Waterfalls. Contemporary art. Gardens. Mountains. A historic homestead. Big, shadowy trees. Sculptures. Orchards. Rivers. Fauna and flora. Great Wines. Great Food. Fresh air.
Without a doubt, 2020 has taught us to slow down and take in the wonder that nature is around us. As your travel spirit reawakens with a thirst for beautiful spaces, these are the luxuries to gravitate towards. The unassuming entrance to the Wildekrans Country House does not give much away until you come around the corner where a vast garden with sweeping mountain views awaits you. Art graces unexpected garden corners, a feast for the eyes that are already drawn to all the details.
Patrick Mapanje, Annie Olckers and Simone Kroukamp
August and September are known to be beautiful months in the Elgin Grabouw Valley.
And albeit still cold, even snowy, the gradual shift from Winter to Spring is breath-taking. It signals a new start. Soon little pops of green will appear with budburst in the vineyards, and heads will turn as commuters pass the orchards in bloom. Once you start exploring the valley, you will also meet people who moved here for a new beginning. Others returned to their roots. Alison Green is one of them. Her dad was an apple farmer in the valley, and she grew up here. Pursuing a career as a civil engineer, to meeting Barry, her architect husband in Johannesburg, to living in California, her heart would yearn for the so-called Wildekranse; the natural, wild cliff that forms a backdrop for their family farm.
It was a particular visit to the valley that made them stay.
“We stopped at this unassuming, rustic sign: Wynverkope (wine sales). It was the farm of Elreda Pillman from Goedvertrouw. I will never forget the authentic experience we had, tasting from the barrels, and loading the car with hand numbered wine bottles. What I remember most was Elreda’s bright eyes. She looked so open hearted, clear, and much younger than she was. And I thought: if we could afford to give our family a life like this, why not? So we moved here.”
Alison is the owner and founder of Wildekrans Country House, home to the sought-after Green Mountain and Blue Mountain slackpacking experience. We envy her as we roam through her garden. The mist is still slithering through the trees, and as it reaches the sunlit sculptures, it instantly dissolves in glistening droplets. A steaming pot of coffee arrives with bright smiles as we learn about the experience.
Wildekrans Country House
This historic 1811 homestead lies in the Houw Hoek Village, and the rural environment adds a beautiful charm to entice visitors. Inside an eclectic collection of antiques and contemporary art adds a refreshing touch, making this a drawing card for young and older travellers. The garden remains a highlight, overlooking the rugged mountains while enjoying your morning coffee by the Barn. It is the kind of place that will convince you to start writing that book or rediscover your inner artist. Guests can book the country house for a country getaway or to join in for the full slackpacking experience.
📸 : credit Wildekrans Country House
What started as spring walks between Paul Cluver and Wildekrans turned into a more in-depth and meaningful, all-inclusive experience. It is the perfect opportunity to emerge into nature, get your dose of proper exercise, and complement it with excellent food and wine.
“There are so many opportunities for walking here, and we have partnered up with farms and private landowners to give guests a unique opportunity. The walks are packaged to suit different people and we adjust according to the prevailing weather. I can guarantee you; each day is quite different.”
There are two routes to choose from, each offering a unique expression of the natural vegetation. One quickly becomes aware of the immense biodiversity. The smallest change in microclimate affects the kind of vineyards or orchards planted here; it also affects the territory of the Cape Mountain Leopard. Everything is delicately entwined, and the experiences are designed to guide visitors through all the subtle nuances that became instrumental in this environment.
“You have to visit during all seasons,” explains Patrick, the friendly guide who accompanies the group and patiently stops to point out small details or indigenous plants and Fynbos to enrich your knowledge of the environment.
“In summer, you can admire the proteas. Then you must be out in the mountains early in the morning to beat the heat. In Spring, one can appreciate the smaller plants, daisies, and orchids. In winter, most of the plants are dormant, but that evokes a different beauty altogether.”
Alison explains how every visitor can enjoy the route in their own time.
“We have people who are doing it for the cardio exercise; others want to stop and take pictures. That is why we have a guide in front and a guide at the back so that everyone can have the maximum experience that appeals to them.”
The Green Mountain Trail
Committed to sustainable and responsible tourism, this four-day hiking trail traverse the Groenlandberg and its rich tapestry of fauna and flora with an accredited guide. The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve offers some enormous diversity of its kind and is sure to mesmerize all nature lovers. Moderate distances vary between 11km and 18 per day and ends with a relaxed stay at the four-star guesthouse. Along the way, the group gets to visit wine farms and enjoy wholesome, seasonal meals as part of the experience.
📸 : credit Green Mountain
The Blue Mountain Trail
The Blue Mountain Trail takes you through and past many special and unique Fynbos plants, a wide variety of Proteas, many species of Ericas and Cape Reeds, as well as a wonderful variety of Geophytes. This is a three-day “slackpacking” trail around the southern side of the Elgin Valley. Included are farm stays, delicious country food, wine tastings, and a fynbos guide. While the experience parallels the Green Mountain, the landscape, vistas, flora and fauna are entirely different. The trail is 50km in total and winds through the wilderness, forests, fruit farms, and Fynbos.
📸 : credit Green Mountain