Romantic Notions – Living the Dream

Two young guests give Survivor a well-deserved cuddle!

Two young guests give Survivor a well-deserved cuddle!

Living here, deep in the fynbos, I realize people don’t know what it means to live off the grid.

I was one who dreamed of helping the planet by living off the land! Such were my romantic notions that my brothers and father expressed concern, thinking me to be quite lunatic fringe. A lot of that concern probably stemmed from the fact that I was then working and living at a Buddhist retreat. Eating vegetarian food and meditating and generally engaging in, to them, rather suspect behaviour.

I am super aware of what chemicals we expose ourselves to, both in the food we eat and the products we use on our biggest living organ – our skin. Well, when I put it that way – maybe I am a wee bit extreme..

I did have visions of being self-sufficient. In my mind’s eye, I saw light shining on the dew covered veggies. Myself picking perfect wholesome food from the garden. Gathering eggs in a dainty basket.

Little did I realize what pitfalls lie in producing organic food..

Like rather cute (but very destructive) striped field mice with tiny cheeks bulging with my tomatoes, scurrying out of sight.  Or the devastation I return to when we have been away, even for an hour or so, and the local baboon troupe has decided to harvest. The blights and pests that ravage the garden despite the lavender dutifully planted amongst the herbs and veggies. Diseases immune to wild garlic and calendula that should deter them.

As far as those eggs go ..Who knew there are wild cats, whose main joy in life is to wait until the chickens are locked up – easy prey?  That one can wake up to limp bodies sucked dry. Only one sole survivor who is alive, because she refused to be come in and preferred to sleep up the trees?

Now let’s talk power. When Jan and I arrived here at Fynbos Retreat, the only electricity was generated by ..well a generator. A ruddy, great stinky very noisy diesel generator. With a reputation for being able to cause physical harm. Or no, that was the previous one –the vicious Lister which spewed out parts during the starting process leaving at least two people with scars.

We had to start the generator when there were guests. Then occupy ourselves meaningfully until we could decently switch it off again. It meant traipsing out in fair weather and foul with torches, coats and sticks to protect us from what might lie in the dark.

Try doing admin when your beloved has to run the generator just so you can pick up your e-mails! Especially when you not the fastest computer fundi on earth and like to take your time to get things right!

Now we are grand… We have solar power and our nocturnal trips to the shed and the small stand-by petrol generator are few and far between.  We live an easier life. It is only when visitors ask for hairdryers or heaters that we remember that we are living off the grid. Living the dream.

 

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Our little piece of Overberg paradise

Our little piece of Overberg paradise, Fynbos Retreat, is  fondly referred to as “Nature’s Breakaway” in our marketing material. That is truly what this place is about. A place to get away from it all to enjoy peace and tranquillity in the fynbos clad mountains. Experience what it is like to be off the grid, without cell phones or traffic or noise. Go for walks or ride your mountain bike.

Witvoetskloof is the name of the farm situated halfway between Gansbaai and Stanford.  Some say there used to be elephants here and they left dusty footprints due to the abundant  limestone . I suppose it is not impossible. There are still beautiful patches of ancient, indigenous forests. How knows?

There is a wonderful character called July who works at our neighbour ,Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.  A gentle giant with a huge radiant smile who renders a number of services in this area.  Amongst many other things, he fetches the refuse, brings wood, helps maintain the trails on our property and also on the larger 3000 hectare Grootbos reserve. Wherever  disciplined, hardworking muscle is required , July and his men are called upon. The first time he met us , he referred to Witvoetskloof as “Witvoetjieskloof”- which endeared him to us, forever.

We are the first overnight stop on the very popular “Fynbos Trail”. Hikers walk to us from the empowerment project run by the Grootbos Foundation called : “Growing the Future”. It is on the farm, Steynsbos, named after one of those patches of forest I mentioned earlier. The project teaches young people sustainable farming practices and life skills and produces amazing honey, eggs and other fresh produce. Most of the produce is used to supply the five star kitchens at Grootbos.  We buy honey and other produce from them to cater for the hikers.

