Thursday, February 2, 2017

Swellendam - Western Cape - South Africa

On our departure day from Mosaic Private Sanctuary, we had arranged to meet up with 2 soon to be interns who would be joining us in China for their internship programmes with InternChina.  This would be a lunchtime get together, so in the meantime we had the morning to explore a little more of the local area around Hermanus lagoon.  At the other end of the gravel drive that takes you to the main road, there's a fishing trail called Walker Bay.  After driving as far as we could in our little Kia Picante, we carried on on foot towards the coastline where the sea meets the lagoon (4X4 vehicles are able to negotiate the terrain).

Walker Bay, Hermanus, South Africa
It's a dusty road, surrounded by vegetation which stretches on for quite a way but after 45 minutes or so we reached the sand dunes that indicated the sea was just on the other side.  Having scampered up the dunes we were rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of the ocean and a beach which went on as far as we could see, with very few people knocking around.  The beach was scattered with shells, mostly mussel shells, and a couple of Oyster Catchers flew by.  It was really beautiful and would have been a great place to picnic, but we had other plans so made our way back to the car and headed into Stanford to meet Francois and Radus for lunch.

Walker Bay, Hermanus South Africa
The restaurant/bar was called Square One, and is owned by a friend of theirs.  I ordered a burger which I ultimately could barely fit in my mouth and Kate ordered the pizza which was cooked perfectly and had a nice thin base, just as we like it!  It was very popular with the locals and I could see why.  The staff were friendly and the food was great.  It was nice talking with Francois and Radus about all things South Africa and China, but after lunch we had to be on our way, albeit very full and satisfied!

Square One, Stanford, South Africa

Square One, Stanford, South Africa

Square One, Stanford, South Africa
A slight 30 minute detour meant we were able to briefly check out Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa which borders the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.  Rather than just being a tickbox exercise we were astounded by the dramatic beauty of the waves crashing against the needle shaped rocks and yet again, a beautiful scenery that traverses the route there.   

Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Cape Agulhas, South Africa
From Hermanus it was a 2 and a half hour drive (+1 hour detour) or so to our location, Jan Harmsgat Country House.  Located in Swellendam, which is the 3rd oldest town in the Republic of South Africa, albeit just off the N2 main road.  We arrived to the whitewashed buildings and parked outside the reception area, the grounds were stunning and we passed their vineyard on the short driveway to the main property.  Once you were on the grounds it felt miles away from the road and we were greeted by birdsong and later by two of the resident cats, who evidently were a little too lazy to catch those singing birds.

Greeted by local resident at Jan Harmsgat Country House

Saltwater pool at Jan Harmsgat Country House
Jan Harmsgat is a 5 star retreat and certainly a far cry from our more humble backpacking days that you can read about earlier in the blog (definitely not saying those days are gone however!).  The room we were taken to was very luxurious and part of the original slave quarters although I'm not sure if they would have had a porcelain bathtub adjascent next to what was one of the biggest beds we've slept in.  There was a fully stocked minibar for the cottage to use (there were four rooms in this cottage, 2 upstairs and 2 down) and a saltwater pool.  It also produced its own delicious wines and had winetasting available in their delightful restaurant.  Not only was the restraurant quality, it was great value and I have to give massive points for them not exploiting a captive market by overhiking the prices which they could have easily done.  They would take our food orders in the afternoon and provide an awesome dining experience in the evening, using produce grown themselves.  

Our room at Jan Harmsgat Country House

Great value fine dining at Jan Harmsgat Country House
Breakfasts were also a dream, with a cold buffet to start which included a range of cheeses, smoked salmon and muesli followed by (if there was still room) a hot breakfast from the menu.  We used this time to enjoy the pool and do as little as possible.  We bought a couple of bottles of their wine and olive oil and were delighted to see that they had even gone so far as to wash our car before we left, how about that for service?  We bid farewell to the accommodating staff, gave the cats a tickle and then went on our way to our next destination that would be a small town called Wilderness. 

Well it is our honeymoon... Jan Harmsgat

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