Sho’t left to Shangri-La

2010-10-15 12:51

Modest, unpretentious and totally captivating, Steve Kretzmann discovers the Western Cape’s Green Mountain Eco Route.

Botrivier is a deceitful little place. It’s been placidly ­lying to me for years.

Spread out next to the N2 just more than an hour from Cape Town, most people speed past without giving the dorp a ­second glance.

It has mountains right ­behind it that look like they may hold some interest, but this is the Western Cape; there are mountains everywhere.

Unlike places that pretend they’re amazing but turn out to be overpriced and overmarketed, the deceit of modesty practised by Botrivier is a ­delight.

Once you turn off the highway, meet the people living there and walk into those relatively ­unprepossessing-looking ­mountains, an entirely different world opens up.

There’s a sense of community threading through the area.

In fact, the Green Mountain Eco Route we were fortunate enough to have a taste of wouldn’t exist without the farmers and guest-house owners working together.

This four-star bespoke “slack” packing trail involves six establishments, two of which you sleep at.

The others allow you to wander over their conservancies – they’re all signed up to the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative – into their vineyards and orchards, and offer you delicious food and wine at your lunch-time stops.

To get to where you’d stay the first two nights, you take the neglected Botrivier turn-off and drive into those oft-scorned mountains.

Soon you’re passing Cape Dutch farmhouses surrounded by rose gardens, lilies, vines and ducks, ­before heading up the Van der Stel pass.

Here the country is drier and the mountains, twisted by ancient geological forces, reveal a snaggle-toothed beauty.

Your destination, Porcupine Hills, is an olive farm with an extravagant vista of the tortured and rotated sedimentary layers from which it takes its name.

Wooden floors, an upstairs ­reading nook, lounge with big ­classical sofas and a large fireplace, a fully fitted kitchen and a bathtub that fits two were the features of the farmhouse we stayed in.

The first two days’ walks are full-day rambles at 18km and 16km each.

On Day 1, a tractor takes you to the top of the now imposing-looking Groenlandberg where a ­locally trained guide leads you through the pristine fynbos of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.

Lunch is served at a spot ­accessible by 4x4, and at the end of the day you are driven back to your four-star digs to feast again.

You are taxied to the start of Day 2 and three trails – these involve dropping down the mountain to lunch at the Oak Valley and Paul Cluver wine estates.

After Day 2, you meet your bags at your new haven, the Wildekrans Guesthouse.

If you like lots of dark wood, restored Cape houses, long diningroom tables, farm kitchens, antique furniture, leather-bound books and contemporary South African art, you’ll love it.

The Day 4 trail was the one we actually walked. Starting on the old ox-wagon trail from Wildekrans, the trail leads into the hidden mountain crannies where we spotted Black Eagles and ­flowers – more than our ­knowledgeable guide Gerald ­McCann could point his stick at.

It was nature’s orchestra. Hillsides of Wachendorfia, oodles of the ­normally rare black iris, Proteas galore, Fire Erica’s in splendour and many more.

Beaumont Wines was just far enough to make us feel we’d ­deserved the delicious simple lunch served by ­proprietor Jane Beaumont on her porch, but left us with enough ­energy for a tour of the old mill being restored by vintage machine junkie Andy Selfe.

The R1110 per night per person sharing price gives you a luxury outdoor holiday tailor-made to your interests, with everything laid on.

If food and wine is your thing, you’ll get it in spades.

If you’re more into fynbos and hiking, you’ll get mountains of it.

If you like to mix outdoor activity with four-star comfort, this is your Shangri-La. – West Cape News

028 284 9827

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