Business becomes pleasure at this luxurious nirvana in the Cederberg
Bobby Jordan has a legit reason to pack up his family and head off to a chalet at Cederberg Park — where he steals a moment of leisure, too
There is a cleft in a rock that hugs the Kromrivier where people once listened to music flowing beneath their feet. A crossing point, visible from afar, was once known for a fluttering oak tree that now lies burnt and bowed across the water. The path that led there is gone, too, shrugged off like a thread of yesterday by a valley with its green jacket zipped into the sky.
We call it the snuggle groove, this cleft just wide enough to admit one smallish body — two at a push. If you pile kids on top of adults, you can get four in there, for a short while. Two minutes in the snuggle groove and you are at peace with the world, factory settings restored, batteries recharged and ready to rumble.
If it was any less wonderful, this nirvana in the central Cederberg, I would keep the secret to myself. But what with Covid-19, I can no longer in good conscience hoard the few treasures I have found. As we fall into a cleft in our human timeline, I feel a need to invite you to give it a try while you still can.
I only ask that you shift out of the way if ever I should find you lying there, in my spot.
RULES IS RULES
I gear down into the Kromrivier valley via the small pass that separates a multi-generation family farm from the normal world of payslips and pandemics. It is May twenty-something and we are escaping lockdown level three-and-two-thirds, heading to the snuggle groove in the midst of a prohibition on non-essential travel.
We would have a hard time, my wife and I, at a roadblock, explaining the nature of our essential-service assignment to the Nieuwoudt farm with two small kids in tow, not to mention the guitar and board game variety pack.
But rules is rules and we have a legitimate reason — other than staying sane — to pick up our chalet key at reception, where we are greeted by a tub of hand sanitiser and a Covid-19 info sheet on the locked front door. No surprise there: we had been warned not to expect the usual warm welcome due to social-distancing protocols.
Minutes later we are inside a chalet I'd hoped never to see — a spanking new, screed-floor, double-bathroom, designer larnie lodge with skylights, microwave and the biggest fireplace I've ever seen.
Confession: I have been boycotting Kromrivier since I heard about these new chalets and their princely comforts, the heaters, hair-dryers and unbelieva-views from a king-size bed. The original bungalows — the first one built a century ago for Mountain Club visitors — were a kind of spiritual home, their storied walls and historic ceilings a rare constant in my mostly nonsensical life. How dare the Nieuwoudts upgrade my identity?
But the allure of the snuggle groove proved too great and so, after almost half a century of roughing it, I discover my identity fits just fine with puff pillows and upmarket kitchenware. In fact, half an hour with my feet up on the stoep of the new chalet, looking at the witchy hat skyline, is enough to forget all about those poky old bungalow relics. By day three we had gentrified to the point where we actually cooked on the new chalet's space-age mobile electric stove.
UNDER THE CEDERBERG SPELL
Every window frames a different aspect of Kromrivier magic: the distant peaks; the smaller rock pedestals, perfect for sundowners and toddler adventuring; a restio-fringed path to a lily-specked dam.
From the main bedroom, it is even possible, unavoidable really, to fall asleep with your thoughts trickling down a stream right outside the window, or rustling along to the riverine melody rising up all around.
At night the moon pours through the skylights, and the starry canopy quickly dissolves all lingering anxieties about the state of the world.
Rather than break the Cederberg spell the new chalets seem to reinforce it, hunkering into the landscape and paying due deference with an organic interior style and décor.
I should mention that Kromrivier — now called Cederberg Park, if you please — also has a new airy restaurant, conference venue and luxury camping to add to its previous horse-riding and farmyard-petting attractions. No visit is complete without a sip of Nieu-Brew, the farm's own craft beer, or their wine, best enjoyed in the company of a Nieuwoudt if you're lucky enough to spot one, though that may still be a few lockdown levels away.
And so to the snuggle groove, trooping barefoot along a sandy path on a crystalline winter's day. The water, the old tree, the rock, and the deep earth-download are just the same, as we lock down for a most essential service. Our lives turn another corner in the Krom, driven by the current.
We glisten and are gone.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, IF YOU GO
What to bring: The documents that prove your overnighting is allowed under the coronavirus travel restrictions. Jackets and jerseys in winter (it can snow). Walking shoes.
What to expect: Wifi. Takeaway food and drink items are available on request from reception (delivered). The restaurant is closed.
What not to expect: Television screens.
Cost: R750 per night (two people sharing) or R900 (four people) in a cottage. R2,400 pn (four sharing) or R3,000 pn (six people) in a luxury chalet.