Jozi Food Whore

One short food whore, one long adventure

Weekend Breakaway: Escaping the Jozi Madness in Clarens

I recently came back from an epic road trip through mostly Namibia. It was the first time I had taken a real holiday in quite some years. When I was back in Jozi and back in the daily grind, I realised that I had needed the break desperately, and getting back into work-mode and the rat race proved very challenging. It’s impossible to quantify what it does to you when you don’t “get away” for a decent amount of time for years on end. You only really understand the impact fully once you’re back from a gorgeous, long, relaxing trip and you feel that de-stressed, seriously chilled feeling.

 

 

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As a result, I quickly added another item to my 2017 list of “How to Live Life Better!”, which I’d worked on during the Nam trip. It now includes weekend breaks – regular vacays – even if they’re short and sweet. Getting away from the hustle and bustle, and if at all possible, somewhere without data signal! We love camping but we had a massive camping trip through Namibia, so this time we opted for a cosy little self-catering rondavel instead.

 

          IMG_20170228_162159_495 Oak Tree Cottage at De Molen

 

 

And so, (not as early as we hoped) one Friday morning, we headed in the direction of Clarens, with De Molen Guest Farm as our final destination. Situated 7km outside of Clarens, it was perfect for us. Away from the town, and closer to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and as luck would have it, absolutely no signal. Nevermind data, but nothing!

 

 

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First, though, the frustration of our arrival. We’d been looking forward to a lovely lunch and beer tasting at Clarens Brewery and ended up having a rather below-average experience there. You can read more about that here.

 

 

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We then headed to the guest farm, where we were warmly welcomed by Lin and shown to our cosy little rondavel, called the Oak Tree Cottage (as it’s located under a lovely big oak tree). The farm is sprawling and huge and has gorgeous views of the surrounding Maluti Mountains.

 

 

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We settled in and it started to occur to us that it was unexpectedly quite cold for February, but perhaps it had something to do with the back-end of Dineo, the tropical storm that was sweeping over the country at the time. Nevertheless, we were happy to take a leisurely walk around the property and found that it was even bigger than we first realised. We walked down to the dam, all along the river, and up again past pastures and farmed land. All this with the gorgeous mountains constantly in sight. We made it back to the cottage just after the sun went down, rewarded for our long – somewhat chilly – walk with a stunning sunset .

 

 

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There was some debate that evening on whether or not to cook food but in the end, we proceeded to braai, as we love to do. The evening had quite a bite, so we huddled close to the fire and enjoyed the pin-drop silence, broken only ever so slightly in the distance by the sound of frogs and other nocturnal creatures. What a gorgeous evening!

 

 

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We woke up at a leisurely time on the Saturday after promising we would get up early. Should have known better. But we hadn’t lost a lot of time and after a nice big breakfast, we headed to Golden Gate Highlands National Park to feast our eyes on the famous Brandwag Buttress and surrounding natural beauty. Tall, Dark & Handsome has an interest in geology and was quite taken with the mountain range. We hiked some of the shorter routes, getting right to the top of the buttress and back down again, with a sidetrack into Echo Ravine.

 

 

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Golden Gate Highlands National Park

 

With a gorgeous day spent outdoors, we made our way back to the cottage. Of course, we braaiied again but before that, wandered down to the river to see about the fishing. It was quite late so we only spent about an hour trying to figure out what the best options might be. And so we planned for a full day of fishing on the Sunday. We would soon discover that regular fishing would not catch anything but river crabs, since this was fly fishing and trout country.

 

 

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Back at the cottage, we set about braaiing and having some beers, which really was the perfect end to the day. I had that great feeling in my body that I had worked hard and used my muscles and felt tired in a properly physical way.

 

 

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So we did wake up early on the Sunday and tried our hand at the fishing but have learned that it’s best to do what the locals do. After a few nips and bites from crabs, we threw in the towel and headed back to Clarens, leaving behind our lovely cottage.

