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  • Writer's pictureClare Travis

Matjiesvlei New Year

Updated: Jan 6

Part 3: Summer holiday 21/22

Last stop of this trip, our New Years place. We have stayed a few times in Calitzdorp and always driven past the turnoff to Matjiesvlei and thought it looked like a beautiful area. And it most definitely is! The area runs along the Matjiesvlei river valley, through gorgeous mountains. There are a few places along the narrow winding gravel road offering accommodation, all with very similar names, we stayed at Matjiesvlei Guest Farm. The guest farm has a few houses to stay at, spaced quite far from each other. They are old farm buildings and beautifully maintained. Because I booked a bit late we couldn't get the smallest house and ended up staying next to it, at Huis Oppi Rant, which is 3 bedrooms. The house was obviously too big for our small family, but we made ourselves comfy.

The rooms are large and decorated with lovely old furniture from different eras. The bathroom and separate toilet look like they were added later, on either side of the porch. The porch has been enclosed and is probably wonderful to sit on when the weather is a bit cooler. Since it was pretty hot while we were there we spent most of our time on the other, shadier, side of the house. There is a bath and shower, with hot water from the donkey which is shared between the 2 houses. We only lit it one morning since it was so hot we preferred cool showers. The kitchen is fully stocked with crockery and cutlery, a gas stove and large gas fridge. The fridge was not great, maybe because of its size it struggled to keep the whole thing properly cold. The water comes from the river and is very brak (salty), but there is a tap in the kitchen which has filtered water for drinking and cooking. I kept forgetting about the saltiness until I brushed my teeth and then got a fright! We ended up using 2 of the bedrooms. We started of in the main bedroom, but it was so hot the first night that we moved to a smaller room on the other side of the house, closest to the shower, which had shutters which we could close and then leave the window open without masses of bugs coming in. There is a braai space with comfortable furniture looking down over the river and towards the mountains. From here you can see some of the ostrich pens on the hill and also down into the cow fields below. The house is surrounded by Klein Karoo vegetation, lovely "vetplante" and aloes which look like a South African version of Davey Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean.

In the house is a file with lots of information about the farm, including a story about the building you are staying in, each house obviously has a different story. Other than the houses they also have a campsite on the other side of the river and a museum in the old post office. Strangely, the farm doesn't own any part of the river, so there is only a small specific site where you are allowed to enter and swim, the other entries and jetties all belong to the other guest farms. We visited this spot shortly after arriving since it was pretty hot. We were told by the owner that the river was the highest it's been in about 20 years , but was going down. It was a muddy brown colour and looked like a river that would definitely have crocodiles in it, but it doesn't. At the swimming spot there are a couple of kayaks and we had lots of fun paddling up and down. Just beware of the wire running across at the pont, it's hard to judge the distance and you could get hit in the face if you aren't careful. We were very lucky to spot a group of White-Fronted Bee-Eaters in the reeds, especially since they are not usually found so far south.

In the file at the house is a map of the hiking and 4x4 trails, it's pretty basic, but the trails are very well marked and easy to follow. The most overgrown one is nearest the house, called July se Kloof, but the vegetation is mostly spekboom and low growing karoo bushes, so you can't really lose the path. We linked a bunch of the routes together to make a better distance for running, but you can do them all individually. First we did July se Kloof, which starts right close to the house, then along the gravel road a little and then off to the left onto the Cliff Path trail. This comes out at the River View cottages. We then went a little further down the road, past the swimming spot, to Huiskrans Walk and Steering se Kloof. This loop it beautiful, with amazing views over the valley and lovely plants. It runs clockwise, going up quite steeply and then down the kloof more gently. It's not a tough route and isn't exposed in any areas, so manageable for almost anyone. From the kloof we ran back along the cliff path and then the road to the entrance of the farm. This route was 18km, but you can just do the Huiskrans loop which is about 5km.

The second route we did is the Vleipad, which was 10km. This route is very flat and not very exciting. Maybe at other times of the year the vegetation is more interesting, but if you need to skip any of the routes, this is the one. We left the 4x4 trail for last, since it is on the other side of the river which was lower on our last day. It was still pretty high and fast flowing, the dogs had to swim and we were in above our knees. You cross at the road though, so at least it is pretty flat. We discovered that there were people staying at the campsite, it must have been exciting getting across when they arrived and the water was higher. The 4x4 route is pretty steep and loose rocks, but the views from the top are amazing and worth the effort. There is a view site which has numbered white rocks, which we assume are each pointing towards a specific view, the info for this is probably from the farm on the other side, where the route starts from. We didn't do the full circular route since we were told the river was higher and faster flowing at the top crossing; we did it as an out and back which was 10km. It might be slightly longer if you do the loop.

The town of Calitzdorp is about a 20min drive from the farm, so it's easy to go and explore the wine farms and farm stalls. There is a lovely farm stall on the Matjiesvlei side of the town, which has all sorts of different dried fruit goodies and jams. A must visit is Du'SwaRoo wine farm. They have lovely wines and also the most amazing atchars and loads of olive goodies. The olive crumble with chilli is divine! We also enjoy going to De Krans, Calitzdorp cellar and Boplaas for wine tasting. They all also have restaurants and obviously allow dogs.

This was a lovely end to our holiday, soaking up the sun and stocking up on wine and nibbles.

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