The N7. Six hundred and seventy kilometers of hot black tar heading relentlessly north from Cape Town to Vioolsdrift at the border to Namibia. It’s a long road, mostly straight, veering off every now and then to skirt a mountain, leading you up the odd pass and providing a hint of the exquisitely raw ,untamed landscapes of South Africa.
It would take forever to explore the countless roads leading off the N7 into two street towns, mountain villages, farming communities and remote Atlantic beaches.
Piketberg is a small town off the N7 built on the slopes of the Piketberg mountains and it looks out over the Olifants River Valley. The town has interesting architecture like the Neo Gothic Dutch Reformed Church built in 1880. It is also very hot and it is only 8:30 am.
The air seems to buzz in the stillness of the heat as we drive out of town and start weaving up the tight turns of the Versveld Pass. This extremely narrow road requires some concentration to navigate. Conversation ceases and ten eyes are fixed on the road. A collective sigh of relief as we near the summit and stop for road works. A wall is being built between the edge of the road and the sheer drop to certain death. This is a good thing !
We get out the car and take in the view. Any anxiety is forgotten as we hover on the edge snapping frantically trying to capture this yellow and blue vista, nor very successfully in my case, so go there, you have to see this, and drive this skinny road.
The chatter starts again as we summit the mountain and into the hanging valley of Piket-Bo-Berg.
Like soldiers on parade peach, plum, pear and apple trees form precise green rows as far as the eye can see. The sun is drenching the land with warmth and light and you can almost hear everything growing.
Kruistementvlei Farm is a celebration of the earth.
They work with nature, because nature knows best.
Jeremy the owner takes us on a quick walkabout as he enthusiastically talks about pooh and compost, and explains the concept of PermaCulture. This Eco Friendly farm aims to be totally off the grid and self – sustainable in the not too distant future. Nothing goes to waste here, not even the “business” of guests staying in any of the five cottages, caravan or campsite. (so reasonably priced I thought the rates were from 1995)
Creative cabins, outdoor showers, dining areas in cave like rocky overhangs are shown to us at high speed, we only slow down and stop when we get to the compost.In front of us are piles of what I hope is soil and behind us large wooden pallets are filled with fruit peels, happy bugs and other waste.
Jeremy has a passion for the earth and the power of pooh. We stand in the rising heat as he explains the concept of waterless toilets. He plunges a spade into a pile of something dark and earthy looking, then scoops a handful and we each have it thrust under our noses for a sniff. It has no odour at all, yet it originates from a very smelly source.
Nature is amazing.
We head back down towards the house, stopping to see the pot bellied pigs flopping around in a pool. In a separate pen, year old piglets snuffle and roll over for a belly tickle. The farm dog yawns and settles under a bush and a jackal buzzard glides overhead, too hot to bother flapping its wings..
I am a hot sweaty mess by the time we arrive in the coolness of the dining room for a brunch .It is approaching 40 degrees C, summer is definitely here to stay.
Jeremy believes that to be part of a community you must be involved in the community. The Piket-Bo -Berg Farmers Market is held on his farm on the last Saturday of each month and by all accounts it is an event not to be missed. Live music, farm produce, vintage clothing and other lekker stuff is for sale while live music adds to the atmosphere, and everyone contributes to the rich compost produced by the waterless toilets.
Jeremy also established a community library for all the children in the area, has a youth group for the teenagers and hosts “workaways” where interested travellers can learn all about his earth friendly farming and lifestyle.
No generators, TV’s or motorised equipment are permitted here. It is just you and nature. Hikes through pristine fynbos lead to caves and rock art, bird sightings and hearty appetites. MTB trails abound, swimming, star gazing and making the most of nature’s playground. You too will contribute to the compost. 🙂
Piekenierskloof Pass is an easy hour and a half drive from Cape Town and just before the summit you will find a delightful farm-stall / shop / accommodation called Kardoesie. Unique in every way, this place is where you stop to embrace the countryside and really leave the city behind you.
Views for days, a restaurant, gift shop, fresh produce and mini shop as well as accommodation, a pool and a dog who goes for rides on a quad bike. We were given the most thoughtful personalised “Padkos” boxes containing mini quiche, chicken nuggets, dried sausage, peanuts and raisins and sweeties to see us on our way to Citrusdal.
