Various adventures await in and around Tulbagh’s neighbouring town of Wolseley, only 15km away, followed by a foray into the Breedekloof winelands and a special lunch… This is the third in a series of articles highlighting what is possible using Tulbagh as a base.
Tulbagh lies at the apex of the Breede River valley. The mountains form a perfect horseshoe around the village, which is also the lowest point of this part of the valley. Our tributary of the Klein Berg River, which arises in the Groot Winterhoek mountains, flows through the Nuwekloof and into Voelvlei dam, one of the three great feeder dams of the Cape Metropole. Neighbouring Wolseley is actually on the watershed, with some runoff flowing into Voelvlei and the rest flowing into the Breede River – which arises in the Skurweberg mountains of Ceres and eventually empties into the Indian ocean at Witsand over 300km away. Water and the use thereof is a big deal for farmers and townsfolk alike in the country, especially in the current crippling drought.
Enviably, the hamlet of Wolseley boasts leivore (water canals) which are always bubbling with fresh, sweet water, enabling the residents to garden even in the driest summers! A 5 km guided walk along the pipeline to the Wolseley weir in the Tierhokkloof among beautiful flora and fauna is available by prior booking. Twitters will enjoy the rich birdlife and perhaps even a refreshing dip in a clear mountain pool.
Great opportunities for animal bonding exist at Fynbos Guest Farm between Tulbagh and Wolseley, which offers a unique family-friendly experience (by prior appointment) where one may view and feed 20+ different species of feathered and furry friends in pristine fynbos & renosterbos surrounds. Another treat in this area is to book a ride through vineyards and forests into the foothills of the Witzenberg mountains with Horse About.
A must for history buffs is a tour of an historic blockhouse - there are two of these 1901 remnants from the Anglo-Boer War guarding the railway bridge over the Breede rivier outside Wolseley. The town itself was in fact named after Sir Garnet Wolseley, upon whom ‘the very model of a modern major general’ in the Gilbert & Sullivan opera The Pirates of Penzance was modelled. He also penned a very useful booklet entitled ‘A Soldier’s Life’, designed to make the raw recruits from England’s lives a little easier in foreign South Africa. It is quite something to imagine 20 men doing duty in these cramped facilities, now only occupied by owls!
The adventurous may fancy a 4x4 self-drive through Watervalsberg Pass that ascends the eastern side of the Watervalsberg near Wolseley and connects the town with the Suurvlak plantation on top of the mountain, offering exceptionally good views over the Tulbagh valley and the Witzenberg mountains to the east - and check out Philander se werf, the stark remains of an old farmhouse near the summit. The pass also serves as the Kluitjieskraal MTB route and passes are required for both.
Before or after any of those exciting adventures, do drop into Elro Furniture Factory for a quick cappuccino at Die Houtkewer Koffiewinkel and a peek at the hand-crafted wooden furniture manufactured there. Another tasty tip – you can buy simply scrummy biltong and droë wors around the corner at Trastevere Butchery!
Continuing from Wolseley towards Worcester along the R43 you will encounter numerous delights including no less than three funky farmstalls – Die Vet Spens, the Container Padstal and Rietdakkie – what a pleasure to browse for authentic seasonal delicacies and crafts in each of these quite different padstalletjies!
And, if you have the inclination, several wine farms en route offer good value – try the sparkling de Liefde Smooch or Jailbreak White at Mountain Ridge; Bergsig’s fine range includes the famous LBV Port and the Family Friend red blend; and Botha’s Wynkelder produces the Dassies Rood range and a great chenin, not to mention delicious muscadel!
Why not treat yourself to a special, spoily lunch at Bosjes – on the R43 opposite Botha’s cellar – fine dining in an award-winning venue, so be sure to book ahead! (Bosjes also offers garden tours on Thursdays.) Other lunch options are Bergsig‘s bistro, looking up into the Bain’s Kloof Pass, and there is cheerful eatery, the Calabash, a little further along the pass itself. In high summer it is very pleasant to paddle in the rock pools halfway up the pass and there are designated braai and picnic spots (order a prepacked picnic from Carol at Readers restaurant before you set off!) along the river - a permit may be purchased from the office opposite. Built in 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass is rated among the top 10 drives in the Western Cape and is also a national monument.
Yet another option is to book a morning or afternoon safari at Fairy Glen game reserve at the foot of the imposing Brandwacht (sentinel) mountains, further along the R43 and closer to Worcester. The Big 5 may be viewed either from an open jeep or on horseback, and their African-style restaurant offers buffet meals.
So, take your pick of pursuits for a wonderful day’s worth of exploring some of the beauties of the Breedekloof valley - returning always to hospitable Tulbagh’s hostelries and eateries for a pleasant evening’s reminiscing. Once again, on your return journey, cast your eyes right for the spectacular sight of the ‘elephant’s trunks’ of the Witzenberg mountains flushing pink in the sunset – if you are lucky enough to time your visit with full moon, it is a simply sublime view…
• Ramkiekie market @ Mountain Ridge cellar (first Saturday of the month)
• Birdwatching days at Bergsig cellar
• Fig and peach picking @ Hoogwater farm in January
• Alles wat Dryf rafting on the Breede rivier (date to be announced)
• Soetes & Sop festival in July
Written by Wendy Upcott March 2018
(With acknowledgement to Trygve Roberts for his cyber Mountain Passes of South Africa)