A Vic­to­rian idyll in the Ka­roo

A former hunt­ing lodge turned sana­to­rium has a new lease of life as a lux­u­ri­ous game lodge coun­try­breaks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2011 - MYR­TLE RYAN

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.