 

 

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My delicious Ploughman’s Platter from The Post House Restaurant

 

In Clarens once more, Tall, Dark & Handsome insisted he would find me cheese so we stopped at a few spots and asked after some Google-listed places and finally ended up at a regular restaurant, The Post House, for lunch. An old building, with much of the original stone- and woodwork still in tact, there are signs here and there requesting that you “handle with care” as the “doors are probably older than you are”! I had quite a laugh.

 

We were served by Muzi, an enthusiastic and friendly waiter, who was on the ball and brought me a gorgeous cheese & meat platter. Service and food was great! Tall, Dark & Handsome had some trout so someone caught something somewhere! He rated the trout as delicious, though some bones remained on what was listed as a dish that had the bones removed.

 

 

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Tall, Dark & Handsome’s trout fish lunch from The Post House Restaurant

 

 

And having spent a wonderful weekend away, we headed back to Jozi, a relatively short 4 hours’ journey home.

 

 

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Brandwag Buttress

 

Wrap-up of the De Molen Guest Farm.

 

It’s very easy to find and clearly sign-posted near the location/entrance, and situated about 7km away from Clarens on the way to Golden Gate. The road into the farm has a few speed bumps that might be slightly tricky for really low profile vehicles but otherwise is in good condition. There is uncovered parking and manicured lawns. Lovely gardens abound.

 

 

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A view of the gardens and main house from our rondavel

 

The space has a lovely kind of “hidden away from the world” magic. There is no cell phone reception on or around the farm and the place is quiet and breathtaking. One occasionally hears a car on the road some way away but it’s few and far between. At night, the air is crisp and the evening lovely and still, with only the insects buzzing around making any sound whatsoever.

 

Outside the core space where the cottages and accommodation spots are situated, the farm is massive and can be wandered at leisure. There is even a picnic spot at the furthest point from the main house, next to the river. Apparently there is a walk to a cave but we didn’t have time to check it out. Fishing is an option, but it’s limited to fly fishing if you want to have any luck, and is strictly catch-and-release. We brought our own gear so I’m not sure if gear is available to rent but I think not.

 

 

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We really loved our Oak Tree Cottage, a single space thatch rondavel with an en-suite shower. We got to look into Hideaway Cottage (see photos toward the end of the article), which is larger and has more rooms than the rondavel. This is more suited to a small family and to self-catering. Though the rondavel did have everything we needed to cook, it was a little cramped in terms of space to do so. However, Lin went to great lengths to make sure I was aware, when booking, that it was a small, and very cosy, spot so I knew about it going in. And really, it worked out fine for us on our budget and we were still able to make and cook everything we wanted.

 

Our room was serviced daily and though we were very leisurely to get going, nobody ever knocked on our door and the caretaker/cleaner only arrived as we started hustling to leave each morning. That was something I found particularly nice. They provide wood and a small stand-alone braai is located outside each of the cottages, along with some garden furniture. Though there is no particular barricade between most of the cottages, you do get a sense of privacy, at least at Oak Tree.

 

They have most of what you’d need in Oak Tree to self-cater i.e. pots, pans, cutlery, glasses so you won’t lack for anything unless you’re expecting to do something a little more out-there like fondue. There is a bar fridge and a two-plate hob and a basin. A toaster and kettle is standard with some instant coffee and a few tea bags and a small long-life milk. There is a plunger as well, for real coffee enthusiasts, though you’d have to supply your own filter coffee.

 

 

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The bathroom has an installed heater which is nice because if it was that cold in February, it must be quite cold come winter. The rondavel also has a heater and an extra blanket but feels well insulated anyway. The bed is a cosy double with ample pillows and bedding.

 

 

 

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A glimpse into Hideaway Cottage

 

 

The final feeling here is that it really was a lovely stay. Friendly, helpful service and beautiful spaces, as well as clean, tidy accommodation, made it a lovely location that I will certainly return to again in future.

 

 

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