Get a taste of Ceres

The Ceres val­ley is known for its ap­ples, pears and cher­ries, but it also has an ad­ven­tur­ous side. Here’s your ac­tiv­ity and ac­com­mo­da­tion guide!

go! - - Contents - WORDS COLETTE COMBRINK PIC­TURES SHEL­LEY CHRIS­TIANS

Ceres is sur­rounded by moun­tains. As you crest Michell’s Pass, a patch­work quilt of or­chards, fields and dams un­furls. The Skur­we­berg, Wa­boom, Witzen­berg and Hex River moun­tains all loom over this pas­toral scene. The fortress of moun­tains kept most peo­ple out of this fer­tile val­ley. Un­til 1848 that is, when An­drew Ged­des Bain built Michell’s Pass through the Witzen­berg. The first Euro­pean set­tlers farmed with cat­tle and wheat, but these days you’ll see mostly pear, ap­ple, peach, plum, apri­cot and cherry or­chards. The town was named af­ter Ceres, the Ro­man god­dess of agri­cul­ture and fer­til­ity. In win­ter the moun­tains are dusted with snow, but when pho­tog­ra­pher Shel­ley Chris­tians and I visit in Novem­ber, they’re shim­mer­ing in the heat. The Warm Bokkeveld is liv­ing up to its name. (The name “Bokkeveld” was coined by early trek farm­ers, who en­coun­tered large herds of mi­grat­ing springbok, wilde­beest and ze­bra.) Shel­ley and I stop at the tourism of­fice, but the door is locked. “Sorry, it’s to keep the ba­boons out,” says tourism of­fi­cial Suzanne Persens. I think back to all the ba­boons I saw on the moun­tain slopes on our way into town… Cars cruise up and down the streets; mostly res­i­dents head­ing into town for gro­ceries. Al­most ev­ery­one waves hello. Other tourists are scarce and Shel­ley and I must stand out. Af­ter Michell’s Pass was built, Ceres came alive. The trav­el­ling time from Cape Town to Beau­fort West had been re­duced from 20 days to 12! The town be­came an im­por­tant stop for trans­port rid­ers and mail coaches trav­el­ling north, even more so when di­a­monds were dis­cov­ered in Kim­ber­ley in the late 1860s. Later that af­ter­noon, we drive to Fyn­bos Guest Farm, about 12 km out­side town. Pe­ter Nel, one of the own­ers, chats to us about places to eat and things to do in the area while Leila, his Ana­to­lian shep­herd dog, lifts her

head drowsily, stud­ies us with one eye and falls right back to sleep. Pe­ter gives us an un­la­belled bot­tle of wine and sends us off to ex­plore the farm. The gar­den is peace­ful, filled with stat­ues, and there’s even a med­i­ta­tion room with mo­saic work on the floors and walls. In the game camps, lla­mas, al­pacas, don­keys and ze­bras bask in the af­ter­noon sun. There are also some pigs, Billy the goat and a mob of in­tim­i­dat­ing emus. Mau­rice Lan­caster, Pe­ter’s busi­ness part­ner, says: “The emus came from a back­yard in Dur­banville, but most of our res­cued an­i­mals come from vets who call us when peo­ple drop them off. It warms my heart to pro­vide a home to all these an­i­mals.” Come sun­set, I’m set­tled on the stoep of the cot­tage we’re stay­ing in with a glass of Pe­ter’s wine. I can’t help but feel glad that the rail­way line be­tween Cape Town and Kim­ber­ley, com­pleted in 1885, rerouted most of the traf­fic and re­stored calm to the val­ley. There’s lots to do in and around Ceres, but I’d rec­om­mend do­ing noth­ing, too. Braai next to the Breede River and lis­ten to the call of a Ka­roo prinia. Fish in the river or take in the view of the moun­tains and or­chards. Do what­ever you want to re­lax, just make sure you don’t leave town with­out a bag of pears or a bowl of cher­ries. It’s what the god­dess Ceres would have wanted.

TOO HOT TO TROT (above). The horses at Fyn­bos Guest Farm make their way back to the sta­bles af­ter a day spent in the fyn­bos.

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