Impressive architecture of Bredasdorp church (Photos courtesy of Overberg Tourism)
The shadows are already stretching into a closer semblance of what I want my actual weight to be by the time we travel past Durbanville in Cape Town on a chilly Friday afternoon. It's been a long week.
I'm in the mood to encounter beauty and soft nature everywhere I go this week-end and my route - the sublime Overberg region in South Africa's Western Cape Province - promises just such pleasures. The Overberg, which is an Afrikaans term meaning "over the mountain," is Africa's southern-most region, with L'Agulhas its southern tip.
Unfortunately we couldn't get away early enough to visit Stoney Point - an unusual and worthwhile deviation. One of only four mainland bird colonies in South Africa, it is home to about a hundred breeding pairs of African Penguin who co-exist with large numbers of Cape Cormorant, White-Breasted Cormorant, Bank Cormorant and even a few Crowned Cormorant.
But back to the road trip. We finally emerge from an hour long dense fog of undulating week-end exit traffic and find ourselves in the heart of the Whale Route and the bustling town of Hermanus which, according to leading authorities, offers the world's best land-based whale watching. Be on the look out for Zolile, the only Whale Crier in the world, who alerts you to the presence of the Southern Right whales in the Bay.
We overnight at the Abalone Guest Lodge in Hermanus, an unusually artistic and unique location with gorgeous views and a tranquil ambience. The lodge is situated on Sievers Point, a landmark beachfront position midway between the town center and beautiful white beaches of Hermanus. After a stunning continental breakfast the following morning, we make our way to Napier via Caledon, following the Route 316 to the southern-most region of Africa. The weather is sunny and the mountains and blue sky look unreal, like something conjured up by the animators of Dream Works. Poplar trees run along the road like grey cotton candy under a forlorn wisp of a single cloud in the sky. We take a detour on the advice of the friendly and well-informed Lizl from Abalone and drive to Baardskeerdersbos, a community of what seems to comprise of about 117 people, still almost completely cut off from the world. We pass a horse drawn cart and my friend Michelle makes the driver stop for a photo op. We meet and chat to one of the occupants, the delightful Oom Snoekie (Uncle Snoek) who could be 60 or 106 years old.
Panoramic view of Hermanus
After passing through the hamlet of Napier - where buying real estate for weekend and holiday purposes has become very popular - we arrive in Bredasdorp at the quaint Shipwreck Museum. The town is quiet and a bit ghostly, what with it being out of season - the perfect time to travel in this region.
We get back on the road and travel to the picturesque coastal town of Arniston with its rustic and beautiful slaves' cottages. The wind furiously tugs at the waves, creating a million white foamy horses in full gallop on the surface of the sea. The colors created by the to-ing and fro-ing of the currents range from deep azure to day-glow green - a breathtaking sight.
Southern most tip of Africa
We arrive at our next stop, the Agulhas Country Lodge in L'Agulhas at about 13:30. The little town is located at the before-mentioned southern-most tip of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans ACTUALLY meet. The popular - but completely false - notion is that the oceans meet at Cape Point, about an hour's drive outside Cape Town. Built from natural stone, set against the hill, Agulhas Country Lodge has spectacular sea view from nearly every vantage point. En suite bedrooms each have private balconies and sea views.
Phil and his daughter Chelsea are the perfect hosts and long after dinner that night we're still chatting and laughing by the massive and intimate fire in the gorgeously rustic lounge.
We make our way to Swellendam the following morning, our last stop. The weather has cleared up completely and metal gray mists envelop the dark purple velvety mountains where they meet the endless bright blue sky. The scenery makes me feel like a location scout for a movie in which the name Heathcliff might appear once or twice.
The famous whale crier of Hermanus
We have a divine lunch at a little restaurant under towering trees by a stream in the town before making our way to the five-star De Kloof Guest House. Our wonderful host Marjolein tells us that her and her husband follow a philosophy of hospitality that is truly different in all aspects at this boutique establishment - the unique location, the homestead, the well-designed rooms and the way guests are spoiled with passion.
This Cape Dutch homestead (1801) and national monument is truly a hidden treasure. It is situated in a secluded valley on large grounds with fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The stylish, elegant interior merges a modern classic European style and the rooms and house are adorned with Marjolein's chic collection of African and Chinese art, fabrics and artifacts. After dinner Marjolein joins us back at the hotel. She is one of the most fascinating people I have come across in a long while, having lived and worked at the top of her industry in Europe, China and Nigeria.
Cape Agulhas lighthouse at the southern-most tip of Africa
We reluctantly say our farewells early the next morning as we head off to Wildebraam Estate private cellar for a last hurrah. The cellar produces a range of delicious liqueurs including Youngberry, Honey, Aniseed, Rooibos, Peppermint, Lemon and Hazelnut. In addition, the farm kitchen produces a tempting array of liqueured fruits, jams, dessert syrups, chutneys, relishes, pickles and gifts which can all be sampled and purchased in the infamous "tasting room".
Back on the road to Cape Town we prepare ourselves for the biting onset of reality.
But my memories of the Overberg are infused with images of hazy splendor, fuzzy at the edges despite the bold contrasts of primary colors; of people and practices as gentle as the chocolate box landscapes they inhabit; and of long-forgotten soul regeneration.
There are no direct flights from China to Cape Town but Air China outbound flights to Johannesburg in South Africa operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with return services from Johannesburg offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Flights will departs from Beijing at 23:15 Beijing time, and arrive in Johannesburg at 7:35 local time on the following day. The inbound flight departs from Johannesburg at 11:50 local time and arrives in Beijing at 7:30 Beijing time.
From Johannesburg you can take any low-cost local carrier to Cape Town and Overberg Tourism will be happy to help you with travel arrangements in the Overberg.