To be honest, I have driven along the N2 highway on the way down to the Garden Route hundreds of times and not really even noticed the turnoff to Stillbaai, or if I had, it flashed past in a blur. That recently changed.
I was reading a “food” blog where the editor had visited a farm near Stillbaai….this caught my attention as Stillbaai, as far as I was aware, was a small seaside town so what was this about a FARM? I was immediately intrigued, especially as I was busy planning a road trip down the Garden Route to find some of those “hidden gems” one always hears of but never seems to be able to find.
Words like olives, organic, river, birds and peaceful lured me in still further which led me to quickly logging onto the recommended WILD OLIVE GUEST FARM website and before the end of the day I had confirmed our 3 night stay there as the beginning of our two week road trip.
Stillbaai, the village was more or less as I had expected, a small typical seaside town with an excellent beach, various types of accommodation from camping to guesthouses – it is apparently extremely busy during the summer season and with both beach and the river, all types of water activities are catered for. Luckily for us though, we were visiting out of season so we had the whole area to ourselves. We enjoyed our drive into the village to get the layout of what was on offer but, escaped very quickly back to the paradise 12kms out of town on the Goukou River – this was our SECRET.
We arrived at the farm mid afternoon, it had been drizzling along the way and I was a little concerned that we may just be a little cold that night as I knew we would be staying in a wooden chalet. I need not have worried though, a warm welcome from Karen and John and an equally inviting load of wood all laid out in the fireplace in the chalet put my mind completely at rest. The chalets had everything one needed including beautiful views across the olive trees down to the river. I almost felt like I was in Italy or France, it just had that “feeling” which more than likely was ignited by all the olive trees and…… vines???? I thought my eyes were deceiving me at first, but yes, there were vineyards on the property next door. Who would have thought that someone would start making wine up here? I was gobsmacked!
On our morning walk the next day, John recommended that we take the road up behind the farm to their own private spring filled dams. This was a beautiful area to explore with san caves to peak your interest or to simply throw down a rug and quietly while away the morning in absolute perfect tranquillity. I have since learned that in the whole of South Africa there is only 480 sq km of limestone fynbos of which 440 sq km are found right here in this area. I can only begin to imagine the riot of colours in the spring so already planning my next trip….
We also passed Long Thin Farm which was where all the vineyards were and more olive trees. Luckily for us, both our hosts and the owners of Ling Thin Farm, Kevin and Italia were assisting each other during the next couple of days to harvest their olives so, we were introduced and invited to go and taste the red wines they are making. They are excellent, and being made by people who are only still learning what wine making is all about. So interesting….
I had also read about INVERROCHE GIN DISTILLERY and being quite partial to gin myself, we went off to see what this was about. Please do click through to their website, it is really interesting to see what Michael Scott is doing and the website is very informative about Gin, which local plants Michael is using in his gin and also the history of the area. We had a most enjoyable tasting with Michael. His three gins are all excellent. We chose to purchase the Classic Gin which I am only sharing with “special” friends…. there is more to come though, rum is soon on the cards and we had a snifter of that too …. Their products are available directly and in a number of outlets in the Cape area and will soon be available in Woolworths so keep your eye out for INVERROCHE.
Back on the Wild Olive Guest Farm, we explored Karen’s organic vegetable and fruit garden. What a pleasure to be able to tuck into freshly grown salad and herbs and even organic eggs. Karen also provides delicious farm bread, muelsi and rusks to die for – she very kindly shared her recipe with me which, I tried to replicate…..well, less said, soonest mended but obviously I need more instruction in that department….
Finding this thriving farming community in such a beautiful area was really like receiving a precious gift which surprised with each layer of paper unwrapped. Our time was too short but we will be back because there is still so much more to see – I must go on some of the hiking trails in spring when the fynbos is at its best, I still need to explore the archaeological side of the area and I must return to rekindle the friendships that have only started and of course, it helps that there is gin down the road, wine next door, organic veggies and eggs, olive oil (did I mention that my bottle is being delivered next week?) and then there is Oscar the horse and Joseph the donkey..but will leave that for another time.
I have babbled on too long, but afraid it’s difficult not to – visit this beautiful, interesting farming area and you will see what I mean.
Please do click onto the sharing buttons below and spread the word about this “secret” area. Don’t forget, send me some comments, I really do want to hear whether I have enticed you to explore the lessor known areas in South Africa or just let me know if you enjoy reading my posts anyway