Part 3: Summer Holiday '23/'24
Still travelling north, our next stop was the tiny village of Lady Grey. The drive was around 4 hours and the roads quite decent and not too busy. We stayed at the Mountain Charcoal Guest House, in the Stone Cottage. It is the only separate cottage, with the other rooms being adjoining in another main building. To get to the cottage you cross a wooden bridge, which was luckily much more sturdy than it looked. The cottage is tiny, just space for the bed, with a small kitchen and tiny bathroom that does not have a door. The shower was really nasty, it was dark and it had a big spray that went off up to one side and then a piddle that you could wash in. The "kitchen" has a full size fridge, which was great for a change, and a gas stove and no evidence of rats. There is a bit of shelving to pack the out necessary clothes. We were only booked for 2 nights, so this space was fine. The room was really nice and cool, which was amazing because it was in the 30s during our stay. Outside is a little lawn space with a braai. Next to this was a mass of bamboo and reeds with beautiful weavers building their nests. We watched one little chap start a nest from our arrival and then speedily build it during our stay, while his potential lady came to check it out. She seemed to be very impressed, while he nervously flitted around trilling to her. That's the type of romantic "movie" we like to watch on our holidays. Behind the cottage you can go out through a little gate to access the hiking trails. There are lots of hiking trials and dogs are allowed on all of them. We are quite keen to go back when my hip is calmer and we are fitter again. The surroundings are so beautiful and demand to be explored.
The village is really tiny, you can walk around it in about 45minutes. And it seemed deserted, obviously summer is not their busy time. There are a couple of restaurants, but not much else to go out to in the town. Out the back of the town there is a fantastic 4x4 route, the Joubert Pass, which goes over the mountain to Barkley East. It is a single lane gnarly road and you need a proper 4x4 to drive it. The perfect test for our new Silver Beast. The views are amazing! At the nek, which is 2200m high, there is a wider space where you can park to get out to admire the views and turn the car around. We were there in the early evening, as the sun was going down over Lady Grey and the other side towards Barkley East was in shadow. Just as we were about to go back down we very luckily saw a car coming up, so we waited at the top for them to come past. It didn't seem like the type of road where it would be fun to meet someone coming the other way!
There are a couple of smaller roads going off this in the lower slopes, one where you can get to the big Lady Grey dam. This road is not drivable all the way, so you need to walk the last bit. You can't get down and swim in this dam, but it is beautiful and there was a fish eagle flying around. It was too hot there to picnic, with no shade, but in cooler weather this would be a great spot for a sit and chill. Off the other side of the pass is a smaller dam with a grassy patch, which was nice for a picnic in the shade of some trees. Not a good swimming dam, but nice for the doggos to cool off in.
This was a quick little trip here and we would be keen to return to the town in winter. We wouldn't stay at the same place though. The property is for sale and it seems like they don't really care about giving guests the quality of accommodation that they paid for. The grounds are a bit overgrown and it doesn't look nearly as good as the pictures on the booking site. Judging by the reviews it used to be great and as advertised. Things that are advertised as available weren't, like a swimming pool, that was sadly not filled and wifi that did not work. The owners left on their own holiday while we were there. Normally, we would be more than happy to not have anyone to bother us, except this time there were things we needed sorted out, like finding some braai tongs.
We paid R800 per night and find this was very overpriced.