There is one place that comes close to my love for the Freestate and that is the Karoo. It’s outstretched plains, its hues, its smell and just the inexplicable golden glow of a sheep’s wool in the late-afternoon sun or the sheer perfection of an imperfect, rustic windmill.
Just outside of a small Karoo town called Colesberg – a good halfway stop between Joburg and George – lies a guest farm that forms part of the Kuilfontein Collection. The collection boasts accommodation establishments in Colesberg, Plettenberg Bay and Port Alfred that all come with a specific charm. On our way back from George, we stayed at The Paddocks, a part of the Kuilfontein Collection’s Colesberg accommodation selection that have been owned by the family since 1875. It’s the perfect en route accommodation with its gates right on the N1.
The Paddocks are tasteful, quirky self-catering units that welcome families with smaller kids, as well as pets. There is a wooden jungle gym and a cool motorcycle that will tickle any adventurous boy or girl’s fancy and sheep graze all around. The whitewashed units all come with their own braai facilities and Kuilfontein can provide braai packs with meat, charcoal and firelighters. If it’s too cold or you arrive too late for a braai, I can definitely recommend the lamb casserole. When we arrived, it was already waiting in the fridge and under normal circumstances (without the alcohol ban), I’m pretty sure a bottle of wine would also have been waiting. This comes at an additional cost, but it’s really not expensive and so worth it.
In addition to The Paddocks, The Stable Cottages just to the other side of the entrance road were formerly used for racehorses, but have now been converted into stylish units with family antiques that add some extra charm. Children six years of age and older are welcome here.
They also have an exclusive use property which can be used as a film location too. Riverside Retreat’s “Out of Africa” homestead is furnished with antiques and sits on a unique working farm with the Karoo’s vast openness, mountainous terrain and a river front. Parties of up to ten can be accommodated here and it allows for an abundance of self-isolated activities, like game viewing, mountain biking, birding, fishing, canoeing and star gazing. I am a fan of the old tradition of dinner around the table and this homestead’s antique yellowwood table can surely tell a lot of stories of families and friends dining together.
Strolling along the dirt road, scouting for some photographic opportunities, I got lost in the Karoo’s serenity. The quietness was almost loud, and I loved it. Places like these ground you. They force you to reflect. As more and more people may start flocking to the Karoo for their breakaways – a safe place for social distancing – I can’t help but wonder if more and more people won’t be forced to reflect? Perhaps this is one positive thing that might come from being locked down for so long: Coming to terms with yourself.