It is, in my opinion, kind of impossible – especially if you’re a first language Afrikaans speaking South African like myself – to visit Knysna and not have Dalene Matthee’s novel, ‘Circles in the Forest’ come to mind. It is just one of those stories where the characters are so real and the setting so vivid, that you’ve walked beneath the ferns of the enchanted forest many a time. Even when, in actual fact, you have never physically been before.
Despite these fantasies, Knysna somehow never really stood at the top of my South African bucket list. The country is, truly, too much like a candy store filled to the brim with tempting treats for tourists and locals alike. Even the most discerning a traveller will inevitably be spoilt for choice.
When I now think of Knysna, after finally visiting for the first time, I cannot help but agree with old Anna Freud: The most beautiful thing is precisely the one that comes unexpectedly.
In this particular case it disguised itself in a group of women I treasure deeply who suggested we make use of Airlink – a local affordable airline – to get out for a weekend, to some place amazing, with a spa and a pool and a wine list and a decent menu … without arriving at the destination (or returning home for that matter) exhausted from hours of driving.
The destination dice fell on Knysna’s Turbine Hotel and honestly, almost a week after our return, I catch myself daydreaming about our weekend there. It was as if, to quote from the infamous book, “as if time had set” for three days and nothing – beside exactly what we came for – could possibly ever matter.
If you and your girls are in the market for a weekend of spoils, allow me to give you my top ten reasons to consider KNYSNA, named so appropriately by the KhoiKhoi as ‘the place of many ferns’, as the perfect destination …
1. Airlink flies direct
I’ve never not managed to finish at least two glasses of wine on a local flight, so this was a first for me. The flight from Cape Town to George felt like the shortest 40mins of my life. Pictured below is my friend Franki Black. I know. It’s totally unfair. She even looks hot in photographs where she rose before the sun.
When I still with Drew, he would constantly remind me, just in case I forgot, and maybe because he loved thinking about it, that the greenest building is indeed, the building that has already been built. The Turbine, formerly a power station, is any Preservation-architect-type’s
When you’re walking into a normal factory, you don’t look at the turbines and the machinery, and you don’t see how it is actually a beautiful piece of art. You might even see it as something that is simply doing its job.
In the case of the Turbine, everything that formed part of the factory back then, got incorporated into the hotel in such a way today – from pressure gauges at reception to room numbers – that the smallest features and details, every bolt and every nut, toyed with my imagination in such a way that I it made total sense for things to belong and not belong, here and now, at the very same time.
The interior mirrored the system of a now forgotten piping, attempting,
Although surrounded by some pretty dull, hugely unimaginative architecture (in my opinion), the Turbine stands real and regal.
We need more of these examples to inspire heritage conservation in South Africans, and to remind us that we actually are blessed with a huge well of cultural and historic inspiration to draw from.
Always remember: Life is like a Curry. What you do today, might burn your arse tomorrow.
3. Knysna Lagoon, Oh Knysna heads …
I don’t actually feel like writing about this now. I just know I’m going to go through the same withdrawal symptoms all over again, but … seeing as I’m half way at it … Let’s indulge shall we?
Take the Turbine Hotel up on their offer for a cruise. And you should, if you’re a foreword thinking person, time it for sunset. I can only think of two reasons why someone would not love it: the person doesn’t like sipping bubbly on on sunset cruises or the person happens to hate excellent finger food with views.
It’s safe to say I’ll forever suffer from Knysna Heads- withdrawals…
4. A BIKING PARADISE
If ever I visited a town in South Africa where I cycled and thoroughly enjoyed it, it would be in Knysna. There are hills for those who dream about them, but there are also flat paths along wetlands for those of you more similar to (chilled out) me.
Bikes can be rented from the Turbine Waterclub, but are made available free of charge to Turbine’s Guests.
5. WALK YOUR OWN CIRCLES IN THE FOREST
From 30min routes to 7 day excursions, there is a path in the forest for everyone.
We opted for something in-between and chose the 9km ‘Circles in a Forest Trail’ winding through the heart of South Africa’s largest indigenous forest filled with sturdy giant yellowwood and ironwood trees, tree ferns that rise to three metres, hoopoes, Knysna loeries, bush pigs and the odd nocturnal porcupine.
And there I was thinking my imaginative wanderings while reading the book was incredible! This morning spent in the forest was hands-down one of the most beautiful experiences of my life …
6. Local Eateries
Any respectable person walking 9km’s must try Totties Farm Kitchen’s lunches. I’m not sure if admitting to not being able to finish my (gigantic burger) is a good or a bad thing, but I’ll leave you with the undisputed fact that I have a very healthy appetite and that the burger was the biggest I’ve ever been served outside the United States of Burger Kings.
I think its safe to say, judging from my watering mouth just posting these pictures of my friend’s meals, that no one left this little gem of an institution hungry.
The Turbine boasts with an Amani Spa branch and I did, as always, opt for a signature treatment, the KURHULA BODY RITUAL. A full body massage of organic coconut oil is followed by a mini facial. I’ll be writing more about this specific signature treatment soon.
8. A VERY, VERY DECENT WINE LIST AND MENU
What on earth would a girl’s weekend be without food and wine? Rest assured: you’ll be spoilt for choice on every front. I can attest to the chef’s steak preparing abilities and warn those of you who also try to avoid starch, to rather not join for breakfast as the croissants are to die for and are bound to get the better of you.
9. Service and Hosts
Service can make or break your holiday experience. I’m giving the Turbine staff no less than gold (and I’m super difficult to please). If this is just how people generally are in the Garden Route, do let me know, I’m not missing out on another minute of it!
10. There’s no place like home
… especially when it only takes 40 minutes, you don’t need to trek across the continent to get back to it and while you’re at it there are views for days. And days. And days.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.
Words and pictures © DARÉLL LOURENS
I travelled courtesy of Turbine Hotel & Spa and Airlink
Opinions expressed are my own.