There is something irresistible about spending time in the middle of nowhere. It feeds the soul and slows us all down to sanity. When the current owners of this 2200 ha Klein Karoo farm stumbled on it (somewhere between De Rust, Klaarstroom and Meiringspoort), the land was temptingly raw and beautiful but the farmhouse derelict. Fortunately these were not any owners. The farm ‘lucked in’ to a couple both passionate about giving the farmstead, built in 1825, a 21st Century refurbishment, and she, Marielise van der Merwe, is an architect. They included a glass and aluminium wing, but retained its authentic framework that spoke of a time when buildings and their foundations were made to last a century. ‘We were determined to keep its soul,’ she says: so they retained the yellowwood flooring, ceilings and an Aga stove, which in homestead terms is the core of the house that remains warm day and night. This is where bread is baked to crustiness and lamb with rosemary, drizzled with olive oil, slow-bakes to perfection. There is also a modern kitchen designed to open to a generous living space.
Miraculously, the owners have modernised the one area where South African homes miss the mark. They have double-glazed the windows, shielding the homestead from fierce Karoo summers and icy winter evenings. Your experience in any season would be temperate inside the homestead while looking out on a snow-capped Swartberg or in the shade of the verandas with the farm spread around you, merinos, springbok and oryx grazing on the sweet Karoo fynbos or drinking at the dam.
One of South Africa’s most famous poets, the late C. J Langenhoven, author of the former national anthem, was a regular guest in his youth and if you should sit quietly in the depth of the stoep, you might sense some of the inspiration for his verse. You could completely disconnect here on this farm but then again, there is the world to embrace on your terms so there is Wi-Fi. (Peace in the homestead if you have teens in tow.) But try and disconnect. It’s a fabulous stopover for travellers on their way from Gauteng to Plettenberg Bay via Oudtshoorn, only an hour’s drive away. Walks lead to spectacular outlook points and at night, nothing beats a Karoo indigo night sprayed with the Milky Way that seems to hang light years closer than anywhere else in the clear Karoo night.
What we love!
- Every road trip deserves a quality stop over and this deserves a few days to ‘decompress’ from city life. By the time you reach your holiday destination, you are rewired.
- The architect-owner has introduced wonderfully modern touches in furnishing, moving away from the traditional look and feel of a farm house and yet preserving its authenticity
- There are few places where antelope are so habituated that you can sip sundowners while watched them graze metres from where you sit.
- The farm borders the magnificent 121 000 ha Swartberg Nature Reserve and if your route takes you near The Hell, this is an isolated valley with spectacular photographic opportunities.
What you need to know…
- Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed on this working farm.
- Remember to bring mountain bikes with you for this stop over. Johannesburgers constrained by traffic and safety issues will relish the freedom of the many trails.
Reviewed by Les Aupiais