Ru­ral still­ness in the Langk­loof

The Langk­loof is a fruit-grow­ing re­gion be­tween the Tsit­sikamma and Kouga moun­tains. It might be just in­land from Plett and Storms River, but it’s a world away from the tourist traps of the Gar­den Route. Here are six farm stays to clear your head.

go! - - Con­tents - WORDS & PIC­TURES TI­MOTHY GABB

Stay on a farm deep in the moun­tains of the Langk­loof

Nguni Land

Nguni Land was never in­tended to be a guest farm, but rather a place of nat­u­ral retreat for own­ers Andre and Maritha Ham­man who pur­chased the place in 2006. The farm is about 950 ha in size and goes high up into the Su­u­ranys Moun­tains. When Andre re­alised the tourism po­ten­tial of the farm, he set to work ren­o­vat­ing five cot­tages, pay­ing homage to the style in which they were orig­i­nally built. The cot­tages are more than 100 years old, with beau­ti­ful wooden floorboards and yel­low­wood and stinkwood fur­ni­ture. There are no water pumps on the farm – all the water comes nat­u­rally from the kloof above the farm. The Ham­mans have done an in­cred­i­ble job of re­mov­ing masses of black wat­tle over the years, and the re­sult is that Nguni Land is one of the most eco­log­i­cally sound farms in the Langk­loof. The Krom River runs through the prop­erty and so do the nar­row-gauge tracks for the Apple Ex­press steam train, which once ran from Port El­iz­a­beth to Lo­erie Sta­tion in the Langk­loof. Sadly, the train hasn’t been op­er­a­tional since 2011 and de­spite on­go­ing ru­mours of its res­ur­rec­tion, it’s not likely to be run­ning again any time soon. Ac­tiv­i­ties: Hik­ing or run­ning, bird­watch­ing, swim­ming in the Krom River. Fa­cil­i­ties: Five self-cater­ing cot­tages, sleep­ing be­tween two and six peo­ple. Each cot­tage has a kitchen with a gas stove, and a braai area. Rates: From R750 for two peo­ple shar­ing, plus R200 per ex­tra per­son, depend­ing on the cot­tage. Pet-friendly? No. Cell­phone re­cep­tion? Good. Where? En­trance off the R62, about 3 km from Ka­ree­douw to­wards Jou­bertina. Con­tact: 042 288 0154; ngu­ni­

Se­mane Lodge

This farm boasts 5 km of Kouga River frontage, with at least five swim­ming spots and even a few beaches. Lo­cated 13 km into the Kouga Moun­tains near Jou­bertina, Se­mane of­fers lots of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. It’s a great op­tion for a big group – you can book the whole place and have it all to your­selves. Se­mane is an eco-friendly farm. You can help your­self to fresh pro­duce from the veg­etable gar­dens and all fire­wood comes from alien veg­e­ta­tion that own­ers Tony Mbewu and Priscilla Reddy have cleared over the past 14 years. The lodge is named af­ter their daugh­ter: “Se­mane” is seTswana for “Queen Bee”. The 350 ha farm is great for a small wed­ding or if you sim­ply want to Zen out in the wilder­ness for a few days. It’s down-to-earth and comfy – just the way we like it! Ac­tiv­i­ties: Hik­ing, bird­watch­ing, swim­ming in the river, bass fish­ing, stargaz­ing. Fa­cil­i­ties: The main house sleeps up to 15, and then there are two cot­tages each sleep­ing four, plus five twin rooms in the “long house”. These rooms share a com­mu­nal bath­room and kitchen. There are 35 beds in to­tal. All ac­com­mo­da­tion is self-cater­ing. Rates: Main house from R325 per adult (R650 min­i­mum; two peo­ple); it be­comes cheaper the more peo­ple there are. Cot­tages from R500 for two adults, plus R250 per ex­tra per­son; twin rooms from R350 for two adults. Pet-friendly? No. Cell­phone re­cep­tion? None. Where? Take the On­der-Kouga turn-off just out­side Jou­bertina in the di­rec­tion of Union­dale. Drive into the Kouga Moun­tains for 13,5 km along this gravel road un­til you see the sign for the farm on the left. Con­tact: se­; (book­ings) or trav­el­

