The history of Riebeek Kasteel in the Swartland goes back a long, long way, as stone-age tools and KhoiSan art found in the mountains around it show. But today it’s a much-loved weekend getaway for Capetonians. ‘We’ve realised tourism is the way forward for the Swartland,’ says local history aficionado Chris Murphy. Here’s my pick of 12 things to do in and around Riebeek Kasteel.
If you’re in the mood for more wine, go to Allesverloren, the oldest wine farm in the Riebeek valley, and famous for its port.
2. Olive tasting
You can try a range of five different olive oils, from light/delicate (much loved by South Africans and Australians) to Coratina intense, which is the choice of serious tasters in the Mediterranean. Co-owner Susan Aird told me they process about 1.5 tons of olives a day from private producers so it’s a really small operation. ‘Some others can do that in an hour.’
3. Jan Smuts birthplace
Both the Pieter de Cruythoff and Carl Thunberg routes on the Kasteelberg cross private land and give good views of the surrounding farmland and Table Mountain in the distance. They were closed when we were there, needing maintenance, but hopefully they’ll be open again when you visit. Check at the tourism office, where you can also get maps and a permit for the hiking trails.
5. Royal Hotel
6. Short Street
7. Beans About Coffee
After you enjoy your blend of the day, you can buy some beans, most of them at around R300/kg. ‘The best place to grow coffee is at altitude and with humidity, so Jamaican Blue Mountain is now considered the best in the world but it sells for R3000/kg,’ said Kelston. For obvious reasons, Beans About Coffee doesn’t stock it.
8. MTB biking
You can either just bike around the village to explore at your own pace or tackle one of the bike trails: the Riebeek Kasteel farm road trail or the Riebeek West farm road trail. Both give you views of vineyards, wheatfields and the Kasteelberg. Get more info and ask at the tourism office in Plein Street on the town square for a brochure, maps and permit.
9. Old Oak Manor and Cafe Felix
A 150-year-old oak tree provides shade in the courtyard between the house and Cafe Felix. It’s a lovely place to chill and dream of French pavement cafes. We had a delicious dinner (think slow-roasted lamb or pork belly) in the conservatory one quiet Thursday night. Our waitress said they had a curry night on Wednesdays and pizza night on Fridays that were much busier. We came to a beautiful wedding reception at Cafe Felix a few years back and the whole of Riebeek Kasteel was packed. If you can, try to visit during the week when it’s calmer.
10. Game drive at Bartholomeus Klip
A devastating fire in the nature reserve in 2012 killed about 300 geometric tortoises, one of the world’s rarest reptiles. An exclusion plot was set up for the survivors, electrified to protect them from crows, feral pigs and baboons. Hatchlings are monitored in a separate camp. ‘They’re about the size of a R5 coin when they’re born,’ said Werner. The survival rate here is about 20 a year so it will take a long time to replace the 300 lost in the fire. They’re fully grown at about 6-7 years and live to about 30.
Your guide will point out plants as well as animals. The nature reserve consists of fynbos and renosterveld and has 10 red data plant species, four of them endemics. It was declared a natural heritage site in 1988.
Visit the farm to buy Goedgedacht olive oil (you can also find it at Woolies and Pick n Pay), or stay over – it’s popular for weddings and retreats. An 84km Tour de Goedgedacht to Franschoek fun ride is being planned for 2017.
12. Stay over
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