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  • Writer's pictureClare Travis

Under the Berg

Part 5 : Summer holiday '23/'24

More than halfway through our trip, so now time to start heading south again. Next stop Shepherd's Cottage on the Farraway farm, in Underberg. Again about a 6 hour drive, from Clarens. The start of the drive was misty with lots of potholes through the Golden Gate National Park. After that the roads were pretty good, until past Howick, then they were bad again. As we drove south the temperature dropped. The host had messaged me to say bring a jersey and that it had been raining a lot. And I always keep an eye on my weather app and it showed our maximum for the 3 nights was going to be 16°C, so not very summery. The farm is on the Bushman's Nek Road. It is a gravel road and was very slippery from all the rain, but we managed to get safely to the farm. There are 2 cottages on the farm, we stayed in the smaller one, which is a tiny 1 bedroom. You enter through a sliding door into a little lounge area with a couch, a fire place, and yuk, a TV. At the back of this room is a little kitchen area with an island/table and bar stools. There is a gas stove, full size fridge and microwave. There were oodles of new pots and lots of crockery, so though it was very small the kitchen was very well equipped. Through a door on the right is the bedroom, which has a comfy double bed and closet with space to pack out the stays worth of clothes. Leading off this is a toilet and shower, this is really small and wouldn't work for heavyset or tall people. There is a storeroom around the side of the cottage, which was great to put our 3 weeks worth of kit into. Outside there is a lovely patio and braai. Sadly because it rained almost the whole time we were there we didn't get to sit on the patio as often as we would normally, but we did manage to braai in a drizzle the one evening. The cottage, though small was really comfy and catered to all our needs. The only thing that was a problem was the height of the barstools being too high for the table, but I did feed this back to the host so hopefully that's sorted out. Normally we wouldn't have noticed this because we always sit outside. Because it was so wet and cold we used the fireplace a lot and it was great. Oh, and the farm is completely off grid, so no worry of load shedding. He actually has a booklet in the cottage showing their solar installation and payoff predictions and is obviously really enjoying having this freedom.

There are sheep, cattle and horses on the farm. The one sheep pen is just below the Shepherd's cottage and our boys loved watching the sheep go about their daily business. The one morning Dash and a little brown and white sheep had a staring competition, which was so cute with their matching fur. The main view of the farm is on the other side from the Shepherd's cottage, so you need to walk, yay! Dogs can obviously be free, granted they don't chase the animals. After you walk back towards the gate and past the other cottage you get a lovely view down over the valley and the Mzimunde river which crosses through the farm. You can stroll down to the dam where they have built a lovely boat house. There is a table and chairs and food prep space in the shelter, as well as a loo. There are boogie boards and all sorts of things for kids to play with in the dam. It is so wonderful and we were quite sad to be having such miserable weather, that we couldn't enjoy it completely.

Even though it was pretty terrifying leaving the farm on the slippery road, we did venture out. Just after we left we saw a lady in a small car in the ditch, with a guy prepping to pull her out and then a little further along there was a taxi in the ditch with a tractor fixing to help. Then we also slid into the ditch! But Andrew was very calm and managed to just let us slide in and then calmly drive out. One thing we were looking forward to doing in the area, with our new silver beast, was driving Sani Pass. Sadly they have tarred it! I don't know if I was living under a rock when that happened, so no fun 4x4ing up there. They have done it beautifully though, with lots of view stops and they have built rockeries in the walls. So it is still worth the drive for the amazing views, even when it's raining.

There are quite a few dog friendly restaurants in the Underberg area. In Himeville, on the way to Sani Pass, is the Whistling Goat. This is a lovely stop for tea and cake. It has a beautiful garden and there is even a little antique store inside. For lunch we tried The Old Hatchery on the Drakensberg Gardens Road, which was nothing special, but had cold beer and decent food. It also has a pretty good view. There is another popular spot on this road called The Olde Duck, which is nice, but always very busy. There are lots of cycling routes starting from here, so if that's your thing it would be a good choice.

We really enjoyed this stop, even though the weather was bad. We had a really relaxing and cosy time. The cottage was the higher end of our budget, being R1000 per night, but this was quite reasonable for the area and it is also very new so in good condition. Both of the cottages on the property have their own fence, if you need this for your doggos. We are keen to return again, when the weather is better, and spend more time at the boat house.

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