Part 2 : Summer Holiday '23/'24
Off to our second stop of the roadtrip, The Rest near Nieu-Bethesda. Just 2 nights booked here, as this was more of a stop-over on the way to the main goal. The drive was about 6 hours and most of it was along the N9. Surprisingly, this road was in quite good condition and there were even some new rest stops in the Eastern Cape section. The farm owner sent me directions, but I'm pretty sure Google maps shows the right way too. There is just one spot, where you need to turn off, instead of going straight towards Nieu-Bethesda, that you need to be aware of, as there is an automatic gate and the signage is a bit hard to see. From there it is about 27km of winding gravel road.
We had booked the Garden House. We met the owner on arrival, and she had forgotten we were bringing our dogs. Anyway, it was fine, there were just lots of dogs. She breeds Border Collies and has a lot, plus they were looking after someone else's. They were a bit barky and the one quite snappish, but mostly ok, just a busy lot when going past with our dogs.
The house was very spacious and cool. It is open plan, with what they term the main bedroom being a bit more blocked off with a partial wall, but otherwise the 3 'bedrooms' are closed with hangings. We decided not to use the main room, but rather the one that was on the east wall, as we like to wake up with the sun and this would also be the coolest in the afternoons and evenings. There isn't much space to unpack your clothes into, so we just took out the essentials we would probably use.
The open plan space has a kitchen against the back wall, as well as a couple of comfy chairs and a 3 seater table. There are a few bookcases with all sorts of books. The kitchen has a gas stove, small fridge and kettle. We were excited to find a coffee bodum, but sadly it was broken. There is a lot of crockery and cutlery, and it looks like they have tried to do the Karoo quirky thing where everything is mismatched, which is cool, except quite a few things were broken so it actually felt like they had dumped all their old broken stuff in this house. When showing us around she had pointed out the ecobrick station, which they encourage guests to use, but we told her we had our own, probably the first time she's heard that, haha. The bathroom has a shower and basin and the toilet is tucked behind the door, which is a little awkward. We only had cold water, the geyser didn't seem to work even though we went out and checked it was on. But we didn't want warm water for showering anyway as it was so hot, and we could boil the kettle for washing dishes. Outside is a very disappointing braai area with one old chair and a half drum braai that had such big holes in it we had to put an oven tray on the ground underneath so as to not set the grass on fire.
Being in the Karoo most of the surrounding land is dry and brown, with hills in the distance. Behind the house we stayed in is a lovely koppie that you can climb up. When she explained the hike up it sounded like it was a marked trail, but it's not, you just go up and around the rocky bit at the top to find the easiest way. It is worth the scratches for the lovely views. The section just before the top is a bit steep and a tiny bit scrambly, but I think most people should manage.
There is also a labyrinth on the property, which is on a marked route. When she explained it to us she was quite rude about guests always getting lost and not finding the labyrinth. We walked it one afternoon and found out why, the last sign, where you turn off the path just below the labyrinth, was facing the wrong way. We ended up walking past and noticed it as we turned around to check if we were still going the right way. We turned it around so other guest will see it. There was also a loose sign at the gate to the labyrinth hidden behind by a bush, which look like it was once on the path, but had been moved or blown away. Obviously she hadn't checked in some time that everything was still in order, just assumed the guests were idiots. It is quite a big labyrinth and very karoo style, worth a walk.
On the other side of the property, if you walk past the main house with the barking dogs, is a little river. It is a bit of an awkward walk down the river, as you have to walk in it and the surrounding bush is quite overgrown. But if you persevere there is a little rockpool to swim in, with lovely frogs and crabs and dragonflies.
There is lots of space to explore and if you wanted you could just walk, run or cycle around the dirt roads. The neighbouring property has game, lovely to see zebras and all sorts of antelope as you pass through. Otherwise it is one of those places where you can just laze around with a book. The lack of bird life was a bit sad though - less than we have in our garden at home in the city and very different from our previous stop.
This is one of the less fantastic places we have stayed. It was comfortable, but there were a lot of little problems with it. One of the main things was that when we were packing up we discovered droppings in the fridge and it looked like some of our food had been chewed on, weird right? But seriously, a rat had eaten its way into the fridge in the night! and on inspection not for the first time, as the hole had been filled in with silicone. Luckily it didn't ruin ALL of our food.
We paid R700 per night and felt this was a little on the high side for the quality of stay. We did enjoy our time out in the middle of nowhere though and think if they fix up the little things it could be a nice place for guests. Their website looks like it was once a lovely place, but the images and vibe of the website don't reflect it's current state.