Kouga Wilder­ness

This rus­tic guest farm is deep in the Kouga Moun­tains along a very slow gravel road. Owner Nico Fer­reira’s fam­ily has been liv­ing in these moun­tains for two cen­turies. These days he and his wife Melodie farm with sheep and cat­tle, har­vest wild honey bush for tea and grow apri­cots, al­though the cur­rent drought has di­min­ished their fruit yield. The farm has a small river run­ning through it – home to rare in­dige­nous fish like Cape galaxia and red-wing min­now – and the cot­tages are on the banks of this river. There’s sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance be­tween each cot­tage so pri­vacy and quiet­ness are guar­an­teed. The farm is enor­mous (3 000 ha) and if you have a 4x4 you can ex­plore the rocky ridges where gi­ant aloes lord over the fyn­bos. Ac­tiv­i­ties: 4x4 trail, ab­seil­ing and rock climb­ing, hik­ing, swim­ming in the river, fish­ing and kloof­ing. Fa­cil­i­ties: The ren­o­vated old farm­house called Oom Carl se Huis has three bed­rooms, plus an open-plan liv­ing room, a kitchen, two bath­rooms and a nice stoep. Each bedroom has a dou­ble bed and ei­ther a bunk bed or two sin­gle beds, so the house can sleep 12 in to­tal. There are also two chalets – River and He­un­ingkrans – each with two bed­rooms, sleep­ing up to five. The chalets are sim­ply fur­nished, but they have all the ba­sics: a fridge, a stove, a shower, bed­ding and a braai place. The Bush Camp is a pri­vate camp­site with a flush toi­let, a wash­ing-up area and a gas geyser for hot show­ers. It can ac­com­mo­date up to 15 peo­ple and is booked out in its en­tirety. There’s also a gen­eral camp­site with 10 stands and all the ne­ces­si­ties like flush toi­lets, hot show­ers, power points, a braai lapa and pic­nic ta­bles. Nearby, there’s even a rus­tic car­a­van that sleeps four. Fire­wood is avail­able from an hon­esty box near the camp­site. Rates: Oom Carl se Huis from R300 for two peo­ple; R200 per per­son for three or more. Chalets from R600 per night. Camp­ing R100 per per­son. Bush Camp from R300 per night. Car­a­van R160 per per­son. Pet-friendly? Pets are al­lowed at cer­tain ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. Check with Nico or Melodie. Cell­phone re­cep­tion? None. Where? Take the On­der-Kouga turn-off just out­side Jou­bertina in the di­rec­tion of Union­dale. Drive into the Kouga Moun­tains for 28 km along this gravel road and then fol­low the signs. Con­tact: 042 273 9903 (Melodie); kougaw­

Louter­wa­ter Land­goed

Louter­wa­ter Land­goed is a 2 000 ha apple and pear farm just out­side the set­tle­ment of Louter­wa­ter. Cor­nelis and Ja­nine Muller are at the helm of this busy op­er­a­tion. There are two types of ac­com­mo­da­tion on of­fer: rus­tic log cab­ins and neat cot­tages with DStv. Our pick? The cab­ins. They’re fur­ther away from the main farm at the foot of the Tsit­sikamma Moun­tains and there’s a lit­tle river nearby with am­ple grass for cricket and braai­ing. If you hap­pen to visit dur­ing Novem­ber, take part in the an­nual potjie com­pe­ti­tion. Ac­tiv­i­ties: Bass fish­ing, swim­ming, hik­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. Fa­cil­i­ties: The guest cot­tages are good if you’re look­ing for some lux­ury. B&B or self-cater­ing op­tions are avail­able; din­ner can be supplied at R90 ex­tra. One cot­tage sleeps two, the other sleeps four. The four log cab­ins are next to the river. Each has two bunk beds, sleep­ing four in to­tal (bring your own bed­ding). There’s a com­mu­nal bath­room with hot show­ers, plus a com­mu­nal braai area and kitchen. Camp­ing is per­mit­ted at the same venue. Rates: Cot­tages R330 per per­son B&B; R270 self­ca­ter­ing. Log cabin R400 per night. Camp­ing R40 per per­son. Pet-friendly? Pets are al­lowed at the log cab­ins, but not at the cot­tages. Cell­phone re­cep­tion? Only at the cot­tages. Where? The farm is just off the R62, be­tween Jou­bertina and Mis­gund. Con­tact: 042 272 1724 (Ja­nine); ad­

Groot­nek Guest Farm

The orig­i­nal farm­house at Groot­nek was built more than 100 years ago. It’s a rel­a­tively small farm – only about 48 ha in to­tal – and the main crop is fruit: pears, peaches and plums. The farm is at the base of a lit­tle kop­pie, with For­mosa Peak loom­ing in the dis­tance. The cot­tages are al­most as old as the farm­house and they’ve been ren­o­vated with com­fort in mind. There’s no elec­tric­ity, but you’ll find ev­ery­thing else you need for a self-cater­ing hol­i­day. Each cot­tage also has its own splash pool. Owner Gawie le Roux’s wife Erika makes fig pre­serve and jams from the lo­cal fruit, and sells her pro­duce at Joub’s in Jou­bertina. Ac­tiv­i­ties: Bass fish­ing, hik­ing, bird­watch­ing, fruit pick­ing (De­cem­ber to March), swim­ming and 4x4 trails. Fa­cil­i­ties: There are three cot­tages: Weskus and Ka­roo each sleep six (dou­ble bed, two sin­gles and a sleeper couch) and Bosveld sleeps four (dou­ble bed and a sleeper couch). Each cot­tage has a so­lar sys­tem for lights and to charge your phone, plus a kitchen with a gas stove and fridge, and a bath­room with a gas geyser. Rates: From R200 per adult and R100 per child (min­i­mum R400 per cot­tage per night). Pet-friendly? Yes. Cell­phone re­cep­tion? Good. Where? Look for the turn-off on the R62 just be­fore Kra­keel on the Jou­bertina side. Fol­low the signs for about 4,5 km, the farm is well sign­posted. Con­tact: 084 500 0706 (Erika); groot­nekguest­

