Our Karoo Escape to Kerneelia Kothuis
Life in the city not only means that you have to bear taxing traffic, but also that by the time the weekend rolls around, you have no energy left to explore your own backyard. Yes, I am talking about myself and I know so many other hard-working individuals who opt to Netflix and chill instead of seeking the next thrill. Well, TravelGround is here to remind you that there are gems to be found and places to be explored and one such town is De Rust ─ a town that welcomed us with the kindness of an old friend and reminded us that no matter how tired we get, the Karoo is worth every free minute we have. My colleague, Adriëtte, and I set out to explore this part of the Cape and chose the perfect cottage to do so.
The first thing we noticed about Kerneelia Kothuis is that it immediately transported us out of the city’s hustle and bustle and into a comfortable and relaxed state of mind. We arrived on a late Friday afternoon and even though Wi-Fi is provided in the cottage, we poured ourselves a glass of wine instead of grabbing our phones, and set our eyes on the Kammanassie and Swartberg Mountains in the distance ─ our television screen for the weekend. Our other entertainment consisted of spotting birds of all feathers making their way past our secluded cottage and guessing which colour the sky will fade into next. As soon as the day’s dust settled and the dusk chorus was well underway, we moved to the boma and lit the fireplace inside.
Kerneelia Kothuis is off the grid. Yes, that means this was a weekend spent in a completely autonomous cottage, cooking with gas, heating with fire and showering with water straight from the Swartberg Mountains. Celia, the farm manager, thought it best to restore this old farmworker cottage into a rustic retreat, and while the farm workers had an off season and work was scant, they helped her build this cottage with materials found only on the farm. We quickly realised that their effort created a cottage that excels in every aspect.
But don’t let its sustainability fool you into expecting anything less than a comfortable stay. Celia ensured that cooking would be easy, that showering would be effortless and that the cottage would be draped in art and class. Zet, one of the farm workers, already lit the donkey for us in the morning to make sure we had a hot shower, and wood is provided inside and outside, as well as tools to get the fire started quickly. All the tools are provided to ensure that even a city dweller would feel at home.
If you’ve ever dreamt of an organic kitchen, then preparing a meal at Kerneelia is a must ─ preparing our steak, salad and vegetables in this kitchen was a dream. The farm-style kitchen took us back to basics and we cooked our hearts out. We connected our phones with the speakers in the living room, put on some music and tucked into our meals.
The next morning we woke up bright and early to the sound of a friendly Zet whistling outside. She came to deliver our farm-style breakfast ─ scones with jam and yoghurt. With the farm butter and milk we found in our fridge, we sat outside on the stoep and feasted on the scones and coffee we prepared with the plunger.
With our tummies full and our smiles big, we made our way down to the stables to meet Celia. She was already waiting, excited to show us the farm on horseback. We rode for a few hours, exploring every corner of this beautiful farm and indulging in Celia’s tales about farm life, building an off-the-grid cottage and that one time she accidentally bought a motorcycle.
After a while, we took a break on a koppie with a view of the Karoo plains. A table and chairs appeared, drinks were poured and honey-toasted nuts and droëwors were served. It was quiet, the only thing we heard was ice clinking against the glass and the occasional whinnying in the background. I took a sip of my sweet wine and a handful of roasted nuts and officially decided: There is no way we can go back to the city.
Although we didn’t want to leave the comfort of our cottage, Adriëtte and I eventually set out to explore the town, which is about a five minutes’ drive from Kerneelia. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that, underneath this town’s laid-back exterior, there was enough to keep us busy for an entire day. From gift shopping and chatting to the locals, to olive oil tasting at De Rustica ─ we couldn’t get enough! There are too many cafes and restaurants to choose from and we ended up having a small bite to eat at every last one of them ─ the one just as friendly as the other. It’s easy to see that the town tapped into each citizen’s talent to ensure De Rust has a lot to offer any tourist.
We spent our last night on the farm reminiscing about the Karoo and Kerneelia Kothuis, and searching for the acceptance that we would have to let our, admittedly unrealistic, plan go. We made pasta, took a dip in the barrel on the stoep and slept well knowing we found a new place to call our favourite getaway spot ─ a home away from home.
All photos were taken by Adriëtte le Roux and Lisa Slippers unless otherwise specified.