Part4 : Summer Holiday '23/'24
Aha, finally a main aim stop. One of our favourite places is Clarens, in the Free State. We have stayed there a couple of times before, just outside of the town. I decided after our disappointing experience last year that this holiday we would budget a little bit more and stay in town. Well, I managed to find a place in town that was actually within our normal budget, Herberg-Klein. The drive from Lady Grey was about 6 hours and we went on the bad roads. We prefer to take it slow and easy, so rather do the pothole roads than the main highways with speeding maniacs. The section just before Clarens is so bad that there is barely any road left. On the pothole signs people had spray painted ANC. So we were playing the ANC Pothole dodgem game, along with all the slow-moving trucks and other traffic.
The cottage is near the centre of town in Clarens, on the owner's large property. It is quite an old cottage, but very comfy and spacious. There are 2 bedrooms, with an interleading bathroom with a shower, which though old and small, was extremely nice. There is ample space to unpack clothes and foodstuff. The kitchen and sitting area is open plan, with a full size fridge and electric oven/stove. There is lots of good crockery and cutlery and a full size coffee bodum. The sitting area has comfy chairs, a coffee table and a fireplace for winter. There is a sliding door leading out to the patio and garden. The patio is covered with a gazebo so you can still sit outside even with the summer rains. The garden is amazing! Filled with veggie patches and fruit trees and lovely green lawns. The owners house is a little away, above the cottage, so separate enough to be completely private. They have a couple of small doggies and they were also baby sitting their daughter's big doggies, so we had visitors every now and again, but they were very friendly.
From the cottage it is just a short walk to the town centre, where the village green and all the shops and restaurants are. Since our visit the previous year there were a few new places and sadly a couple of places which were no longer there, like the lovely dog shop were we had bought the boys' collars. The town is very dog friendly and there are lots of lovely friendly doggies walking around on leads, allowed in most of the shops and restaurants. Even the wonderful blanket shop allowed our furballs in. There are lots of thrift stores with beautiful good quality second hand clothes. I also found a zero waste clothing store which has fabulous clothes made from old clothes, table clothes, blankets, etc, just wonderful! Obviously we had a visit to the brewery, with it's delicious hazelnut beer and there was a new all-vegan restaurant, so we had to try that for breakfast. It was pretty good, the first time in 25 years I've had a full spread breakfast. They make their own seitan sausages and bacon, and tofu, but they haven't perfected the tofu yet, so it was a bit like my flopped homemade tofu mush. The town was really busy and the only time most places were closed was on Christmas day, Boxing day everything was open and packed.
Clarens is surrounded by the mountains of the conservancy, one of the main reasons we love it so much. The conservancy is very well run and has lots of well marked and maintained paths. There are a few places in town where you can get permits, which are so cheap, only R40pp for a whole week. I'm not sure if the cycling permits are the same price. You can also buy a map, which is worthwhile, so you can plan your routes. We have never encountered anyone checking permits when we have been there in the early mornings, but it is worth paying anyway since it is so cheap and they obviously look after the place. It was much drier than our last visit, which was great as it wasn't as slippery. We ran and walked all of the routes and the doggos had loads of fun. I think the Sky Contour is still our favourite, as it has such fantastic views.
At the northern side of the town there is another section of mountain, with a bit smiley face on it. We tried to find out how to get up there and to the higher peak, but sadly you can only get access if you are staying in one of the fancy gated estates.
There is so much to do in Clarens and with it being so dog friendly we will keep returning, even though it is so far from home. And now we are so happy we have now found our comfy budget friendly spot. We paid R600 per night and this is very reasonable. There are loads of other pet friendly places to stay, but all quite a bit fancier and over R1000 per night. So if you are on a budget and don't need a shiny new place to stay, then Herberg-Klein is a super option.