The Replenishment Station …
As i gear up to head inland to the klein karoo for a few days, i figured i would go old school and visit Swellendam the original replenishment station.
Leaving Malgas was kind of sad after having so many memories from the place but the trip goes on and Swellendam awaited, you have two routes one is well just a road and the other is much the same except you get to cross the Breede river via the “Pont” the last working hand drawn pontoon in South Africa. Its a real throw back in time and makes the otherwise standard dirt road through the country a little more interesting. Although gone are the days when it cost R2,50 to get your car across. Inflation it seems, affects everything.
Swellendam itself is a picturesque town situated about 220kms from Cape Town, its taken me closer to 700kms … i had a lot to see ok! The town, South Africa’s third oldest settlement after Cape Town and Stellenbosch is steeped in history and before you roll your eyes – its pretty damn interesting, it certainly isn’t a small dorpie with a few historical buildings and museums to see, there is plenty for those more interested in a livelier visit. Surrounded by three nature reserves, some of the most diverse flora in South Africa and dwarfed by the Langeberg Mountains – the outdoors offer just as much as the indoors … Swellendam literally has something for everyone.
I arrived at the Swellendam Backpackers midday and was immediately taken with the place – hidden on the west side of the town, the backpackers is set on its very own not so small piece of paradise, situated at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains and adjacent to the Marloth Nature Reserve … the place plain rocks.
Accommodation is either in the Dorm, or in Wendy Houses situated round the beautiful garden, it also has the Koornland river flowing past its border which i imagine is utilized in Summer for lazy days lying in the sun. There is also a great braai / chill spot with a huge fire circle for the chillier evenings where beer seems to slip down your throat unnoticed and by the dozens.
Friday night at the backpackers was super chilled but did involve a bottle of Single Malt and a strange coincidence. I ran into a classic guy by the name of Braam, who composed the music for the award-winning play London Road, a show that my old man produced and can be seen at this years National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, he also pours with a heavy hand, always welcome on a friday night but not so much on Saturday morning.
Steph, the owner of the Swellendam Backpackers also runs Two Feathers Horse trails – which offer one hour to full day horse rides, as well as a two-day ride in the summer months into the Langeberg Mountains. Being a complete novice i opted for a chilled one hour ride up through the plantation and down into a kloof teeming with an indigenous forest. I rode a wiley old bugger called Dan, who was prone to turning around and heading home as if he felt being in bed or in his case his stable was a better option, at times my head agreed – but the stunning vistas and the sun breaking through the early morning mist made for a great experience and i highly recommended going riding with the Two Feathers crew.
Feeling invigorated after the ride, i then opted to stick with the outdoorsy nature of my Saturday morning and headed up to the Duiwelsbos waterfall, it’s about a 5km hike up a beautiful gully and your reward at the top is a series of small falls that cascade into a giant pool, indigenous bush and a hidden beauty that can only be seen by being there.
You follow the river all the way up the gully and there is access to the river and some great swimming holes at various points along the hike. You need a permit to hike in the area. Which can be bought at the backpackers for 30 bucks. There are several other trails in the area ranging between three and fifteen kilometers.
By the end of the ride and the hike it was pretty late in the day and I was exhausted. I grabbed a coffee and chilled in front of the roaring fire in the bar until i eventually wandered off to slumber land.
I woke up Sunday to another misty morning after ingesting some much-needed caffeine and packing the van and headed to the Bontebok National Park, it is South Africa’s smallest national park but undoubtedly one of my favourites.
Its namesake, the Bontebok is plentiful and easily spotted. It offers some stunning vista’s over fynbos, the upper reaches of the breede and back towards Swellendam and the Langeberg. Definitley pay this little park a visit, its epic. A Wild Card gets you in free.
Reluctantly i left the park and i headed for Grootvadersbos nature reserve, the weather was pretty miff when i got there but the views despite being shrouded in cloud were looking like they were going to be spectacular.
The camp site was sweet, with power and a fire-place but the rest of the camp left a lot to be desired for the pricey sum of 220 a night. Cape Nature’s properties continue to disappoint and i am beginning to wonder if staying even further off the beaten track is the way to go.
The weather Monday morning put paid to the hope of doing anything, torrential rain combined with mist meant i could barely see in front of me. So after a refreshing shower of natural rain while i was packing up the campsite i got back in the van and headed for Route 62.
Thanks to Steph at the Swellendam Backpackers for hooking me up with a great place to stay in Swellendam.