Arum Lily House – our main hikers’ accommodation has a pizza oven, so that’s what we mostly prepare for the groups. Along with a few other surprises and a sturdy breakfast before they leave us the next morning to walk over the mountain to Flower Valley and Witkrans. They go via the amazing waterfall which is also a favourite walk for self-caterers who visit us.

Big groups like to stay in Arum Lily (which sleeps between 12-16 people).  It  boasts a pool table , dart board and huge dining room table, great outdoor braai facilities and wonderful views of the big dam. Fountain Bush, our smaller wooden house, also has a dam!  It is more suited to family groups and sleeps six. It has a number of stoeps so one can move your braai to suit the prevailing mood and weather.

Last , but not least, there is a newcomer in our accommodation stable – a little romantic couple’s unit called Sewejaartjie. With an outside bath on the covered stoep.

In case you think I am biased, which I undoubtedly am, we often get messages like this one from a recent guest.

 2013-09-16 18.07.05

Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois

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Easter at Fynbos Retreat

The visitor's book in Fountain Bush has a new and very beautiful, colourful french comment.

The visitor’s book in Fountain Bush has a new and very beautiful, colourful comment.

We had a really wonderful Easter weekend at Witvoets Kloof.  There were ten children altogether in the three units. So the place rang with the happy (and sometimes not so happy!) sounds of children being children… The volleyball net was put to good use and all the families staying here enjoyed walking to the waterfall at some point during the weekend.

The children staying at Arum Lily loved our five geese. I missed the most beautiful picture opportunity on Monday as they were getting ready to leave.  Jan and I were at Fountain Bush. We looked up the hill to see a perfect Hansel and Gretel tableau. A young lady in a pretty lavender dress and a small brother or friend were walking up the lawn very purposefully making a line of crumbs all the way up to Arum.  Jan went to fetch the fowl (and my camera!). As soon as the geese started enjoying the feast, some of the other children chased them, much to Hansel and Gretel’s very vocal dismay! I was too late to capture this delightful scene and was briefly tempted to photograph the hop scotch game drawn in chalk on the paving in front of the house instead.

Our new little unit, Sewejaartjie,  was blessed with two enthusiastic young campers with an equally avid canine camper called “Bangers”- you guessed it – a saucy sausage dog who entered into the spirit of things and was seen traipsing along as the girls rode on their bicycles. I have it on good authority that the Easter Bunny paid them a very abundant visit.

Fountain Bush was home to a dainty French-speaking mademoiselle from Switzerland.  Lucie clearly loves nature and was thrilled with the porcupine quills and feathers she found. We added some extra quills and a few owl feathers to her collection as well as two pictures of the spotted eagle owl that was found here last year.

Our young Swiss guest rewarded us with the most beautiful, colourful  guest comment for our visitor’s book (and a picture of the owl too). We are looking forward to receiving a picture of Lucie…she made herself a nest with scatter cushions and slept in the fork of an old tree stump next to the water lily dam at Fountain Bush. Best use of scatter cushions we have ever come across!

Meanwhile the adults made breakfast in their pajamas, played with the children and generally absorbed some of the tranquility of Fynbos Retreat .

Behind the scenes we juggled water pumps, generators and solar power and kept the wood supply going.  What a pleasure to have such good guests who left the houses so tidy and us with these lovely lingering memories of children’s laughter and awe.

Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois

 

 

 

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First impressions -of dams and cupcakes and such things

The view of Fountain Bush from Arum Lily as the sun sets

The view of Fountain Bush from Arum Lily as the sun sets

Ever since I came to live (and work) here at Witvoets Kloof I have wanted to write about my first impressions of this lovely place.