Padkos directly translates to road food. Snacks for a long car journey.
At the foot of the Piekenierskloof Pass lies Citrusdal and the most intriguing info centre I have ever encountered. Situated in a room in “Die Sandveld Huisie”, a whitewashed house with a long stoep and a thatch roof, in itself quite charming, but that is not what makes it unusual.
Every inch of this building, the surrounding trees, garden and verandah are adorned with the most colourful and imaginative everyday items that have been recycled and decorated with bright enthusiasm. It is a place that must be examined at length over a long period of time. Broken glasses hang from trees and catch sparkles of sunlight, a toaster is planted on a step and has flowers growing out of it. An old kettle swings in the breeze and colourful ribbons contrast with rusty remains.
Inside is a shoppers dream of pretty things and stuff. Juandre drags us away from what could be a shopping frenzy, sits us down and tells us about the artists and crafters who produce much of these colourful items. The talk is accompanied by mint flavoured ice cold water, most welcome as the temperature is now at 41 C and there is a very real danger that I could overheat and my head would just explode and make a mess over all these lovely things.
Fortunately the ice cooled me down and my head did not explode so I was able to listen to Juandre talk about the community projects he runs without any funding. He knows the reality of this community and has applied this knowledge wisely to really address the needs of the youth and little ones. A feeding scheme supports The Ubuntu Child Development Centre , teenagers are given options to develop self esteem, be creative with recycled materials and to play a positive role in the community.
We moved on to the museum which houses another fabulous project telling the stories of the residents and providing materials and equipment for the women to create items that can be sold and help to support their families. This is truly inspiring stuff and deserving of your support if you are ever in Citrusdal.
The museum displays interesting furniture and household items from days gone by, showcased by recreating rooms in a home.
Clanwilliam, Gateway to the Cederberg, home to the mighty Clanwilliam Dam that I am so tempted to jump into fully clothed. It is late afternoon and still just over 41 C. These are not reasonable temperatures for women over a certain age. God bless the person who invented aircon in cars.
We are in the very heart of Rooibos country where these plants thrive. They obviously love this extreme heat. Even the sunflowers were taking strain and given their name you would think they would be flourishing.
Fortunately we are heading to the Rooibos Tea House, the only one in the whole world. It stocks eight brands and over one hundred flavours of this healthy tea and we are going for a tasting. Sanet gives us a brief intro into Rooibos tea before we adjourn to the covered verandah where we sniff the various dried blends.
The flavours are varied and endless, and although served hot, surprisingly refreshing.
Chai spices , berry infused, ginger and chilli all delicious and aiding a broad variety of ailments. I left feeling slightly less melty, pleasantly hydrated and with an armful of teas to enjoy at home in more pleasant climes.
Did you know that the 16th January 2017 we will celebrate the very first National Rooibos Day. This day is not just for tea lovers, rooibos is used in cooking, baking, cocktails, beauty products and of course exciting tea flavours. Watch this space for more details closer to the time. All locals should be celebrating this day as rooibos is very Proudly South African.
The Rooibos Tea House also sells a fabulous selection of bags, jewellery, gifts, fabrics and wool. And yummy cakes to counterbalance the healthy teas. 🙂
And so ends my #7StopsN7 adventure, all that is left is to enjoy the aircon in the car on the 3 hour journey home.
So, lovers of nature, MTB riders, hikers and rock climbers, foodies and city dwellers the next time you are on the N7, make a stop, take a detour, stay over and discover the secret attractions of this area.
It’s not just about the attractions, natural beauty and outdoor activities, it is about the communities, the friendly welcomes, the respect and care of our natural resources, the creativity and the desire to share their treasures with you.
People Rocking Nature. I love it.
7 Stops on the N7 Route is the brainchild of Kardoesie owners Hanri and Anette Theron, and aims to share the magic of the areas surrounding their thriving farm stall and restaurant. This route includes the towns of Piketberg, Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Wupperthal, Van Rhynsdorp, Nieuwoudtville and Garies.
West Coast Way SA incorporate the 7 Stops on their exciting new Wild Route where the slogan is “People Rocking Nature”
For more information go to www.westcoastwaySA