Issue 6 – December 2020
The Three Walks Weekend
Behold, after several years of dreaming and months of planning, it finally came to pass…
On Friday 4 December 2020, a motley crew of 10 willing guinea pigs turned up at Heilfontein Country Escape to road test our much-discussed Three Walks Weekend.
Even Covid did not stop our outdoor experience, although it came perilously close to upsetting our plans. With a few days to go, our neighbours (who are a mere 3km away) tested positive and so we were not able to include the gin and cosmetic blending experience. Instead, we got rid of the city cobwebs by touring the protea plantations and hiking the Twin Peaks Trail on the farm – thirsty work, which was well rewarded, when we reached the Lodge.
Sundowners were followed by a magnificent dinner of slow-roasted lamb from Annie Moffat and a locally-sourced guinea fowl pie from Glynis Gillott, accompanied by a multi-layered vegetable bake. By this time, the guinea pigs were in full voice and quaffing anything within reach. However, this proved somewhat unwise for the next day’s march that lay ahead…
The Haarkapperspad / Barber’s Trail
On Saturday, with breakfast at 07:00, we hit the trail at 08:00, starting at Elzaksa Farm, home to Johan & Elsa van Zyl. This saved us a 2km trudge from De Poskantoor, up through the village below. First out were the Moffats, like beagles after a hare but after 45 minutes of steady uphill and numerous switchbacks, even they were brought to heel. With plenty of pauses to enjoy the unfolding view of the Caledon Ruens, the climbing party expanded and contracted like a centipede. Once we crested the saddle, the view across the rump of Phillipskop stretched from Gansbaai in the East to Walker Bay in the West – a truly magnificent vista and worth the climb. (It was difficult to believe that cyclists came up this route in the 2017 Cape Epic.)
Thereafter, it was a more gentle descent – with the added challenge of the baboons having moved the stone route markers (emblazoned with a yellow barber’s scissors) in their effort to find edible insects. This part of the trail was cool and almost alpine with plenty of restio in the fynbos. We paused for water at the crystal-clear stream behind Phillipskop, before descending carefully into the Snail Rock Hidden Valley.
In the distance, we saw the David & Goliath Rock Stacks which were impressive close-up but proved difficult to photograph, as they blended in with the mountainous background.
Some of the party diverted to take a steep 10 min climb to view the recently-discovered rock art in a cave above the main trail. Estimated to be a mere 2 – 3,000 years old, the paintings proved elusive and showed up better in photographs than to the naked eye.
We then re-grouped at the picnic bench beneath the shade of a magnificent tree, before the last push along the level to the Phillipskop Reception area where we had left our vehicles.
With Strava showing some disbelieving members that we had done a mere 7km in 4 hours, the hyper-energetic continued along the country road and were collected en-route, for the lunch at White Waters Farm. This proved to be a veritable oasis and no disappointment in the culinary department. Following lunch, we were transported back to Heilfontein with the balance of the afternoon at leisure – swims for some and sleeps for others.
The evening braai at the Lodge was preceded by drinks in the wine cellar – a major tactical error as despite the lessons of history, this put the guinea pigs too close to the stock at hand! The Braaimeester Zirk van den Berg lived up to his title and fed us magnificently around a long table on the covered patio. A great end to a busy day.
Tesselaarsdal close up
On Sunday morning it was a leisurely start at 09:00 with a 45min walk through the small farms of Tesselaarsdal en route to De Poskantoor Café for a brunch. It was an up close and personal exposure to the state of South African agriculture – shooing sheep, patting calves and dodging cowpats! There were lots of unusual things to see and plenty of questions asked about the sights.
After the long Barber’s Walk of the previous day over the Kleinrivier Mountains, the Editor discovered to his surprise that he could have got a haircut on his doorstep and at a bargain price!
Brunch at De Poskantoor is a timeless country experience and cannot be rushed. With Brendan Daly’s home-cured bacon and Sonia Fourie’spersonal attention, we all enjoyed the authentic atmosphere of the 1891 building, where the bathroom was actually the post-room of the past.
Thereafter, we were transported back to the Lodge where the relaxed guinea pigs had their brains picked by their hosts – valuable and honest feedback indeed! This was payback time and their suggestions will definitely be incorporated in our offering to the public.
Our thanks to the following 8 guinea pigs who made up the Test Party for our Three Walks Weekend: Richard & Annie Moffat, Zirk & Theresa van den Berg, Jeremy Poole & Nicci van Niekerk, Terry Matzdorff and Murray van Heerden.
Once we have ironed out the logistics, we intend to offer the Three Walks Weekend on a monthly basis. In the meantime, one certainty is that self-catering facilities which are appropriately socially distanced, are the sensible way to go. Heilfontein is open for bookings in the Lodge and Hermitage. Come and visit us and unwind in safety. You could have some fun walking too…