For a big chill with warm friends

2011-07-29 12:19

Kloppenheim is in eMakhazeni (formerly Belfast), one of coldest places in the country. The name, eMakhazeni, literally means “in the cold”, and that’s exactly where I was.

This is just 200km out of Joburg, surrounded by the rolling, golden countryside.

The drive to the place is a ­misadventure in itself, the kind of trip nightmares are made of: it was dark and dodgy with wild animals springing on to the road and “I-could’ve-sworn-I-saw-a-figure-in-the-distance” kind of thoughts.

On finally arriving at the lodge there was no one to receive us at the colossal gates.

With no real signage to give us ­directions to the ­reception, we continued our adventure from the dirt road to more civilised speed bumps, ­trampling over mounds of blesbok poop.

We finally found a cottage-style ­reception area beautifully crafted in glass and wooden beams – just like waking up from a bad dream.

A piano stands in the reception, conjuring up images of Cole Porter from the 1940s while wing-back chairs are scattered in one of the dining halls which open out onto a blistering cold patio and swimming pool.

The gold-dusted mountainous ­region provides the backdrop, with ­evergreen trees in the foreground.

Within the dining areas are other smaller chambers, some with reading material. The reception area is warm, inviting and ever-so-slightly overwhelming due to its size.

Leading from the reception is yet another drive to the picturesque farm-style cottages, which feature gas fireplaces, braai areas and underfloor heating – which we discovered only once frost bite had taken hold of our toes.

Being new guests, I was disappointed that the manager did not bother to come and tell us a bit more about the facilities in the lodgings.

The cottages are decorated in the ­typical English-countryside style, complete with floral couches, bay ­windows and high ceilings.

The living area is oversized, supported by generous floral couches and wing-back chairs. The exposed brick around the gas fireplace adds to the cabin feel in the cottages.

The separate dining area offers comfortable seating for eating and long, relaxing conversations with friends.

The kitchen, which is (almost) fully equipped, comes with a fridge, cutlery, crockery, a stove and a microwave.

The bedrooms continue the English theme – huge bay windows and wide open spaces adding to the chill.

The two bathrooms, however, are more modern yet simple. Oddly enough, they are the only rooms in the cottage equipped with heaters.

The cottages are spaced far apart from each other thanks to the 500 hectares of sprawling land Kloppenheim is situated on.

Walking from one cottage to another in the howling wind is near impossible, especially if you are a lazy city slicker like me. So expect to drive from one cottage to another.

While my friends and I huddled together for heat, we skipped the various activities on offer at the country estate such as horse riding, trout ­fishing, picnicking, tennis and ­swimming.

Kloppenheim could do with a makeover, which the manager assures me is happening. But it is a nice weekend getaway location to be with friends, preferably during the warm summer months.

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