I often drove past the sign on the main road between Stanford and Gansbaai ( just past the big white  Bella Vista gates), that read “Fynbos Retreat 10 km”. The arrow pointed in the direction of the fynbos covered mountains. I always  wondered what it would look like …this retreat in the fynbos hills.

The first time I actually went there though, we came the back way over the mountain from Flower Valley and Bodhi Khaya. We drove on the rough jeep track in a bakkie and rounded the last corner just as the sun was setting.

A wooden house next to a dam filled with blue water lilies and a beautiful big white house above another huge, tranquil dam lay serenely bathed in the soft light of the setting sun. I know this description sounds  sentimental and a bit like the picture on an old –fashioned chocolate box (or just very bad writing!), but believe me it was a wonderful , calming sight. I have heard enough guests echo my sentiments on their first glimpse of Fynbos Retreat, to know that there really is something inspiring about this vista.

The house itself, where the Walker Bay Conservancy meeting was held, was welcoming with huge couches, a pool table, dart board and fynbos photographs on the wall. And lots and lots of scatter cushions!!

Billy (the manager at the time) was making pizzas for us in a huge , airy and obviously well-equipped kitchen . As Jan and I now do for the hikers on their first overnight stop on The Fynbos Trail. All the surfaces were covered in flour and pizza bases and bowls full of various toppings. Billy was buzzing around preparing the feast.

We sat on the comfy couches, devouring slices of pizzas, sipping Lomond wine and listening to the various speakers talk about all that had been done to conserve the area with its spectacular variety of fynbos.  Sean Privett projected amazing pictures directly onto the white wall as part of his presentation .  Pudding appeared as if magically in the form of the most exquisite and delicious cupcakes baked by Lily Upton who works for the Grootbos Foundation.  I will never be able to hear the word “cupcake” again without seeing the enormous, multi-coloured beauties in my mind’s eye! And longing for just one more bite…

When a another new guest sighs and says: “This is such a beautiful place …do you live here?”, I smile and remember that first visit and the how I felt when I first saw  Fountain Bush Cottage and Arum Lily House in the late afternoon light.

Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful morning in the Overberg

Our most recent visitors to Fynbos Retreat loved early morning swims in our beautiful dam and even heard the call of the Valleys resident Fish Eagle while in the water inflatable boxing ring.

farm accomodation near Gansbaai

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A great festive season at Fynbos Retreat

We had a fantastic 2012 Christmas holiday season at Fynbos Retreat with both houses fully booked for most of the holidays. Our guests loved the tranquility, peace and natural beauty of the valley and took advantage of swimming in the dam, hiking our trails and mountain biking.

witvoetskloof waterfall at www.fynbosrtreat.com

 

The walk down to the Witvoetskloof waterfall was particularly popular as was bird watching and enjoying the amazing night sky of this secluded part of the Overberg.

hikers on Grootberg peak (www.walkerbaytrails.co.za)

 

 

 

 

We are looking forward to a great 2013 season and wish all our past guests a wonderful new year.

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“Our weekend hideaway”

Read this blog post for an authentic and inspiring story that one of our recent guest posted on her blog.

Enjoy the reading and see you soon at Fynbos Retreat!

 

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recent guest comment

Hi Lily

Just to say thank you for a wonderful weekend at The Fynbos Retreat. Please pass on our thanks to Billy and Colleen for their friendly hospitality and care, they were absolutely amazing and a big asset to your establishment down there.

Warm regards

Glynis

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New hiking routes on Fynbos Retreat

We are excited to have opened up three new hiking and/or trail running routes on Fynbos Retreat. All three routes are circular starting at the accommodation ( 34°31’44.46″S, 19°29’23.41″E).

