arc full of animals.
An owl with a bandaged wing greets us.
The Zebra rubs up against Pippin.
The Springbok-lamb pushes against Theunsie.
We spend the afternoon in this magical place.
Feeding & handling baby-birds.
Playing with miniature horses.
And a monkey.
And an Asian Pig.
All afternoon children crowd around Guy & his wife & son.
The day is gone.
The museums will have to wait for tomorrow.
We return to Camdeboo Cottages.
Relax a bit.
And as the sun sets we make our way to Agave Restaurant.
On foot again.
It is phenomenal how safe this town is.
Beautifully restored buildings greeting us from all sides as we make our way to supper.
Friendly people greeting us.
As if we belong.
As if we should be here.
The meal is exceptional.
The service good.
It is late Saturday evening when we nestle into our warm beds at Camdeboo Cottages.
Zuko & I listen to the sound of our children playing.
Digesting the day’s experiences.
We drift off to sleep & on Sunday morning we sleep in for a bit.
But not too much.
‘Oom Buks’ has invited us for breakfast at Karoo Park.
He wants us to meet his wife.
She is wonderful.
More of the warmth & kindness greet us at the table.
They coax more details from me about my past, my present & future.
They talk about themselves with comfort.
And then we’re off to experience the Valley of Desolation.
Chantelle the Tour guide accompanies us.
She is a veritable encyclopedia.
Stories flow, one into the next, into another.
It is all woven into a bright tapestry.
One we can remember.
Hang on the wall of our hearts.
The Valley of Desolation is not to be described.
Not by me.
Perhaps by a poet or accomplished writer.
It is a place you should visit.
The afternoon goes to museums.
What we can fit before closing time.
Then a picnic in Nieu Bethesda.
We want to taste the mystical air of this wonderful village.
Just one more time.
It is dark as the Grand Voyager comes to rest at our home.
We didn’t experience half of what Graaff Reinet has to offer.
We’ll have to do another trip, my Zuko insists.
I love the Karoo, she says.
When we fall in love, it is indeed forever.