5 things to do in Villiersdorp

2013-06-25 12:14

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At first glance the Overberg town of Villiersdorp really doesn't have much to offer. There's a pretty tree-lined main road, and one or two quaint-looking coffee shops. But other than that... it's just another little thoroughfare town en route to the N1. 

However, during a recent weekend break exploring the Cape Country Meander, I got to explore this previously overlooked little town in more depth and found I actually quite liked it. In fact, I think it pretty much tops my favourite dorpies list at the moment. 

Check out these five great things to do during a visit to Villiersdorp:

Cuddle an Alpaca

If you're a bit of a cuteness fiend, like me, a visit to Helderstroom Alpacas is an absolute must!

Located just outside Villiersdorp in the direction of Worcester, the farm - with its large green paddocks, a spritely little stream running through it, and exceptional views - is home to 25 of these ridiculously adorable and fluffy South American Camelids. 

Accompanied by owners, Christopher and Alison Notley, visitors can get up close and personal with the female alpacas and their babies, known as crias. Most of them are super curious and have no qualms approaching guests to have a good look and sniff. While they are known to spit when angered, it takes a lot to work them up to this level, and petting is welcome. The adult males are kept in a separate camp, and are more prone to attack, when they feel threatened. 

The Notleys started breeding with alpacas in 2004, after Alison read an article about it in a magazine. After a good batch of research and preparation, they imported five pregnant (in cria) females from Chile, and so became the second set of breeders in South Africa. Since then the herd has grown exponentially, and so has the alpaca breeding community in South Africa, which now stands at about 45 breeders across the country.

Apart from getting to meet the cuddly creatures in person - Christopher and Alison know each by name and will introduce you - you can visit the on-site shop to appreciate the incredible handiwork involved in producing alpaca wool garments. Along with two award-winning spinners and a team of knitters, Christopher and Alison do everything with their own two hands - from assisting in birthing to shoring to spinning the soft, woolly fiber into balls of usable wool. 

Just a warning: being extremely sought-after and exclusive, the garments are far from cheap! However, if you have a buck or two to spare, an alpaca garment can only be an asset in your wardrobe.

Contact details: Call the Notleys on 028 840 0158 or pop them an email on alpacas@helderstroom.co.za. You can also visit the Helderstroom website

Visit the Elliott gallery

It's funny how the term ‘artist,' in my mind, tends to evoke images of somewhat disheveled eccentrics, working jovially in a disarray of forgotten tea cups, flowers wilting in vases and cigarettes left smoldering in ashtrays.

So, walking into the pristinely clean and light Elliot Gallery in Villiersdorp caught me somewhat off guard, and so did the short-haired, checkered-shirt-and-chino-wearing artist sitting in front of a large canvas.

According to Dale Elliot his choice to leave his career as an auctioneering attorney behind in favour of becoming an artist was not nearly as dramatic as people would like to believe. "After working as an attorney for almost 10 years in Queenstown, I decided it was time to develop my artistic talent and pursue a professional painting career," he explained.

Along with his wife Janny, and their kids, they made a tactical move to Knysna, which at the time, was just becoming a cross-roads for tourists and a prime position for a professional artist to ply his trade. 

Dale's matter-of-fact pragmatism regarding things widely accepted to be elevated beyond reason is charming and even amusing. Strangely, it also adds to his credibility as an art teacher in the popular workshops he runs with his son and business partner, Mel. 

Over the past 15 years, Dale has conducted well over 300 courses, nurturing passion, work ethic and talent in more than 4 000 developing artists. "Our idea with these workshops is to give artists - from beginners to professionals - a structure to work within. Like everything in life, one needs guidelines to produce a good painting," he explained.

As for the contents of the gallery? The nature-inspired works of both Dale and Mel provide a breathtaking overview of South Africa and are available for purchase, ranging in price from R1 000 to R16 000. They also take commissions, which vary in price. 

