* This article first appeared here in the Saturday Citizen
Route 62 is informally known as the longest wine route in the route, and while the region produces sublime wine, there’s a lot more to explore – and one of the best ways to do this is to spend a night or two in the charming towns along the route.
Shortly after Roberston take a detour off the road and follow the impressive natural rock tunnel towards Montagu. This entrance to town is perhaps one of the best places to witness the impressive Cape Fold mountains. Stop at the layby and climb the set of stairs up to the fort. Chances are, like me you may have driven the road several times without noticing its perfectly concealed position. From the top of the hundred-year fort, the views of the folded and faulted Langeberg Mountains are spellbinding.
Arriving in town it’s clear that Montagu is not your usual country dorpie – it’s a place that proudly wears its history in its architecture, and there are few better ways to experience this up close and personal than with a Flying Feet Tour. The vivacious Marchelle Van Zyl is the owner and guides guests through the town’s history and charm on her bicycle tours. Not only does she know everything about the town, but everyone in it. There wasn’t a person we passed she didn’t know. flyingfeet.co.za
Another Montagu iconic character is hotelier PJ Basson, who stands at the helm of the Montagu Country Hotel – famously known as South Africa’s most iconic Art Deco hotel. In addition to the circa 1920s and 1930s architecture and furniture, PJ has a little trick up his sleeve for wowing visitors. He’s the proud owner of two American Dream cars: a baby blue 1956 Cadillac Sedan De Ville and a 1964 Cadillac Sedan De Ville. Cruising down the streets of the town in these dream cars is a blast from the past – of course along with the charismatic commentary from their proud owner. montagucountryhotel.co.za
If you’ve visited Montagu before, you likely also spot the brand new Bluvines District, a bold, bright, and modern addition to Montagu where legacy hotelier Richard Weilers has taken decades of experience and ploughed it into one unique spot. Sitting knifing my way through the Steak Tagliata (arguably the best option on the menu) the town’s resident troop of Baboons grazed with equal pleasure at the adjacent field of lucern. As if that wasn’t enough, most of the staff are alumni from Rural Arts Development Foundation and it doesn’t take much persuading for them to sing a number or two during your lunch. bluvines.co.za
The final couple I’d meet during my stay, and the hosts of my chosen guest house were a remarkable pair. Years back Gauteng-based Petrus sold up everything, bought a bakkie and visited various western cape towns to find his dream town. Montagu topped the list and has now created something very special in this Langeberg Town. He’s a versatile entrepreneur who has thrived in the environment and trailing him through the farm is a treat as he introduces his wine, lavender, vegetables, Damara sheep, and much more. It seems there’s very little he puts his hands to that is not a success.
One of his guests once remarked that it was not good for him to live here alone and that they knew of a woman who was beautiful, intelligent, and a keen worm farmer. Being the farmer he was, it was the latter of the three that initially caught his attention, after meeting Liana in person the former two won him over. Incidentally, the worms have remained, and their gorgeous daughter Lilya proudly looks after them.
Liana has also made her own stamp on the farm – as a Landscape Architect, the surrounding fynbos intrigued her to the point where she birthed a company that celebrates it fully. Fijn Botanicals offers a growing range of skincare products – that are used and sold at the farm and online (fijnbotanicals.com) – but also in a growing number of stockists, lodges and guesthouses around South Africa. Liana also runs Botanical skincare workshops on the farm, which include harvesting, distilling, and even individual scent development.
I joined Liana, basket in hand as she gently moved through the fynbos, delighted as she came across some of her familiars and favourites. After harvesting a few species, we returned to the workshop to incorporate them into the product being developed that day – the Fynbos Body Scrub & Soak. Writing this piece now in retrospect, I can gladly report that every time I run a bath and soak in the fragrant botanicals I’m instantly transported back to the farm.
A stay at Kogman & Keisie truly is the best of both, as the farm forms a buffer between the end of the town and the start of the nature reserve; close enough to explore the town when desired but still fully immersed in nature. You have a choice to stay in the main Guesthouse rooms, or the gorgeous three-bedroom cottage – which features constant mountain views, and a wood-fired hot tub.
The farm has both a heated and cold pool, and then direct reserve access for walking. And if you’re ever in need of some furry company, there are a host of friendly farm dogs waiting for affection.
Petrus couldn’t help smiling as he reflected on both their farm and Montagu: “Beautiful things happen and want to share that with people. Share our piece of heaven.” Enjoying a glass of his Colombard in the hot tub, I couldn’t think of a better way to share that piece and heaven and immerse myself in the Montagu Magic. kogmanandkeisie.com