The Garden Route officially starts or ends – depending on the direction you are going – at Mosel Bay where the N2 heads a little north and the coastline turns south. There are a few pretty coastline views around Mosel Bay, but like most of the drive along the highway you can’t see the beach from the road. After Mosel Bay, heading east, the landscape flattens and opens up, losing the taller trees and scrub brush. The day was crystal clear with blue skies stretching all the way north to the mountains which separate this region from the high desert of the Karoo.
Unpopulated except for the occasional farm house, there is nothing wandering the roadside and very few townships. Closer to Swellendam we reach rolling hills covered in golden fields of wheat and rich green pastures dotted with fat cows, sheep and ostrich. A distinct contrast from the overpopulated and overworked land of the Wild Coast.
Swellendam is an historic town at the foothills of Marloth Nature Reserve. A relaxed, peaceful place without the electric fences and spiked walls of other towns further east.
Klippe Rivier Country House
The Klippe Rivier Country House, two to three kilometers outside town, is an old homestead converted into a B&B. (Unfortunately I have just read that they have closed their doors as of March 31, 2012.)
Our room, the Reitz room, one of the four guestrooms in the former stables, is gigantic with a sitting area in front of a wood burning fireplace; a queen sized bed; and up a couple of steps, a dressing area and a large bathroom. It’s decorated in an African farmhouse style with an eclectic mix of rustic furnishings – a zebra skin in front of the fire place and spears hanging on the wall. Very comfortable, but a little worn and in need of a good refreshing.
Dinner and breakfast are served in the main house. The large colonial rooms boast an old wood plank floor and are furnished with a mix of rustic antiques, African decorations – including striking paintings in vivid hues, and more contemporary comfortable furniture.
Before dinner drinks are served in the lounge along with olives and mixed nuts, where, like in most small restaurants, guests are presented with the menu. Most of the seven rooms at the guesthouse were empty. It was only us and one other older American couple, Bob and Nancy, who at 70 plus are still traveling around the world on their own.
For starters we tasted the caramelized onion and gorgonzola tart – prepared with a little too much balsamic vinegar – and the butternut squash soup – rich and flavorful without being too creamy. For the mains we both tasted the springbok loin (a type of antelope) – tender and livery served with a maple syrup cream sauce and roasted vegetables. And for dessert a dense, nutty spice cake served with vanilla ice cream. Of course Don tried the fruit plate – unimaginative with under-ripe fruit.
Overall the service and food are good and unpretentious.
October 6, 2011
For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.