Contact: Call the gallery on 028 840 2927 or send Dale an email on dale@daleelliott.co.za. You can also visit the Elliott Gallery website.

Check out the tractor museum

Located on the property of Kelkiewyn Farm Stall, the Villiersdorp Tractor Museum is hardly much more than a large shed filled wall to wall with hard-working vintage farming vehicles of all shapes, colours and ages.

Despite the plainness of the setting, there's something about the museum that speaks right to that little well of nostalgia we all carry somewhere in our chests. It's truly fascinating strolling around between the polished and primped tractors, imagining their former lives and proud owners. 

There's also great excitement about the soon-to-be new addition to the museum - a steam tug boat named the Alwyn Vintcent. Currently undergoing renovations in a make-shift dry dock it shares with fruit packaging crates, the 47-metre boat has quite an interesting travel story to tell. It arrived in Villiersdorp in June last year, after a 400km journey from the Cape Town Harbour on the back of a heavy duty truck. Some of the incredible journey was caught on film - check out this video 

When the renovations are completed, it will join its land-based counterparts at the museum... and may one day even take to the water again - this time on Theewaterskloof dam. 

Tractor museum contact details: Call Kelkiewyn on 028 840 2901

Spend the night at De Villiers Country Lodge

After a busy day of exploring, there's nothing better than a hearty welcome, a glass of wine and a good chat by the fireplace on arrival at your accommodation - all of which happens in a matter of a few minutes at De Villiers Country Lodge. 

In fact, our stay at the guesthouse started on a particularly personal note as owner, Johannie Barnard came driving along Villiersdorp's main road late on Friday afternoon in search of her rogue guests. Since she had a copy of the itinerary I was following, she headed to our last appointment of the day, and miraculously found us just as we were getting back into the car outside Kelkiewyn Farm Stall. 
After establishing that we were indeed who she thought we were, she unceremoniously did a u-turn and we followed her right into the parking lot of the gorgeous old Victorian house that dates back to the 1845.

Once a primary school hostel, the white-walled, red-roofed and lush-gardened lodge has graduated into something of a luxurious refuge for road-weary guests. It has five en suite rooms, one on the ground-floor with wheelchair access, all kitted out with beautiful antique furniture, plush bed linen and stylish finishing touches. 

However, it's Johannie's warm hospitality and energetic interest in her guests that really sets De Villiers Country Lodge apart. Unfortunately we had made alternative dinner arrangements already, but Johannie is famous for providing guests with unexpected cosy meals... and her personally-prepared breakfasts are legendary. 

Contact details: Call Johannie on 083 312 1476. You can also visit the De Villiers Country Lodge website.

Try the local cuisine

Villiersdorp is home to a couple of great spots to have a meal. However, there are two that definitely stand out:

With its pretty vined pagoda and cosy interior, Ou Meul Restaurant is perfect for morning tea or afternoon coffee and cake. However, come night time, there is nowhere in the Overberg that you will find more carefully crafted pizzas! Definitely worth a try. Give them a call on 028 840 1936 to make a booking. 

Kelkiewyn Farm Stall was recently taken over and revamped by Dutch hospitality, food and wine specialist, Harry van Kemp. Passionate about slow living, well-prepared food, wine and, surprisingly, potatoes, Harry has managed to transform Kelkiewyn into a pleasant, laid back, yet attractive restaurant. Despite the prime quality of all his food, there is not a single meal that costs more than R100 on the menu! A refreshing detail in this day and age! Must try meals? The Slowine Burger (the fries are fantastic!) and Angelfish & Beurre Blanc. Contact: 028 840 0900

To end off my trip, I used the Europcar Roadtripper app to map out the route I took. It's a fun way of reminiscing about your favourite journeys or planning ones you've been dreaming about. Check out Europcar's Facebook page to find the app and read this article for more information on how it works. 

Thanks to Europcar for the trusty Kia Rio that took me all the way along the Cape Country Meander!
Read more on:    weekend escapes  |  travel south africa  |  lifestyle

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