We Survived The Road & Wine Trip To Tulbagh And Back

Surviving the road trip to Tulbagh is easy; surviving the wine trip is another story. Three Horak’s, Elmarie, Nandi and me set off for a winter’s break to Tulbagh. Elmarie’s birtday is on 21 June; the shortest day in South Africa and her Sotho name is Maserami. Her gogo said:

Baby Elmarie came with the cold.

Cold. Very cold. So Elmarie wanted to spend a weekend in the cold. I would love a road trip including a few passes. Nandi, our daughter; she had an obligation. Obviously with three dogs we looked like the SPCA on wheels.



Zita asking if she can sit in the front as well

High expectations; off we go to find the cold in Tulbagh; three nights of blankets, fires and red wine. Via Baden Powel on to Stellenbosch via Helshooghte pass (dates back to 1854), off to Paarl and Bain’s Kloof Pass and Tulbagh.

Bainskloof pass:

It is 27.3 km in length from the bridge over the Breede River to the outskirts of Wellington. Built circa 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was a tough nut to crack, working with convicts and raw, rough materials and methods. As always seemed to be the case with Bain, he oversaw a marvellous job of the pass which, having stood the test of time, is now a national monument. mountainpassessouthafrica.


On Bain’s Kloof from the Paarl side

At the top you’ll find Bain’s Kloof village; an interesting and very small place with sun basking baboons on roofs as well as other hikers. We saw a few self catering options and could stay here for a day or two (see Bainskloof Corner Lodge – not affiliated).

The slow winding pass took us through interesting rock formations…


On a road trip you cannot just drive past a bush pub.

So we stopped at Calabash push pub. Only two bikers having a beer and many lazy dogs. The dry lady arrived at our table, which complimenting her dry pub. This sun-faded place needed more than a Savanna for colour.

The setting was worth a stop!

We ordered three beers, chicken livers and two schnitzels. The chef exceeded our expectations with tasty food.

Calabash Bush Pub

Calabash Bush Pub

From here via Wolseley to Tulbagh.

Traveling the main road through Tulbagh looks like most other another rural towns but that assumption, you don’t want to make; you are missing the famous Church Street.

Through town we traveled, past Twee Jonggesellen’s turn-off and Rijk’s wines, not knowing what lay install for us, towards our accommodation at Vrolikheid called Bergsicht Farm Cottages – and they are pet-friendly.


Bergsicht farm cottage

Aneretha, the host, made us feel welcome with ample firewood for the braai and fireplace, some coffee, milk and all the essentials. There are electric blankets, extra blankets. However Elmarie was still disappointed; the sun shone everyday.


View on our accommodation and pool

And if you ever wanted a view then cottage 3 cannot be beaten. Okay, Table Mountain is special…but let’s focus on Tulbagh here.


Unpacked and ready to rush to Twee Jongesellen for Krone bubbles (MCC).


Brut MCC. Dry. Krone.

We tasted everything. Nothing wasted because all their MCC is also sulfur free. And we need to mention the lovely lady sharing her insights with us.

After carrying boxes of Krone to the car we went to Rijk’s for lots of red wine; not for tasting but indulging. If only I knew….

Elmarie, Nandi and friends; Martelize and De Klerk arranged to meet at Rijk’s where we were treated royally by Elaine and Jeannine.

Later we braaied at home and as the sun set Nandi and Gino had some fun in the sky.

nandi having fun

Nandi and Gono having fun

We woke early to see the sunrise over this amazing valley; no wonder it’s called Bergsight.


Feeling a little weak, Elmarie as strong as an ox, and Nandi barely blinking an eye, from yesterday’s wine we leave for Church Street and a late breakfast at Paddagang Restuarant.

Apparently there’s a lot of frogs and the road down to the restaurant building became known as frog alley, therefore, the name padda-gang.

The dogs could run around on the large lawn while we sampled Belguim food and Belguim beer. The peacocks were cautious and kept their distance.


By now I had more than my fair share and could retreat but pushed trough. The others were strong. And we’ll leave it at that.

Up and about the next day; another summer’s day to Maserami’s disappointment.

Our third day brought us the few kilometers to Ceres over Michell’s Pass (without the t):

Michells Pass (frequently misspelt as Mitchells Pass) was named after Charles Michell who planned the original route through the Skurweberg & Witzenberg Mountains from Tulbagh and Wolseley through to Ceres.  mountainpassessouthafrica

Stopping at at Die Tolhuis; Die Republiek van Roosterkoek a must.

 die republiekvan roosterkoek die tolhuis ceres michells pass

The restaurant and pub is cosy, pet- and baboon friendly; as Elmarie approached the entrance from the wrong side Big Bob was sitting on a garden chair smiling at her with his large white fangs. She fainted (nearly) and ran through us to safely. The chef, with broom in hand, escorted us but Bob was gone. For all we know there was no Bob; just Elmarie’s imagination. She’s still adamant though.