The half hour Milkwood trail provides a relatively flat, circular route that is ideal for White stinkwood - photo Sean Bradychildren or a short, easy stroll. The route starts above the level playing field at Arum Lily House and takes walkers into the ancient milkwood forest above the dam. Here you will encounter some magnificent old milkwoods, white stinkwood and wild olive trees. In the middle of the forest the path passes above the Witvoetskloof spring that bubbles out of the ground below the limestone cliffs and provides the source of the farms water supply. The trail then runs in a clockwise direction around the dam through some wetlands and dune fynbos and back to the Fynbos Retreat Houses.

The Grootberg trail is 6.5km long and takes hikers to the summit of Grootberg at 409m with spectacular views of ocean and fynbos. The trail then drops down into the Waterfall hiking trail close to HermanusWitvoetskloof forest where hikers reach a beautiful waterfall under the canopy of ancient forest trees. Here you enter a completely different world of ancient trees, lichens, mosses and dappled shade.  After leaving the waterfall the trail heads up the valley through the forest criss-crossing the stream on a beautiful path with boardwalks and bridges. Having passed many ancient indigenous trees the trail exits the forest up a short steep section of
wooden steps and boardwalk. The trail then winds its way up the Witvoetskloof Valley for about 1.5 km through lush riverine vegetation and finally through
stands of proteas and pincushions back to the start at Fynbos Retreat.

 

The 6km Waterfall trail winds down through fields of proteas and pincushions before crossing the river for the first time over a wooden bridge, where you will pass under some Cape beech trees and past beautiful ferns that have somehow survived the regular fynbos fires. Walking trail close to Hermanus The trail crosses back over the river through dense riverine vegetation over a bridge and short sections of board walk before entering the Witvoetskloof indigenous forest after 1.5km. The descent into the forest is via some steep wooden steps and the contrast from the surrounding fynbos vegetation is immediate. As you descend you enter a different world with ancient indigenous trees, lichens, ferns and mosses. The trail passes a small waterfall and crosses bridges and wooden boardwalks as you skirt around the ancient trees that have persisted for centuries in this kloof. After a final steep descent you emerge at the Witvoetskloof waterfall where one can take a fresh shower under the falls or simply soak up the beauty and tranquillity of the area. After leaving the waterfall the trail
again crosses the river and heads further down the valley within the forest before exiting into a spectacular diversity of Fynbos. This last section of the trail is mostly level with a few short climbs and follows the old flower harvesting track that leads through a remarkable variety of fynbos habitats and species.

For detailed narratives, maps and profiles of the trails see www.fynbosretreat.com or www.walkerbaytrails.co.za.

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We launch Fynbos Retreat

Friday saw the official opening of the picturesque Fynbos Retreat (www.fynbosretreat.com) on Grootbos Nature Reserve. This new tourism offering is being run in partnership with the Flower Valley Conservation Trust (www.flowervalley.org.za) and offers two refurbished houses for self catering and as part of a three day hiking trail that includes Grootbos, Flower Valley and Bodhi Khaya Retreat East Inflatable Rentals.

 

Guests at Fynbosretreat

Lesley Richardson and Michael Lutzeyer hold the fynbos ribbon which was cut by Councillor Ben Solomon

Fynbos Retreat is tucked away in a secluded valley on Grootbos, overlooking a beautiful swimming dam and is surrounded by spectacular fynbos and forest landscapes.

 

Hiking in Fynbos

Sean led the guests on a short hike through the Milkwood Forest

Fynbos Retreat is the perfect getaway for hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching, swimming or simply relaxing and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of this magnificent valley in the Overberg. The accommodation consists of two fully equipped houses providing a wonderful base to explore the surrounding natural paradise. Arum lily house can sleep a maximum of fourteen guests and includes braai facilities, a pizza oven, a large living room with a fireplace, dining room with large communal dining table, fully equipped kitchen and four bedrooms. Fountain bush cottage has a large open plan kitchen and lounge with a cosy fireplace, balcony overlooking the water, braai area and three bedrooms.

Guests sitting at Fynbosretreat Self Catering

For more information see www.fynbosretreat.com and www.walkerbaytrails.co.za

 

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