Enjo Nature Farm is one of those extraordinary places, where time seemingly goes much slower than in cities, such as Cape Town. The poor gravel roads stop you from whizzing past the few sheep farms and encourage you to savour their traditional buildings and unkempt fields. The lack of cell phone reception (the nearest signal you will pick up is an hour’s drive towards Clanwilliam), internet, and TV forces you to be in the here and now, to soak up the spirit of the Cederberg.
Its setting in the Biedouw Valley is not only scenically stunning, but has a quality that only the most remote places offer – that sense of total peace, tranquillity, and solitude. Where the only sounds are purely natural – the rustling of the wind, trickling of the river, bird songs, distant baboon cries, and the sheep bleating on the hillsides. Nature’s R&R. It forces you to let go of those daily encounters, worries and stresses, and recharge your batteries with peaceful and renewed energy within hours.
The Biedouw Valley is best approached from Clanwilliam, over the beautiful and tarred Pakhuis Pass, and heading down towards Wuppertal. It is well known for its rooibos tea production and the spring flowers that turn the hillside into a colourful mosaic for a few weeks each year. During the months of August and September, the valley is covered in a blanket of pink, purple, yellow, and orange spring flowers. The winter rains provide the necessary water for the seeds of these annuals to germinate and on sunny days they create a sensory overload with an extravaganza of colours that reach far up the mountain slopes.
Enjo Nature Farm is set more or less halfway down Biedouw Valley, which makes it a perfect overnight stay during the flower season. However be warned, with just 6 cottages and a small campsite, early booking at that time of year is essential. We booked their Oak Cottage midweek in May and were the only guests for most of our stay. The cottages are rustic, but the comfortable beds, warm showers, well equipped kitchen, indoor fire place, outdoor braai, and stunning location close to the river make up for the lack of luxury.
The farm offers some beautiful and extremely well-marked and easy walks leading into the Tra Tra Mountains at the back of the farmhouse. The ascent can be a bit rocky in places, but after a short scramble the landscape opens up with 360 degree breathtaking views. The vastness of these wide open spaces, the big blue skies, and gentle pinkish colours of the Karoo make it a photographers dream at any time of the year.
A good hours gravel road drive (4×4 not essential, but useful), takes you to the Moravian mission town of Wupperthal. Hidden deep in the Cederberg Mountains at an altitude of 490 m, this isolated and quaint village calls itself “the village where time stood still”. And clearly it has. The local store is replenished by donkey cart. Wupperthal Shoes still makes its ‘vellies’ by hand. The tearoom Lekkerbekkie, located in the Leipoldt’s House, needs 24 hrs notice for anything more than coffee or tea and toasted sandwiches.
One of our highlights of the visit was the night time in the Cederberg Karoo. While our potjie bubbled away, I enjoyed a cool sauvignon blanc and watched the sun slowly set beneath the mountains of the valley. A beautiful pink hue was reflected on the opposite hillside. The peace and quiet was suddenly broken by a chorus of well-hidden frogs and the hooting of owls in the distance. Darkness happens quickly this time of year and the planets of Venus and Mars appear first in the sky. They are quickly followed by an array of stars and planets, with Scorpio dominating the early evening sky, its tail peaking just above the mountains.
Slowly but surely the Milky Way arrives in its full glory. Even the Coalsack Nebula, that strange patch of empty sky below the Southern Cross, is clearly visible with the naked eye. Several satellites move in front of the many stars orbiting earth, while random shooting stars burn out in the atmosphere.
Born and bred in Holland, where true darkness is a rare occurrence, I still feel humbled by the never ending African night sky. Even though I am trained as a scientist, the realisation of observing stars that may have died many light-years ago is mind blowing. Earth is such a tiny speck within this incomprehensibly infinite universe. It makes me feel insignificant. I recently read that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.
These remote parts of South Africa make me rather philosophical. You return home with an enhanced appreciation of the power of nature. Maybe that is because there are just a handful of people stretched across many kilometres along the Biedouw Valley and your next door neighbour lives 20 mins drive over a corrugated grid road away. Or maybe because we are not distracted by modern technology in these out of the way places. Whatever it is, the Cederberg is one of the most stunning and magical destinations in South Africa that keeps drawing me back over and over again.