They offer really tasty dishes like Melkkos:


Melkkos and Roosterkoek

And the friendly staff made us feel welcome.


After this boerekos breakfast, the two previous wine days, Nandi and I wanted to close our eyes there and then but Elmarie was strong; it was her birthday and no time for sleeping.

We went up and down Gydo pass on the other side of Ceres but with low energy we returned home. Happily watching the dogs parade in the sun at our lovely accommodation.


Photo by Elmarie

The next day was really Elmarie’s birthday; a Sunday (still sunny), Father’s day in Riebeek Kasteel (packed with hippies, juppies, joopie, poppie and other famous people).

At the most packed restaurant we had a pizza. Elmarie said it was one of the best pizzas ever. Try Mamma Cucina when in Riebeek Kasteel.

If you don’t know the town and looking for a restaurant you’ll never make a mistake choosing the packed one before going to the empty one….

Driving home via Klapmuts to collect our Delico Lamb from the 7 day a week farm-butchery outlet. The butchery is in Riebeek Kasteel but we order and collect at the outlet next to Potbelly Pantry.  They do biltong (R190/kg), droe wors (R160/kg), cabanossi (R160/kg).

Packed; lamb, cabanossi, 3 dogs and the two people and Maserami – the cold one remember, we arrived home after a sunny weekend. Just to hear Elmarie commenting on the snow forecasted for this coming weekend.

If your wife’s name is Maserami you are in for a surprise. At least Nandi is normal and the dogs love me.

Things That May Interest You:

The Place A Klein Karoo Farm Suite: Braai Elephant Garlic & Sweet Patato

We are alive and well. Not divorced after Elmarie scaled her first passes with our Syncro Kombi and two dogs; all focused on fetching a third dog; the passes only a decoy. Late the afternoon, as we arrived, Elmarie was smiling as the conqueror. Not Everest but enjoying her own Edmund Hillary moment; not as high but quite relieved.


Just off the R323 we find The Place – pet-friendly run by Lizelle and her handy-man; he can do fancy woodwork.

Our room for the night; a studio flat. Beautiful, next to the chicken coop, fresh eggs for breakfast- as long as we keep the dogs out.


Arriving through the Klein Karoo bush you may look at the rough exterior of your little studio and be surprised. We were. The outside is like the dry Karoo, the inside soft, colourful and warm.

It’s small and modern, the fireplace warm and cosy, bathroom with shower, lounge and dining area for two. What a pleasure; our dogs, the bush, chickens, jackals, a braai and a Hillary-Elmarie.

Lizelle’s husband, as I mentioned, is an artist with wood, and he designed the neat little kitchen. It’s something you want when you build your small bush home.


Let me make one correction: we saw no jackal, but this is the place where you may. Let me repeat: It’s just you, the stars, some wine, a fire and a happy wife.

The fire lit and the drinks ready for the sunset..
the place zita  (2)

Time to relax and enjoy the crisp Klein Karoo

the place zita  (1)

Lizelle had fresh bread, proper butter, sweet potatoes and a massive garlic type veggie called an Elephant Garlic ready for our braai (optional extras).

I should have taken a photo of this Elephant but found this one online:

elephant garlic
The massive garlic was covered with tinfoil – it was about half the size of the one above. After the sweet potato was cut in large pieces, with lots of butter, a pinch of salt and cinnamon, the pieces were also covered with tinfoil and placed in the coals with the garlic. This was a dish in the making that I will not easily forget.

Elmarie had some sweet potatoes and loved it. By the way: we braaied sausages from Villiersdorp but I will not elaborate on that today.

With what was left of the sweet potatoes, I mash with more butter, and add the garlic to make a soft spread. I don’t think many people ever tried this. I ate it all. A vegetarian for once in my life.

I did not realise at the time…..But it was like loading a muzzle with gunpowder; not as deadly but as potent.

Needless to say; I had a most pleasant meal and slept with the dogs, my tummy feeling like a steam boiler ……

Elmarie lost her personality as I tried to relieve the garlic pressure.

The next morning:

I survived the turmoil and was ready for a new day. The dogs went on as usual and Elmarie had our next challenge, the Swartberg Pass, on her mind and ignored my pungy odour.

It was not that bad.

Before we left

A real breakfast.

At The Place breakfast is optional; jam is not on the menu but you can ask for honey. Eggs – free range, local greens; when you combine these with cook Lizelle you get the Egg Lady. Yes. She is called the egg lady.

They may as well call her the omelette lady. I am sucker for omelettes but this was the best omelette ever.  Even Elmarie, who never orders an omelette, agreed. Home baked bread, freshly squeezed orange with mint. What a pleasure.


If you are between Barrydale, Riversdale or Ladismith,on the R323, then treat yourself to a Klein Karoo farm stay and never forget to order an omelette.

