I hit the open road – heading for a much-acclaimed roadhouse on the R62, South Africa. I wanted to clear my head, and take a break from meetings and deadlines, if only for a day. I had one nights’ accommodation booked. That is as much as I have planned ahead.
Route 62 is a scenic tourist route that connects Cape Town to Port Elizabeth as an alternative to the N2. Impressive landscapes, small towns, valleys, cliffs, mountains, museums… there is a lot to do and should not be done in a hurry. Just under 3 hours east of Cape Town Route 62 passes the town of Barrydale. As I parked my “city car”, a world of yesteryear started to unfold. The Karoo Moon Motel was everything I expected. And more.
Karoo Moon Motel is sister to the popular Diesel and Creme right next door. This is where you will find beautifully big gourmet burgers, milkshakes and a selection of craft beer. In summer they have seating outside, a converted caravan that serves shakes and candyfloss and there is enough space for kids to play too. It is an oasis of quirkiness and vintage love. It is a themed carnival and takes you to a different world if you allow it. You walk through a collection of fading memories, desaturating in the Karoo sun.
I settled in and settled on a glass of wine on the stoep (porch), sipping the survival in the advertising world and my move to self-employment. (I only needed one glass – it wasn’t all that bad).
You cannot help to wander in thought – you want to call everyone you know and catch up and then call no one at all. I left my phoned switched off and at peace, I sipped the Sauvignon Blanc and let the dust settle. “I will stay here a little.”, I thought.
History lesson: Barrydale
(thank you wikipedia)
Barrydale’s history dates back to the early 18th century when farmers moved into the area looking for fertile arable land with water. The community built their church on a spot where the R62 and R324 roads meet. In the days before the church was built there were a number of nagmaal houses (houses where Holy Communion could be celebrated) and a school, but not much else. The Dutch Reformed Community of Barrydale came into being in 1878 when land was purchased to build the church.
As the farmers in the area were encouraged to plant vineyards and orchards, it was natural that a winery and distillery would eventually be built. In 1940 the Barrydale Koöperatiewe Wynkelder was formed and a distillery established giving rise to the wine industry in the area. Joseph Barry Brandy, produced locally, was voted best brandy in the world in 2003.
Over the years the village grew and eventually a municipality was established in 1921. Today there is an estimated population of 3500 permanent residents. The population increases dramatically in the tourist season, with visitors drawn by arts and crafts displays including textiles, jewellery and African souvenirs.
Here are 6 things you shouldn’t miss when visiting Barrydale (other than Diesel and Creme, of course):
- The Magpie Gallery – amongst others: repurposed, recycled and found elements get turned into chandeliers
- Weekend market (ask your accommodation of restaurant ahead of time what is on when) They often have weekend or seasonal markets with great local produce and craft
- Mez Karoo Kitchen for food with soul from around the world. Michelle, the owner, is always experimenting but knows how to keep things simple. Options of sitting by the fireplace inside when it’s chilly or outside in summer.
- Wine tasting (see more below)
- The Negosiegat for browsing second-hand treasures (37b Van Riebeeck St, Barrydale) – not for everyone, but a good insight into the small town wonders. You can find almost anything there, even your missing socks from last weeks’ laundry.
- A short drive from the town can entertain you with Ronnie’s Sex Shop (it’s not what you think but actually a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere) and hot springs.
And a bonus:
7. Barrydale in Bloom is an open garden safari, allowing access to the homes and gardens in the village. My timing was perfect. It was on the same weekend I visited. Some gardens were perfectly manicured and maintained, others functional or fairy friendly. Geared with a map I made my way through the village, popping in where ever there was a house marked for garden on show. The walk-about was a feast for the senses. I met the most wonderful people while they showed me around their gardens. I felt inspired to, at the very least, to start growing herbs.
About the wine:
What is a festival without fermented festivities? On the spur of the moment, I signed up for a wine tasting on Saturday. A mere R15 got me tasting some of the local wines. It was a warm afternoon as local wine lovers filled up the old church and a great way to meet more people on this solo trip. The art exhibition and painting on display added to the atmosphere. We enjoyed some of the local treasures, like Joubert-Tradauw, with guidance from Anne van der Meulen. I have been to many wine tastings and Anne was amazing! She was entertaining, informative and definitely knows her stuff. If you ever get a chance to spend time with her (she is a local tour guide), you will know what I mean.
Wine/brandy tasting and cellars in the area:
Joubert Tradauw – www.joubert-tradauw.co.za
Barrydale Wine Cellar – (028) 572 1012
Klein Karoo Wines – www.kleinkaroowines.co.za
Some people stop only for the milkshakes, but if you can, stay a few days. Walk the streets, meet the people and visit the shops. Pause a little and take it all in. Have a meal. Have a glass of wine. In fact, have two. Travelling solo? This is the best place for a wind be down. and the best mini break I could have chosen.
You would expect a blues song as a fitting soundtrack to my road trip, but my random mix included an Indian/Reggae Putumayo track. As I meandered through open roads and mountain passes back to the city, this track found itself on repeat:
“Well I shall walk across the land that has been chosen
and I shall climb the mountain so high,
I shall go across the sea and ocean
and sing with the bird in the sky,
It’s only Jah up above man who leads the way
under whose shadow I abide,
Me say you’re running and you’re running and you’re running away
but from yourself you know you can’t hide.
Well everybody would rise and focus your mind
Search for the truth and learn to be kind.”
I can live with that.
Thank you to Barrydale: Blooming beautiful and setting the tone for a colourful new chapter for my career. I will be back.