Whether it’s a swish mountain pod you’re after, a cool countryside container or a rustic cottage in the woods, nothing beats cosying up in a glorious elevated enclave. As winter throws us her last hurrah, why not clinch your cabin in one of these remote Cape getaways? By Allison Foat
Mount Camdeboo pods in Graaff-Reinet
The Eastern Cape’s Great Karoo is a sprawling region loaded with extraordinary landscapes. One of the best ways to explore a treasured part of it is through Mount Camdeboo, a privately owned, conservation-conscious game reserve above Graaff-Reinet that upped the ante last year by adding two sleep-out Pods to its elegant accommodation portfolio.
During numerous Lockdown camp-outs on the mountain, Mount Camdeboo owner Iain Buchanan realised the need for a more permanent structure that would hold up against inclement weather and entice nature lovers chasing a solitary sojourn. “I’ve always loved it up there,” he said, “for the spectacular views and absolute privacy,” and so he decided on two pods, built with minimal eco interference in a rejuvenating setting. Smartly designed and with an intelligent use of the small space, each is fully kitted out with modern conveniences and top drawer appliances, and décor cached in understated luxury. A queen-size bed that anchors the single, rectangular room, faces a floor to ceiling window with pillow views to die for. It’s a snug staycation for 2 in seductive seclusion and you won’t want to leave.
As with all Mount Camdeboo arrivals, Pod guests are checked in at the Manor House before setting off to their lofty accommodations courtesy of a guided safari that snags multiple game sightings. Buchanan is a passionate rewilder and conservationist, and the property harbours a thrilling wildlife suite including elephant, white rhino, and reintroduced lion.
You can self-cater or order in a hearty stew from the main house down below that gets delivered by 16h00 and comes with a full service. The team pops the potjie onto the fire and sets about preparing your al fresco dinner, making sure you have all you need before slipping away and leaving you to it. Because you’re in predator territory, the Pods are fenced in and walkabouts are obviously prohibited, but no matter, as you won’t want to leave your sleek sanctum anyway. Come nightfall, the sky is a mass of stars and the nocturnal soundscape will lull you to sleep. You get to experience the glory of Africa and it just doesn’t get any better than that. Distance from Cape Town is 6 hours.
Container cabin at Pendennis Farm in the Bossiesveld of Villiersdorp
Pendennis Farm, a ten minute drive from Villiersdorp, is owner -managed by the inimitable Dagmar Schumacher and her son Max. The new container house, which sleeps 8, is the latest addition to the farm’s accommodation offering, a bucolic farm stay in the little known Bossiesveld in the heart of the Worcester wine route. It’s an invigorating rural sojourn that satisfies with solid hospitality, charm and an authentic, laid back vibe.
Modular dwellings have been around for ages. They are highly sought after these days as people seek out a more off-grid lifestyle. Small and compact means they can be erected pretty much anywhere where there is an access road and it can be relocated easily. Max Schumacher, an experienced builder (and serial dog rescuer) has long been interested in the tiny home concept. A spirited visionary, he is continuously innovating and looking for ways to elevate the Pendennis guest experience. The streamlined corrugated homestead does just that.
He chose to deconstruct and then rebuild the container from scratch, using mostly repurposed materials. Working off an idea he got from a friend, Max made a few adaptations to add more functionality. He was after a semi-futuristic façade, something minimalist unlike his traditional brick and mortar builds. Open planned, airy and very spacious, the unit has four bedrooms (sleeping two in each), two bathrooms, a big stoep out back, a small garden and fire pit. Sliding glass doors in the dining room allow the sunlight to flood in and the interior, by Max, is an eclectic conflation of Karoo and Boho décor.
Dagmar added the finishing touches here and there, and their attention to detail pops up everywhere, like the ceramic artwork above the kitchen stove made from interesting tiles collected by his late father. The container faces the farmstead so expect to be met by flocks of sheep grazing in the meadow in the morning.
Pendennis can currently accommodate 25 people. Max is on a mission to increase capacity to 65, the same amount of people that can be hosted at Dasbos. Located next to the container, it is a renovated blacksmith’s barn circa 1903 that is popular for weddings and events.
For those who want to explore, Villiersdorp is a quick ten minutes away and worth a visit if only to tuck into the ‘French Twist roosterkoek breakfast’ at Alwyn Vincent Café Bistro. Check out the tug boat currently being restored for display at the padstal (farm stall). Visit to Stettyn Family Vineyards, an eighth generation farm that comes with a blue-chip wine making history and that has recently re-opened an elegant new tasting room where snacks include cheese platters and fresh oysters.
The Pendennis container is open for bookings from 1 September so rally a group and for a wonderful stay in this pastoral paradise. Drive time from Cape Town is 1 hour.
Wood cabins at White Bridge Farm in Wolseley
The simplicity of the cabins at White Bridge Farm in Wolseley is what makes them so attractive. The fully-equipped wooden huts, owned by the jolly Peppi Stanford and her husband Paul, are the epitome of good, old fashioned country comfort. Sleeping two downstairs and two upstairs, Dixon’s View where I stayed is a stone’s throw from the neighbouring Otter’s Landing that also sleeps four, which is a plus if you’re travelling in a larger group or are attending a wedding at Olive Rock, the events venue located on the same property.
Both cottages are perched right above the fast flowing Breede River. Sunny days are spent reading on the deck with the sounds of the rushing water below an ever-present reminder that you’re in the woods and blissfully far from the madding crowd. Icy winter days are for socialising with gluhwein around the little fire pit outside, and at night when the temperatures drop below zero, there is no cosier scenario than huddling on the couch under a quilt with wine in hand, your pooch at your feet (yes they’re dog friendly!) and a blazing fire in the hearth.
White Bridge Farm produces world class nectarines, plums and pears for the export market. At this time of year (August) on the cusp of Spring, the orchards begin to pop with pale pink blossoms and it’s an exquisite sight. The estate lies in the Witzenberg Valley aka the ‘valley of abundance’, which is home to Wolseley, Ceres and Tulbagh, all of which are accessed by dreamy mountain passes and framed by magnificent peaks. In winter you’re pretty much guaranteed of at least one snowfall on the higher ground, a sight that has earned the area the nickname ‘Little Switzerland’.
For those wanting to venture off site there is plenty to amuse old and young alike. At The Creative Hub on the R43, easily identified by the giant metal sculptures, you can shop for handcrafted souvenirs and savour a flat white, the most decadent toasties, and scoff homemade pies. A bicycle pump track will keep the kids busy for hours and for hikers and runners there are a number of trails to explore. Further afield and only 12 kilometres away is the Ceres Zipline, a hugely fun experience for anyone from age three and up! With eight slides that range between 100 to 291 metres, this is a year-round adrenaline adventure and a real thrill.
Afterwards, head to Loxtonia for the finest apple cider this side of the equator. It’s a premium, natural product with no preservatives or artificial additives. The big surprise here was their MTC (Méthode Traditionelle Cider), a sublime bubbly made entirely from apples. Gin lovers will relish a tasting at Monk’s, South Africa’s first off-grid distillery that specialises in this premium elixir. Whatever your fancy, it’s all easily within reach from your riverside log cabin, and Wolseley will not disappoint. Drive time from Cape Town is 90 minutes on the R43.