Contact Lizelle at The Place here and go and stay for a week or more.


Dogs Dominating The Trip To Suurbraak & The Diversion to Barrydale

I am Captain Courageous in the driver’s seat, still alive after our truce, as Elmarie has not killed me (yet). Today will be the day of our first passes. But a diversion to buy beer delays us.


Gino and Jasper dominating the Syncro’s dash

We don’t know the exact route but Elmarie printed some instructions.

As we leave Villiersdorp its an easy and cool drive on the N2 to Swellendam. Then the road to Suurbraak and Barrydale. (20 mins to Suurbraak : map).

And, again the trip is pleasant because:

The slower he drives, the more Elmarie loves her husband.

The 1991 Syncro VW drives like a dream. And we are both happy. Because I never drive faster than 110 km/h Elmarie loves me.

Elmarie, I have no clue how your mind works. I have tried for more than three decades.

Let me focus on the story:

We made a bed for the long legged Gino, in between the two front seats of the Kombi. If not Gino stands on Elmaries legs. A cause for stress. But Gino wants a front seat. Creating his own front seat solves the issue and the height gives him a proper view of where we are heading.

Jasper, the black dog, now gets a chance to sit on Elmarie’s lap or hang onto the dashboard watching the road. As you can see above; sometimes both of them.

Can you believe that with these dominating dogs Elmarie conned me and herself into a third dog?


This is what Elmarie sees behind Jasper

Off to Suurbraak. Sour Vomit. Not really. Sour is correct but the word “braak” is more unused land . The word originates from the Dutch

Van gronden die braak liggen wordt gesproken als deze gronden op dat moment niet de beoogde functie (landbouw; stedebouw) vervullen.

According to Sandra Olivier in her, unfortunately unavailable book, Touring in South Africa the place was called Xairu (Khoikhoi for beautiful) and later changed to Suurbraak (sour fallow land). And it was founded by the London Missionary Society 1812.

Side-tracked comment:

Note how things get dated when so called civilization gets involved? I am sure the Khoikhoi were there first; long before 1812.


Typical Suurbraak home

Slowly through Suurbraak as the friendly people sat smiling at us and at our dogs.


Plot with horse

Horses, kids, bored elders, and easy going workers greeted us. Jams and rooms, pies and no beer. We had a long day and a cold beer on top of our first pass would be great.

Just for a beer.

Suurbraak to Barrydale via Tradouw’s pass; a quick 20 mins (40 mins in total) detour from our intended route to buy cold beer. But we had time and Tradouw’s pass is beautiful.


Entering the winding roads of the easy going Tradouw’s pass

On our way out of Barrydale nothing stopped us as fast as the sign saying Die Krag Le In Ons Koeke (the power lies in our cakes).

die krag le in ons koeke

die krag le in ons koeke

We agreed that the next time we visit Barrydale we would visit these powerful cake ladies at Rooi Kombuis (like them at Facebook).

Back through Tradouws Pass to the start of the gravel road (map).

When we, 2 people and 2 dogs, meet again we wil be going off-road – Meeting Elmarie’s fear, just to collect another dog.

**All photos used in this post were taken by Elmarie with her iPhone while she was navigating and keeping the dogs happy.


Why Did We Not Get Further Than Villiersdorp on day 1?

A better question to ask is: Will even make the 10 km to Fish Hoek?

We packed in the morning for the easy drive to Villiersdorp. The start of our 3000 km track to fetch Zita the Italian Greyhound.

Gino the dominant italian greyhound will have to make space for the young iggy

Two dogs (Gino and Jasper) and 2 people.

That will become 3 dogs and two people, all their blankets, biltong, droewors, Espresso machine, red cappuccino, kefir, wine, Elmarie’s cigarettes, printed directions to get over the passes. And lot’s of excitement.

Like small kids going to the drive-in.

I remember such a night. In our pajamas, Linda, my younger sister and I playing before the trip to the drive-in. We must have been so irritatingly active that my mother and father cancelled drive-in. Bad!

Was this going to be the same?

As I mentioned before: Elmarie sees death around every corner. And any stationary vehicles on the road, are police ready to jail us.

Let me re-cap from a previous post:

Three stairs and she tightens up. If we drive to Cape Town via Chapman’s Peak she will not sit on the passenger side if it’s on the ‘scary’ side. Driving also frightens Elmarie. If you go past 60km in town she thinks she is going to die. If you go past 120 on the open road she nearly faints. It’s that bad. Travelling more than 100 km, with both of us in one car, is a mission. One of us will get out, once at least, to cool down.

Exited. Packed. Off we go. The first robot is green. 69 km/h in a 60 zone.

“You are driving too fast!”

