Weekend break at the foot of Soetmuisberg
Updated: Jul 6, 2021
We took a little weekend break to check out this spot my mom had read about. The dairy farm, Grashoek, is near Breadasdorp in the Overberg. From Cape Town it is 2-3 hours drive, obviously on a Friday afternoon it's longer since there are always the regular crashes on the N2. The last stretch of road to the farm is a 9km section of gravel road, which was pretty slippery and exciting in the rain, but is probably normally fine for regular cars. There are 2 cottages on the farm, which are a couple of kilometers apart, so you really have a large space to yourselves. We stayed in the Bergen Dam cottage, that is up on a hill overlooking the dam and fields. This cottage has 2 bedrooms, with comfy beds, shared bathroom, kitchen and a lovely deck. On arrival we found a bottle of local red wine, rusks and a big jug of fresh full cream milk. There is no electricity, the stove and fridge are gas, and for a change the fridge was actually cold. The kitchen is equipped with more then enough crockery and cutlery and there is a coffee bodum, which is always a winner for us. The water is heated with a wood burning donkey, one of the nicer ones we have experienced. For lighting there are lots of parrafin lanterns and an indoor braai. Sitting on the deck you could watch the sunrise in the morning and cows being moved to different fields during the day. It is also a great spot for bird watching, we saw Fork-Tailed Drongos, Paradise Flycatchers, Brown-Hooded Kingfishers, Harrier Hawks, Jackel Buzzards and more. Next to the cottage there is a cement dam pool, unfortunetly it was too cold for us to swim.
Saturday, was clear and warmish, but windy, so after a little exploring around the farm and leisurely breakfast we decided to take a drive down to the coast. We drove down through Struisbaai and L'Agulhas to get to the southern most point of Africa. Apparently where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, although this same claim is made at Cape Point. Judging by the temperature of the water I don't think the Indian Ocean agrees with either, brrrr. There is a lovely map sculpture of the continent there, so I took my quickest run up to Maclears Beacon ever and Andrew leapt up Kilamanjaro, pretty sure my mom rolled here eyes. Dogs aren't allowed in the reserve, so they had to chill in the car.
From here we drove back north to Arniston. I had heard about, and my mom had visited many years ago, the Waenhuiskrans tidal cave near the village. We had checked the tide table, so aimed to get there at low tide. Dogs are allowed in this reserve, obviously they need to be under control or on leads. It was crazy windy on the walk from the parking to the cave and we were glad to have our masks to protect us from the whipping sand, thanks covid! The water is such amazing blues and turquoises here and we watched the sea while we waited for the tide to go out. Sadly because of the neap tide it didn't go out far enough for us to get out to the cave. After being blown back to the car we drove through the little village of Arniston, which is really cute with the thatch houses and tiny streets. And since it was lunch time we stopped at the Arniston Hotel for a bite and a beer. There is quite a big outside section which was somewhat sheltered from the wind and the dogs were allowed. The food was ok, nothing exciting, but the beer was cold and the view was good.
Sunday's weather was pretty miserable. It started drizzling just before sunrise, when we headed out for our run. We were going blind since the host could not give us any information on distance or duration of the trails. Luckily we have spent a lot of time getting lost and refinding paths and are fit enough to manage longer trials. Plus the markers were surprisingly good. There is a a well maintained MTB trail network which comes over from the other side of the Soetmuisberg, so we guessed the hiking trails were cleared and marked by the same group. We followed the red trail markers up a jeep track to the first peak. There is a split about halfway up, which has a blue marker, which one would assume this is a shorter route. At the top the moutain bike trail carries on straight and the red hiking trail splits to the right. This part of the trail is more rugged, with a bit of scrambly and slippery bits, all the good stuff we like. By now the rain was quite hard and I needed gloves for my frozen fingers. The trail was a good climb up to the highest peak, which you can see from the cottage (it has what are probably cellphone towers on it). The trail runs next to a stone wall, which you can also see faintly from the cottage. It was very wet and wild at the top, so not much in the way of views, just a soggy family selfie. Once you start descending the path links back on to the MTB trail, this is really noticable because of how much more well cleared the trail got. Once we hit the top of the fields, there were no markers, so we bundu bashed a bit through the forest and fields and climbed through a fence, as usual. Finally linking back on to a jeep track. A little further on we saw a signboard in the bush, maybe knocked down by the wind and rain, which could have been what happened further back when we lost the trail. Running past the dam involved much hilarity and slipping, as the ground was already muddy from the cows crossing through a couple of times a day and made worse by the rain. Needless to say we arrived back soaking wet and frozen.
On the whole a lovely spot for a chilled break. The host needs to provide information about the hiking and MTB trails for visitors safety. You don't want to set out on what you guess is a 5km hike and end up on a 30km MTB trial without enough water or food. I have added a GPS pic of our route, which was about 9.5km. Anyone else with a GPS watch that does any of the trails, please add your map in the comments or email it to me to add to this post.
Always a sign of a good time away when there's a couple of cuties zonked out in the car.
The farm doesn't have a website, but you can find the details on their Facebook page.
Paintings inspired by this trip
#travellingwithdogs #petfriendly #trailrunning #mountainrunning #overberg