Meet me on the road to nowhere

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“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

 

There is a rolling little hamlet found at the foot of the Riviersonderend mountains, 20 km from Robertson tucked between orchards, vineyards and farm lands some two hours drive from Cape Town. Proclaimed in 1862 the town was originally named Lady Grey in honour of Eliza, the wife of Cape Governor Sir George Grey. But thanks to a bit of a same-name issue with another town in the Eastern Cape, in 1904 a beloved village pastor inspired the official gazette name change of this quint little village to his namesake, that of McGregor.

 

Hans and Mary Cook, authors of Old Buildings of the Cape described the homesteads that are spread along the tree lined roads as being some of the best preserved examples of a mid-nineteenth century townscape in the Western Cape Province, and sports nearly sixty five listed historical homesteads, the oldest being nearly 153 years. If you get a chance spend a few minutes reading through the recorded transcriptions of the oral histories of the area in the McGregor museum, they offer up some lovely insights to life in the area in the early 1900’s.

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The kind of signage you can expect from McGregor


The kind of signage you can expect from McGregor

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Hazel and the car that broke down exactly 5km outside of Robertson. I didn't get to show off my car rescue skills. I was disappointed.


Hazel and the car that broke down exactly 5km outside of Robertson. I didn't get to show off my car rescue skills. I was disappointed. 

The really splendid thing about visiting a town like McGregor is not just that it has so many visually appealing aspects to it, but it is pretty budget friendly when it comes to the different types of accommodation on offer and for a relatively small town there is surprisingly a lot to do.  Hikes are plentiful from the more famous McGregor to Greyton walk via the Bushmanskloof Pass or trails that run through the Krans Nature Reserve and Kleinberg Trail. Tributaries of the Breede River run near to the village and makes for a great rafting experience in spectacular surrounds.

 

Celebrate the small and beautiful places that this country has to offer, because in them you find the most wonderful collection of people that can often restore your faith in humanity. There is so much turmoil in the world these days that its comforting to know that there are still places out there where walls are low and community spirit is in abundance. It might sound simple and idealistic to romanticise these kinds of environments, but where you find good, well, I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with talking about it. 

 

My favourite moments came, not from the bounty of wine farms and delicious plates of goodies and nibbles that you find on pretty much every corner, but from the subtle interactions with the different people of McGregor where they allowed us a little window into their daily lives.  And this is a subtle kind of place. People will not bombard you with advertisements of what they have on offer in glossy coloured flyers or loud and brash roadside billboards. Sure there are signs on the one and only main road, but they read something along the hand painted lines of weekly lunch specials, bargain books for animal welfare and a soup of the day being listed as ‘whisky’. The Saturday village market lasts for exactly an hour, more than enough time to gather up some home made snacks, share a cup of coffee on the back of a bumper and then trot off back home, dog in tow- if that’s how you roll.      

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Edna Fourie is a very intuitive painter and has nooks and crannies of her art studio packed with pieces. She is a subtle person who doesn’t need to brag about how lovely her work is and her gallery is well worth a stop.


Edna Fourie is a very intuitive painter and has nooks and crannies of her art studio packed with pieces. She is a subtle person who doesn’t need to brag about how lovely her work is and her gallery is well worth a stop. 

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Want to be left alone in serene surrounds? Temenos retreat has snug little stone cottages hidden between what I can only describe as the kind of place that the movie (if anyone remembers, now I’m showing off my age) The Secret Garden would resemble, a fantasy garden full of unique spaces lovingly crafted over time.  In fact there seems to be quite a bit of magic in McGregor and that’s not just because of the supposed converging energy of ley lines that run though the village. There are numerous holistic healers and programs that are available for you to enjoy at leisure; from Yoga, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Reki and Pilates to therapies like herbal massage, Iridology and EFT Therapy. Pop on a smile and pull up to the local pub on an evening out and there will be no shortage of friendly faces to provide you with some entertainment for the evening. For some reason I felt the urge to sing a lot of Fleetwood Mac during my three days exploring McGregor.

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The tranquil gardens of Temenos retreat. If you are in the area stop in for a bite at their restaurant, one of the best in town in my non foodie opinion.


The tranquil gardens of Temenos retreat. If you are in the area stop in for a bite at their restaurant, one of the best in town in my non foodie opinion. 

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 Late at night myself and Hazel wandered the lamp post lit streets of the town, completely clueless as to where our beds for the night were located because we were so busy chatting away that we didn’t pay attention as we left the lodge, but it didn’t matter. We had a world of milky way stars above our heads, wine in our bellies and armed with a trusty eskom blackout approved torch we somehow located our home, but only after much wandering about flashing lights into peoples windows and gardens. Perhaps the locals thought a prowler was on the loose, but maybe that’s just my city mentality getting the better of me. That happened a lot in McGregor, constantly asking if my bags in my car would be fine, casting nervous glances up the street to make sure everything was still attached to my car in one piece. It's an unnerving habit that flares up when I am faced with a place where it is rendered totally pointless.  


They might have an actual road listed as going nowhere, but in a place this cozy and homely you revel in going nowhere, and slowly, with a glass of whisky in one hand and a jar of local olives in the other. Seriously…. I’m ever so slightly smitten; it must be all that magic in the mountains of the area. Or the olives….might be the olives.

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The Next Step Dance academy aims to see the girls of the dance group graduate High School and enter University, a Dance Academy or Theatre School in Cape Town or overseas.


The Next Step Dance academy aims to see the girls of the dance group graduate High School and enter University, a Dance Academy or Theatre School in Cape Town or overseas. 

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Take time to visit the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary whose Patron is David Kramer none the less, a permanent refuge for abused, neglected and elderly donkeys where they can live out their lives in peace and tranquility amongst their own kind. Did you know that donkeys can live till they are 50 years of age, even all the more reason to look after their well being.


Take time to visit the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary whose Patron is David Kramer none the less, a permanent refuge for abused, neglected and elderly donkeys where they can live out their lives in peace and tranquility amongst their own kind. Did you know that donkeys can live till they are 50 years of age, even all the more reason to look after their well being. 

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The olives made by Annalien at the Rhebokskraal Olyf Kombuis and Farm Stall that were my undoing.


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The olives made by Annalien at the Rhebokskraal Olyf Kombuis and Farm Stall that were my undoing. 

 Wine tasting by river boat, is there really any better way, with Viljoensdrift Winery

Thanks to McGregor Country Getaways for putting together this educational and to our lovely host Mira, who was an utter Jol. I really have not laughed so hard to the point of exhaustion in a while, the group was fantastically fun and the people, both in McGregor and on the media group, were wonderful to adventure and explore with.

 

If you are looking to find some accommodation for your next weekend out into the McGregor countryside check out the www.mcgregor-accommodation.co.za

 

Also if you want to plan for something special, be sure not to miss the McGregor Poetry festival in August 

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  • 2015-07-23 08:17:30

    Great stuff. Convinces one to spend time there.

    Reply
    • 2015-08-18 18:34:52

      About ten years ago I used to bring my son from the UK to visit his grandmother here during the hols. She lived in one of those thatched Victorian cottages in this charming village. An interesting community of artists, academics, gardeners, bohemians, entrepreneurs, artisans and trades people in a sublime landscape on the road to nowhere.

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