We often look for accommodation that is quirky and full of character. We found one such accommodation inland in the Eastern Cape of South Africa called Sugarbush Berghut. You need a high clearance vehicle to get there and even though it is only a couple of miles from the actual farm house, it takes about 20 minutes to get there because of the rocky terrain. This area has been in drought for the past 5 years. In fact the drought has taken its toll on these farmers and they have lost their farm as a result. Who can farm without water? They decided to put up some rustic accommodation on their farm but in the spot with the most spectacular view! Mountains from left to right and the only neighbors in sight are the locusts, that look like armor plated sentinels, sheltering in the leaves on a nearby bush.
There is no cell phone reception or electricity, but there is heated water and a gas cooker. We heard that there was a river on this farm that had the most delicious swimming hole and we were told that it was 2 miles from the hut. We read further that the last 900 feet took approximately half an hour. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Ravine! Ah well, life must be lived.
I had been thinking it was unusual that we hadn’t heard any barks from baboons – they are notorious for wrecking campsites and farm house kitchens in South Africa trying to get to food. The scary thing is that they know and understand that I am not an alpha male and I will not be able to stop them from coming at me for food, but my husband however just has to stand next to me like superman or something, and they run!
With that thought in mind, we decided to drive as far as we could to get to the swimming hole instead of walking the whole way - and am I extremely happy we made that decision. With a simmering 94 degree heat we rolled down a very rocky slope in our high clearance vehicle. About half way down we startled a massive Puff Adder which woke up and slithered across the road in front of our car. I have this ability to compartmentalize my thinking. I did not equate seeing a puff adder with the water I’m about to swim in.
Our car journey ended where you see the road dissecting the bottom third of this image - makes one feel quite small, these mountains.
Finally we got to the last 900 feet and we had to get out of the car to slip and slide down a rocky pathway to the bottom. Once, I lost my footing and ended up unceremoniously on my behind, while my husband thought he was hiding his snigger with a badly concocted look of concern on his face. I heard the air forcefully escaping his nostrils. Moving on, we could not hear any gushing water so we were both a bit concerned there would not be any water in said river because of the drought.
Finally we got to the bottom and at first, it didn’t look promising but we kept following the green painted rocks until we arrived at the most delicious swimming spot I have ever seen. The river was not gushing, it was moving slowly on a languid journey to the sea, it is wide and full of shade because of the cliff face on the opposite side. There is not another soul in sight and we deem swim suits unnecessary. I sent my husband in first to test the waters and once he said it was fine, I was IN! There are few moments where I have experienced such unadulterated bliss.
For an hour or so, we chatted and swam and took in the surrounding beauty of lush bouquets of greenery dotted here and there up the cliff side. The well watered green forested area near the bottom and the wide expanse of refreshing water. All too soon, it was time to leave as someone had forgotten to pack snacks and we were getting hungry.
Up and up we climbed and about half way up, we hear the sudden bark of a baboon coming from the exact area we happened to be swimming in. Bryan and I looked at each other and realized that we were not unclothed and alone, but were being watched, dubiously, by a small troop of baboons. As the one baboon barked, we heard the return bark from another on the other side of the valley. and we began a quicker ascent.
Red faced and out of breath I was ecstatic when our trusty vehicle came into view. I tried it, I did it once and thought I'd nobly bear the intense South African heat without a dip for the rest of our stay. Wet wipes it shall be!
The most spectacular view
Just mesmerizing - the kind of view you want to breathe in and take with you
I have never experienced seeing a thunderstorm approach and while we were there, not one, but two thunderstorms made an appearance over the parched drought ridden farmlands. The first storm was reasonably gentle with a few claps of thunder.
A storm approaches
The second storm however came at us from behind. We were treated to a Cumulonimbus wonder – looking straight onto it and not up.
A menacing storm cloud approaches
The wind blew that cloud mass towards us and as it surrounded our little cabin on the mountain top we reveled in the near horizontal driving rain and loud, ominous cracks of thunder with bright streaks of lightening. The wind changed direction three times, and each time, blew the storm over us again and again. It was the first storm with that amount of rain that the area has had in five years. We got to experience it, knowing that the run off was entering the Kouga river, where we had swum, which fed the Kouga Dam which gave water to over one and half million people. May it rain again.