A Victorian idyll in the Karoo
A former hunting lodge turned sanatorium has a new lease of life as a luxurious game lodge countrybreaks
ello, hello,” called a voice from the sky, as I took a dip in the swimming pool. Then a vivid blue and yellow macaw swooped down from a tree.
The overhanging cliffs nearby would better suit an eagle, but in Africa anything is possible and Kiki the pet macaw, we were told, takes a late-afternoon flight daily.
We were staying at Lemoenfontein, at the foot of the Nuweveld Mountains outside Beaufort West, where everything seems surreal.
Built in the 1850s by a Victorian gentleman as a hunting lodge, its huge veranda once served as a dance floor (the Oregon pine floorboards still spring as you walk on them).
Once a year, this wealthy owner and a party of friends would set sail from England to spend a month at Lemoenfontein. The vast view of Karoo veld they enjoyed from the veranda has probably changed little.
Records of the eccentric owner were lost in a fire in Beaufort West’s archives in the 1840s, but at some stage the lodge served as a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers.
The gardens in front of the main house, filled with succulents and hardy trees, are ringed with boulders, while a large stone lion guards what was once a driveway up to the veranda. Cats and dogs welcome visitors, as does a giant wooden hippo. Fat sofas in an enormous lounge invite the weary, and breakfast on the veranda is special.
As cheeky birds fly in and out of the dining room, the cheese and butter have to be kept under wraps.
At sunset, a popular activity in Beaufort West is the Karoo Sundowner donkey cart trip – sip champagne and listen to tales of Beaufort West and the central Karoo.
Lemoenfontein, set in 10 000 hectares, which also boasts a game reserve, was bought in the early 1990s by Werner Koster and his daughter, Ingrid, who still manages the place.
They said they took time to restore the big house’s “dignity”. Its character remains unchanged, with high ceilings, original wooden floors and wide, long verandas.
Little courtyards abound. There’s a Victorian shrub garden with a fountain, and cottages covered with bougainvillea. Just beyond its borders the dry veld lurks, waiting to reclaim its place.
At sunrise I went for a walk. Fluffy pink clouds, the sun golden on the rocks, a pepper tree alive with the fluttering of birds… the world was lovely.
Contact: Tel: 023 415 2847; e- mail lemoen@ mweb. co. za; www. lemoenfontein. co. za; Karoo Sundowner: 072 235 1891.
RETREAT: Old buildings have been restored to provide interesting accommodation.