Elmarie belts out as we leave Simonstown. I expected nothing less and got it. If this is how we set the scene then the trip is off. I give Elmarie three options. :

“Either you drive,  shut-the-f-up (very civil) or we go back home. Pick one.”

Twenty minutes later and we have a decision. She will not drive and she will be good. I’ll keep to the speed. And off we go again. Happy.

To the mighty Villiersdorp.

About 1 h 54 min (115,7 km) via N2 and R321 and we arrive. It’s a proper dorp. Rural. But not too shabby. I see this website listed it as one of the 25 Best Small Towns In South Africa:

winter scene in Volliersdorp

Winter scene Villiersdorp (photo credit)

“Located in a fertile valley cradled by mountains, the town of Villiersdorp is as charming as you’ll ever visit. The quiet streets are lined with storm water trenches (edit: Villiersdorp does not have ‘storm water trenches; those are ‘lei water’ irrigation trenches) and oak trees as well as beautifully maintained gardens and old houses, giving the town a lovely country feel. Getting there is a pleasure, with four spectacular mountain passes to choose from (The Franschhoek pass is particularly breathtaking). To top it all off, the nearby Theewaterskloof dam is a playground for watersports in summer”.

We are here to learn how to change the oil and filter of the VW Syncro – I have to do this every 5000 km. And I am as good with a spanner as Elmarie is at being a passenger.

By the way; we had a very pleasant 116 kilometers to Villiersdorp.

Arno from Andreno Motors is a VW Syncro expert and rebuilds motors for these old vehicles. Bigger than life. And rural. Greeting this Big Friendly Giant is a little scary. I was worried I might lose an arm as my hand disappeared in his huge hands.

In his blue overalls, dressed in short pants and a nice shirt the two of us trolley in under the Syncro. I think its quite obvious this is not something I do often. But it looks so easy. Arno is a magician compared this lame on looker.

The wipers are new but one drops below the window like a drunk’s eye. Fixed. I thought. Elmarie’s electric window got stuck. She is adamant that it works as she wants to jump if she has to. Arno fixes it with a smile. Arno shakes my hand and wishes us well.

All this happens while Elmarie unpacks at the pet friendly Country Lodge guesthouse and takes the dogs for a stroll through the town looking for a place to have a meal.

Tractor museum

Tractor Museum (photo credit)

Kelkiewyn was recommended, but they are only open during the day. With not much to do we drank a beer and bought a few nice bottles of local wine.

Supper time.

We should have braaied. But we went to the only open restaurant in Villiersdorp. The pleasant owner’s father told us about his kid’s aspirations and we looked forward to good food.

When I cannot decide on a main meal I prefer a starter and maybe then I’ll try another. I order the mussels in a pot and its chicken livers for Elmarie. Some wine as we chat about the odd art in the restaurant.

The food arrives…..

Have you ever seen what happens to stuff in a microwave? I got this cold little three legged black pot with shrivelled white sauce and small mussels. It could only be  pre-cooked mussels with sauce from the freezer. Heated in the microwave and stacked in a cold pot. The chicken livers deserved no comment.

Do you believe in karma?

In a previous life Elmarie and I probably served this family bad food at our restaurant. We forgave them, paid and went to our lovely room at Johannie’s guesthouse.

Early the next morning we woke and packed. Walking past the kitchen we could smell what would be a fulfilling breakfast – fresh fruit, yogurt, eggs, bacon…. sharing our table with two couples from Holland and the UK.

Surprise surprise: they had similar stories to tell about super at the only open restaurant in Villiers. We all took it pleasantly on the chin.

We did Villiersdorp just to learn how to replace the oil filter and change oil. We got a lot more than we bargained for. But attitude is what makes the difference.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” Winston Churchill

The next post should be on facing Elmarie’s fear.  This would be our first day off-road and it entailed many passes. Elmarie looked happy enough, but I could see the concern through her nervous smile. I on the other hand, could not contain myself. Let’s see how this develops…..

Here’s 5 things to do in Villiersdorp. If we did our research better we should have done steep and tarred Elandskloof Pass. And next time we should stay over a few days at Elandskloof Farm Cottages. They are pet-friendly and the place looks cool. Don’t you agree? It’s located on your way to Genadedal and Greyton on a lovely gravel road leading you there.



Why sleep when the sun rise on a perfect winter’s day

Why sleep when the sun rise on a perfect winter's day in Simonstown? Many Cape Town beaches are on the Atlantic Seaboard and get the setting sun. Simonstown and the False Bay side gets lovely sunrise. Can you define people of Cape Town where they choose to holiday or live as sunrisers or sunsetters?

Why sleep when the sun rise on a perfect winter’s day in Simonstown? Many Cape Town beaches are on the Atlantic Seaboard and get the setting sun. Simonstown and the False Bay side gets lovely sunrise. Can you define people of Cape Town where they choose to holiday or live as sunrisers or sunsetters?