Local Getaway

De Vlugt is a breath of fresh air: 6 things to do in this Western Cape town

15 December 2019 - 00:00 By Nick Yell
Raimund Petsch enjoys the views from Spitskop en route to De Vlugt.
Raimund Petsch enjoys the views from Spitskop en route to De Vlugt.
Image: Nick Yell

This off-the-radar village, 55km north of Knysna, is the ideal breakaway from the Garden Route's holiday hordes.

Here are six things to do when you get there:

1. DRIVE THE REMAINDER OF THE PRINCE ALFRED PASS

To get to De Vlugt, you need to drive about half of this spectacular pass; but after sampling some of the hamlet's offerings you may as well complete the journey to Avontuur (19km) and beyond through the Gwarna Mountains to Uniondale (10km). If you don't want to return the same way, head west from Uniondale (N9) and take the dirt track turn-off to De Vlugt (P1660) after 24km.

If you'd rather be driven in and out and catered for in De Vlugt, call Heinz Grossklaus on 071-576-8336 or e-mail h@knysnaklaus.co.za

2. PLAASKIND PADSTAL

Welcoming owner Adri van Rooyen makes mean moer koffie as well as light meals, breakfast and cakes, all of which can be enjoyed in the ample shade of an old ficus tree. You'll also find a gift shop and an eclectic range of bric-a-brac plus some local produce including preserves and goat's cheese. In time to come, she will also be offering overnight accommodation in Thomas Bain's old house.

3. PIETERSRIVIER NATURE RESERVE

Just 5km out of De Vlugt you'll discover a pristine nature reserve well worth visiting. Owner and Cape Nature steward Katot (Billy-can) Meyer is a conservation legend in these parts and if you're lucky enough to meet him you'll more than likely be grilled about how you conduct yourself in nature. Be warned, no one passes this test, but you may well bust a gut laughing by the time he's finished quizzing you.

Katot Meyer of Pietersrivier Nature Reserve has erected several cryptic, humorous signboards.
Katot Meyer of Pietersrivier Nature Reserve has erected several cryptic, humorous signboards.
Image: Nick Yell

For R50 per person, day visitors can picnic at the reserve, swim and canoe in the dam, and hike some of the trails. Day visitors can collect the gate key from Die Skoolhuisie (see below) but if you'd like to camp overnight, contact Meyer on 082-083-9967 or visit pnaturereserve.co.za

4. DIE SKOOLHUISIE

Hospitality and conservation stalwarts John Allen and Ursula Peter offer a light lunch or braai by appointment for R70pp and dinner for R100pp, but you need to bring your own drinks. They normally have De Vlugt's "finest honey" for sale but the recent drought and past fires have put paid to that this year.

Accommodation (R350 per person) is available in the quaint old schoolhouse. It doesn't have electricity, but gas, solar power and donkey water heaters will make sure you are comfortable in this amazing chill-out spot with its own stream-fed pool. Call Ursula on 072-197-3354 or e-mail ursulapeter55@gmail.com.

5. MOUNTAIN BIKE OR WALK TO DIE POORT

Visiting this alien-vegetation-cleared poort (in the direction of Avontuur) and its waterfall will reward with sightings of indigenous flowers, shrubs and trees, and maybe even klipspringers on the cliff tops.

6. ANGIE'S G-SPOT

This quirky bar and eatery close to the banks of the Keurbooms River is run by laidback couple Harold and Angie Beaumont. It's popular with bikers, backpackers and anyone with a little wanderlust in their souls and stardust in their eyes.

Go there for an ice-cold drink or to sample one of their dishes of the day. Be sure to ask Harold how the name came about and leave with an Angie's G-Spot sticker, which proudly proclaims you've been there and found it. 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Apparently first known as Edmonton when pass builder extraordinaire Thomas Bain and his family lived there in the 1860s, the village later adopted its current name, De Vlugt. While no records seem to exist as to the name's origin, its Dutch meaning perhaps best translates as "The Escape", a fitting moniker.
  • It took Bain four years to build the pass. By the time he left, the hamlet included a number of cottages and a small schoolhouse.
  • But four floods between 1875 and 1934 washed away much of the topsoil and the farmers started moving away in the early 1960s.
  • Ironically, the hamlet's current 50 or so permanent residents are battling drought conditions and a number of them are actively involved in clearing alien vegetation to keep both the Keurbooms and Fuchs rivers flowing.
  • But most of the time you'll find them involved in the hospitality business, or just enjoying their safe and beautiful environment.

PLAN YOUR TRIP

The most sedan-friendly route to the Prince Alfred Pass (R339) is the old Paardekop ox-wagon route — now the R340 from Plett. It can be accessed via the Wittedrif dirt track (about 5km before Plett - Knysna side) or at its starting point 5km out of Plett on the way to the Crags.

For those with SUVs and 4x4s, the Knysna entry point to the pass (take the R339 about 4km east of Knysna) will allow you to stop in at the big tree, pictured, and picnic sites. Best of all you'll be able to drive up Spitskop and behold a view for forever.