Working full time is tough. Not only do I have less time to write fiction, it also means getting up super early every day to the same alarm tone, sitting in traffic, and working long hours that often eats into my personal time. The next thing I know, there’s three or four hours left to make dinner, shower, catch the latest episode of something and then its bedtime.
Free nights and weekends become a game of Roulette. Is the dice going to land on writing, spending time with friends, catching up on chores or taking work home yet again? It can wear you down.
A long weekend away is the perfect antidote.
So for my birthday this year I decided to pack up the car and head towards Route 62. Winter is my favourite time for going away, and as the car emerged on the other side of The Huguenot Tunnel, unveiling the dramatic peaks and waterfalls of the Du Toits Kloof Pass, I spied snow in the distance, and knew we were going in the right direction.
We stayed in Robertson, in a little Cape Dutch cottage situated squarely in the middle of hills and vineyards, surrounded by the snow-capped Langeberg Mountains. The farm, a working olive and wine farm, continued its slow bustle while we read, braaied, slept, walked and swam in mountain pools, slowly refuelling.
Life on the farm was slow, and a welcome change to the fast pace I’m used to. Our host spoiled us with delicious farm rusks, scones, croissants and even homemade chocolates, and one night arrived with two packs of firelighters because we were running low. The warmth and hospitality was surprising. I suppose I’ve become numbed by the schadenfreude of social media and the cynicism of city life that being greeted by goodwill and kindness seemed alien. I wish we had taken the time to have more conversations with our host, rather than shutting ourselves away like hermit crabs in our glossy, city shells.
We spent three nights on the farm, surrounded by nothing but mountains and a sky so full of stars that it seemed like a hologram put there for our benefit. Even the birds were straight from a Disney movie. We had an abundance of bird species visiting us, including a little finch who was always waiting outside the kitchen door in the mornings. He would come into the cottage while I cleaned, and sat near me by the pool while I read. When my partner tossed me into the pool, my little bird was right on the edge, freaking out. One morning I swear he tapped on the window to wake me up.
The combination of electric blankets and a fireplace in the room (and an unlimited supply of firewood) kept us cosy and warm in the icy evenings. But I didn’t mind the cold, although it did increase both our appetites for large farm breakfasts, hastily put-together lunches and braai feasts.
The neighbouring small towns were gems to explore, although each one seemed to be undergoing heavy road works during the time of our visit.
On our way to explore outside the town, we met a beautiful big dog at Springfield Estate and discovered the deliciously salty Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc that reminded me of a Fat Cactus Top Shelf Margarita. (I take my tasting notes to the next level). The tasting guide explained that the quartz in the ground is broken up into the soil, which gives the wine its flinty taste.
The GPS took us in circles in Bonnievale, and we eventually found our way to Weltevrede only to be told the underground cellar tastings needed to be booked in advance and the restaurant was closed for renovations. The above-ground tasting room was still going and I experienced that same salty aftertaste in their Place of Rocks Chardonnay. If there is one reason to visit Route 62, then the wine has to be it.
I fell in love with the route to Montagu, and the beautiful Cogmanskloof Pass, which we were able to enjoy at our leisure thanks to road works and a lengthy Stop and Go. I wanted to experience the hot springs at Avalon Spa, which is ridiculously old fashioned and kitsch, and on the day in question, very full. It was a cold and gloomy day, and splashing around in a hot mountain spring was like lying in a hot bath. Heavenly.
Four days went by in a blink, which is a pity because we only really started getting into the slow life on day three. It was hard to say goodbye to the mountains, the birds, the kids on the farm that were always waving, the little goats and baboons, and blooming Proteas as far as the eye could see.
We took the long route back, and somehow ended up being the only car on the road. We passed the stark peaks of the Burger Pass, the only witnesses to the brilliant colours cast by the last of the afternoon light – gold, and pink, and creeping shadow. It was humbling to see such a magnificent view for the first time, and made me realise how much of my life is spent staring at a computer screen or phone. I wished that long, empty road, with nothing but thirsty Kalahari bushveld on either side, would never end. We stopped once to say hello to a giant tortoise basking on the tar, then continued on.
I’ll be counting the days till the next long weekend.