Af­saal Guest Farm

Af­saal is a beau­ti­ful spot in Haar­lem – a his­toric agri­cul­tural vil­lage along the R62. Guests can stay in one of two re­stored cot­tages, fixed up by own­ers Gary and Ronalee Olivier who moved here from Som­er­set West nine years ago. Af­saal is not re­ally a farm – it’s a 9 ha small­hold­ing bor­der­ing the Groot River – and it’s lush and green. There are pigs, don­keys, chick­ens, ducks, veg­etable gar­dens ooz­ing good­ness and scores of happy sun­birds and sug­ar­birds dart­ing about. If you’re look­ing for a meal, Ronalee will hap­pily or­gan­ise you a Ka­roo-style feast upon re­quest (R100 – R120 per per­son). You’ll also have fresh milk in your fridge from neigh­bour Sheila Earle’s Jersey cows. Ac­tiv­i­ties: Bird­watch­ing, pet­ting the farm an­i­mals, trac­tor rides through Haar­lem, fyn­bos tours, cy­cling, hik­ing and stargaz­ing. Fa­cil­i­ties: There are two cot­tages: Poshuis sleeps four (one dou­ble bedroom with a sleeper couch for the kids) and Jakkelshuis sleeps eight (two dou­ble bed­rooms, a sleeper couch and a sep­a­rate flat with a dou­ble bed). Both cot­tages have en suite bath­rooms and scenic ve­ran­das, with ev­ery­thing you need for a self-cater­ing hol­i­day. From R250 per per­son. Yes, by prior ar­range­ment. Good. Up­per Church Street, Haar­lem 044 763 1407; 072 309 6066; af­

Rates: Pet-friendly? Cell­phone re­cep­tion? Where? Con­tact:

Jou­bertina to­wards Union­dale. Con­tact: 042 273 1516

Die Plaaswerf Out­side there’s a big gar­den filled with old trac­tors for the kids; in­side there’s a huge fire­place and a comfy wooden bar counter. The lamb chops (R82) are juicy and delicious. Where? Next to the R62, just out­side Ka­ree­douw to­wards Union­dale. Con­tact: 042 288 0262 Al­telekker Sip an ice-cold beer or or­der a light lunch like roost­erkoek with cheese and jam (R15). You can even get a hair­cut in this eclec­tic cof­fee shop. Where? 15 Van Riebeeck Street, Ka­ree­douw Con­tact: 042 288 0748

The Sweaty Dutch­man Their spe­cialty is pan­cakes, both sweet and savoury. Try the cherry com­pote, ice cream and whipped cream pan­cake (R52). Where? Next to the R62 in Ka­ree­douw. Con­tact: 042 288 0056

Joub’s There are a few op­tions here: Sit down for a meal at Diner R62, browse the farm-stall good­ies at the Ap­pelkas or buy wine from Win­ery R62. Where? Next to the R62 in Jou­bertina. Con­tact: 042 273 1031

1 AU NA­TUREL. The ren­o­vated cot­tages at Nguni Land are neat, com­fort­able and spacious.

RIVER LIFE (be­low). Se­mane Lodge has a spectacular, iso­lated lo­ca­tion in the Kouga Moun­tains, next to the Kouga River. Pack a pic­nic and spend the morn­ing ex­plor­ing the 5 km of pri­vate river frontage, swim­ming in the many pools (right).

QUIET TIME. Kouga Wilder­ness lives up to its name, tucked away in an an­cient, rugged land­scape. There are lots of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions on the farm, in­clud­ing two wooden chalets like the one above. The chalets are ba­sic, but they’re pri­vate and spacious with ac­cess to their own swim­ming spots.

FARM FRESH (above). This is one of the log cab­ins at Louter­wa­ter Land­goed. It’s the “rus­tic” op­tion – guests can also stay in a more lux­u­ri­ous cot­tage. There are a num­ber of hik­ing trails on the farm for all fit­ness lev­els (be­low).

MAKE SOME FRIENDS (above right). The com­fort­able cot­tages at Groot­nek Guest Farm are sim­ple and off the grid. Your kids will love the res­i­dent don­keys Char­lie and Sam. If you visit dur­ing har­vest sea­son, you’ll be al­lowed to pick some fruit for your­self.

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