An escape to the Koue Bokkeveld: -5ºC of pure bliss

I am ashamed to admit that, like most of you, I did not know where the Koue Bokkeveld is. Lucky for me that changed a few weeks ago. About two and a half hours drive from Cape Town, just north of Ceres, lies this vast plateau of farmland. I do have to warn you though, once you’ve been there you often get the itch to trade your plasma tv for a bonfire under the stars.

We took the road less travelled, via Slanghoek, and I could instantly see the change in scenery as we went up Mitchell’s Pass. Here we traded the winelands for the idyllic landscapes of the Witteberg Nature Reserve. We went straight through Ceres and were slowly approaching the Koue Bokkeveld (this is the part where you crank up the Xavier Rudd and leave the strain of the past week behind).

We drove through what seemed like the only street in Prince Alfred Hamlet – a town so small that if you blink, you might just miss it – and on to the Gydo Pass. When we reached the top at 1050 m above sea level, my friend greeted me with a “Welcome to the Bokkeveld!”. I thought she was joking, I mean, surely we still needed to go down the other end of the pass? Turns out, our destination was a place called Op-die-Berg (translated to On the Mountain), and there it was.

Surrounded by the peaks of the Swartruggens to the east and the great Cederberg to the north, the name did not prepare me for the majestic mountain scapes I was about the witness. I can, however, confirm it thoroughly lives up to the “Koue” part. After all, the Matroosberg reserve is often covered with picturesque snow during the winter, which makes it a popular off-season attraction. But it turns out there is a lot more to the Bokkeveld than white peaks and sweet fruits in the summer.

Even though we stayed on a friend’s farm for the weekend, there’s no shortage of guest accommodation in the area. We went for a visit at the Boplaas Estate, a farm renowned for their 4 star guesthouse, warm welcomes, and rich history. Apart from being the oldest family business in South Africa, Boplaas was also home to the famous, late Afrikaans poet, Boerneef. You can visit this national monument by appointment to learn more about his work and the Van der Merwe history.

The area also boasts numerous camping spots like Suikerbossie and the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve, although I would recommend this only for the warmer months of summer. The latter offers unique tours to caves with ancient rock art and many more adventures.

If you are looking for a unique getaway, the undisturbed surrounds of the Koue Bokkeveld is the ideal spot to do some soul searching. With their own version of Table Mountain and the Cederberg just a stone’s throw away, be prepared to be fully consumed by nature itself.

If you are planning a trip to the Bokkeveld, here are  a few activities to include in your weekend (if you aren’t planning a trip yet, now is a good time to start).

What to do in the Koue Bokkeveld:

Hiking to the top of “Table Mountain”

Make sure to leave space in your bag for your hiking boots. In the summer, an early morning excursion to the top of Table Mountain (a smaller, much more peaceful version of its namesake in Cape Town) is a must. On your way up you will see the Karoo vegetation making way for mountain fynbos. And when you get to the top, the view is enchanting.

Matroosberg 4×4 trail

For those who love a challenge, the Matroosberg 4×4 trail will lead you to the highest point in the Boland. This trail stretches for 30km and will take you an average of six hours to complete. If you prefer a slightly less adventurous day trip, they also have a 4×2 route leading to rock pools where you can spend the day swimming and basking in the sun.

Cherry Picking

You simply cannot visit the Koue Bokkeveld and not experience the delicious fruit it produces. Klondyke cherry farm lets you pick your own cherries from the orchards and you can spend the rest of your day there having a picnic or a braai with family and friends. Bear in mind that the cherries are seasonal and not available all-year-round.

Tankwa Padstal

As if homemade ginger beer and a freshly prepared meal isn’t enough reason to visit the farm stall situated on the R355, they boast a fully operational shop that sells all things vintage. Being in the middle of nothing and nowhere, this is a pleasant surprise to stumble upon. Sip on a pink G&T at the bar, or find out what exactly their special drink called a Skaap Tjoppie consists of.

Wildflowers

If it so happens that you are planning your trip around the end of August and early September, you’re in for a real treat when the wildflowers are in full bloom. Make sure your camera’s battery is fully charged, you definitely want to capture this.

Snow

This year the Koue Bokkeveld once again bragged with a spectacular show during the winter. Layer on those jackets and experience snow at its best (in the Western Cape at least). Old Brown Sherry is a must, although you should leave yours at home and rather make a stop at the drive-through liquor store in Op-Die-Berg. Now there is something you don’t get to see very often!

(Photos provided by Kyla Kruger and Jana van der Merwe)

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