With all the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s sometimes difficult to catch your breath when it seems the city has swallowed you whole. Even the city’s starless night sky offers no escape to worlds beyond. But not in Sutherland.
So every now and then, the sudden urge to pack your bags and flee the city creeps in, and it’s almost impossible to resist.
The time has come when this urge can no longer be fought. The bags are packed and the tank is full.
Just under four hours away from Cape Town, in the heart of the western Roggeveld Mountains in the Karoo, lies the hidden treasure of a true country escape.
Almost everyone knows that there are three things Sutherland is known for: snowy winters, a star-spangled night sky, and being home to the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) – the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere.
Like those who had tread across Sutherland so many years ago and wove the wisdom of planets and stars into the rhythm of their lives, the great minds at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) spend their days in awe of the universe beyond.
Through its advanced technology, SALT provides a lens into deep space. It offers an opportunity to study the births and deaths of stars and planets, discover distant galaxies, and record the age and scale of the universe and all it encompasses billions of light years away.
When you find yourself in Sutherland and you begin craving something wholesome and sweet, stop by The Blue Moon restaurant for a good ole’ traditional Afrikaans melkkos. Milk, flour, butter, a pinch of salt, and cinnamon. A soul-warming dish made from the simplest of ingredients, served by the most charming waiter.
After marvelling at the wonders of the universe with a tour of SALT and filling your tummy, it’s time to find a place to sleep.
A quick 15 minutes outside Sutherland, you stumble across the main gate of Cape Country Route’s newest member, Rogge Cloof Private Nature Reserve – “Home to the Greatest Heavens on Earth”.
Accommodation options are situated 12 kilometres from the main entrance. Perhaps it’s the remoteness, the vastness of its expansive plains, or the quaint beauty of the reserve peeking beyond the horizon.
Whatever it is, you can almost feel the hustle and bustle of the city melt away as you drive along the dirt trail towards the eco-village. With each bump and bokkie you encounter, serenity takes over.
Pro tip: For an ideal driving experience, you may wish to consider trading in for a Double Cab Ford Ranger Stormtrak. Ford wasn’t kidding when it said it’s bringing luxury to the fore, no matter the terrain.
Self-catering accommodation comprises a number of different cottages, each one lovelier than the last.
For solo travellers and couples, Rogge Cloof offers its unique and cosy Heike’s Cottage and eight luxurious open-plan Orion Suites. It’s inclusive, fully catered, and runs entirely on the reserve’s own solar power.
Each Orion suite is equipped with complimentary hot water bottles, a fireplace, and a mini coffee station to keep you toasty during the nights. A king-size bed, lounge area, and patio all overlook the valley. Just like that, you thank the universe for urging you to pack your bags and flee.
When you eventually peel yourself away after getting lost in the view of the valley and beyond. It’s time to indulge in Nature’s goodness.
In the Rittersaal, an authentically restored historic farmhouse dating back to the late 1700s.
There’s no a-la-carte restaurant, but Chef Paul Nienaber will treat you to gourmet dishes using ingredients fresh from the greenhouse. All meals are based flexibly on your schedule and your dietary requirements.
Conveniently nearby, the bar and lounge area overlooks an outdoor fire pit and part of a growing vineyard that will soon bear grapes ready for harvesting.
Pro-tip: Leave some extra space in the boot. You’ll want to take home a wine bottle or six after tasting it. One might say it’s sinful to leave the reserve without having had a Rogge Cloof wine-tasting experience. Their in-house brand offers an opulent selection of six wines, Cape-to-Cairo’s Timbavati Chardonnay and Letaba Pinot Noir as well as a bottle of Emineo Malbec.
Being slightly higher than the surrounding Sutherland area, combined with the extraordinary clarity of the Karoo’s cloudless night skies is what makes Rogge Cloof the ideal destination for stargazing.
Facilitated by the knowledgeable Head Guide, Cara Coffee, and her trusty telescope, meet Orion the Hunter, count the number of belts on Jupiter, and distinguish the colours of a nebula. All while taking in the magnificent spectrum of the milky way.
Suddenly, the claustrophobia vanishes and you can breathe again.
To view the night sky unpolluted by the city lights we’ve grown so accustomed to is an experience like none other. It’s tranquil, it’s beautiful, and it’s simply a car ride from Cape Town.
A lesser-known Sutherland gem lies in the plains of the reserve. A three-hour guided hike will take you to where South African poet, N.P. van Wyk Louw and his brothers spent their childhood days. The spot is now aptly known as Poet’s Cave.
Once you settle inside the cave, junior guide, Heindre Gericke, will grace you with a beautiful recitation of one of N.P. van Wyk Louw’s Afrikaans poems (fear not, he recites the English translation too).
Apart from soaking in the tranquil remoteness surrounding the reserve, there are several other activities to dip your toes into:
- Game viewing (Rogge Cloof has approximately 80 enclosed springboks within the eco-village, with countless more roaming the reserve)
- Cheetah tracking
- Salpeterkop volcano guided hike
- Nature drive and fossil field outings
- History drive and walk
- Karoo farm-dam swimming
This urge to flee the city is exactly Cape County Routes (CCR) South Africa caters to.
With a vision to promote the splendours of our home, CCR offers adventure, tranquillity, and pleasure with its collection of establishments along the historic, scenic routes between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
Rogge Cloof is one of over twenty 4 and 5-star establishments belonging to CCR’s collection.
- Location: R354, Sutherland
- Bookings: roggecloof.com
- Instagram: @roggecloofreserve
Cape Town staycation guide to celebrate tourism’s grand return
Picture: Rogge Cloof / Website