Into the Langeberg
Jacaranda trees line the Langeberg streets, occasionally interspersed with fuchsia bougainvillea. Lines of vineyards pan out behind them, the mountains in the background. The towns of Robertson and McGregor form part of this wine- and olive-producing valley, along with the lesser-known but equally pretty Klaasvoogds area. But a relaxing (long) weekend away can turn adventure when adding these to your country to-visit list, the first part of our story…
Melozhori Game Reserve
Zebra in the Langeberg? Perhaps not so unexpected when you consider this private game reserve. What started out as “overgrazed agricultural land” has, in the eight years since it’s been in the care of the Bhorat family, “been transformed into a thriving ecosystem,” says manager Lientjie Nell. Up until, well, now, the reserve has been part retreat, part conservation project for the family. And, while it remains both, it has just opened as exclusive-use lodging a few nights of the year. Sleeping up to eight adults, guests have private use of the accommodation, including all meals.
Decor is typically safari lodge: thatched roof, zebra-skin rugs, hide-and-leather armchairs, porcupine quills in earthenware vases, mosquito nets providing a canopy over the beds. “The interior and decor was chosen by the family: most of the furniture was handmade to order and specifically designed for the lodge,” explains Lientjie.
Wander outside onto the wooden deck and breakfast is served overlooking the reserve and dam. In the gravel driveway, an open safari vehicle is parked, waiting to take guests on game drives. Springbok, buffalo, eland, giraffe, zebra, kudu and cape grysbok form part of the landscape, as does the bontebok breeding project to protect this vulnerable species. The guides are also available to take guests on outrides. “The horses are used to the game, as they roam freely with the animals,” says Lientjie. “That means we can get close to the wildlife. Groups are small and intimate, and trails are individually designed for each rider.”
Take a squiz at the website for info on accommodation, experiences and game breeding.
Marbrin Olive Growers
Turn off the R60 as you head out of Robertson towards Ashton and you’ll come across this boutique, family owned olive farm. Faded red tractors mark the entrance, the owners’ dogs greeting you on arrival, views of the mountains and olive trees spanning out in front of you.
“Marbrin was established in 1997 by my father Peter Coetsee, who had always dreamt of being a farmer,” says his daughter and Marbrin’s marketing manager Briony Coetsee. “A lot of people were sceptical at the time as it was a little-known agricultural venture.”
But now, just about 20 years on, Marbrin Olive Growers has won numerous awards for their products, the most recent being placed among Absa’s top five olive oils in 2016. “Balance is the key criteria for award-winning oil: the flavours must work together without one particular flavour dominating,” Briony explains of their achievement.
The area’s divergent temperatures (day vs night, winter vs summer) is one factor contributing to the farm’s success. “These differences, combined with the predominantly clay soils, are imperative in creating those big, bold and intensely flavoured olive oils,” says Briony. “This is one of the best areas to produce olives and olive oil.”
Inside, up against the steel vats, Briony takes you through tastings of the products, including infused oils (the chilli is a must), olive pastes, various types of olives and green fig preserve (available via their website or on the working farm).
MOVIES AND MUSIC
The double-storey house on 27 Bree Street, a quiet side street in McGregor, is inconspicuous behind the trees and bougainvillea. But this is the venue for the village’s boutique cinema and classical music venue.
Originally an A-frame house, it was rebuilt with African and Indian influences by the previous owner: an intricate Moroccon door, for instance (pictured in the opening image), adds an unexpected touch of North African to the architecture. In 2012, however, it morphed into a film and music venue for the community when current owners Michael MacKenzie and Freddie Symonds bought the private residence. Considering the interior space is essentially one double-storey room, it actually works incredibly well in its present form.
Films follow monthly themes (Italian, Japanese, those featuring a particular actor such as Clint Eastwood). When it comes to recitals, “artists from around the world generally approach us asking to perform at Wahnfried,” says Michael. “The acoustics are great and performers love the intimacy of the venue.”
Events are listed on Wahnfried’s Facebook page (and at the venue if you’re in the area). Entry is based on donations and, bonus, a glass of wine is included.
THE LITTLE BIG FIVE
1. Strictly Coffee in Robertson for a much-needed caffeine injection.
2. Sheilam Cactus & Succulent Nursery in Klaasvoogds for a guided garden tour. The nursery opened in 1954 and currently features about 2 000 plant species.
3. La Mont for cheese-and-Van Loveren pairing at their private dairy farm and deli on the R60 between Robertson and Ashton.
4. Green Gables Country Inn in McGregor for a stay-over (self-catering or B&B) or home-cooked dinner. The space is also available for intimate weddings.
5. Owl’s Rest (pictured above and in the opening image), an exclusive lavender and olive farm selling boutique products such as cordials, essential oils and linen spray.
Words Kirsty Wilkins
Images MVZ Photography, Kirsty Wilkins and supplied