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Taste the Karoo

Text and pictures: Marion Whitehead. Article from the September 2014 issue of Country Life Magazine.

The vineyards, orchards and olive groves of Route 60/62 from Worcester to Oudtshoorn promise a bounty at pit stops along the way
Pumpkins grown on the farm are turned into sweet and savoury treats at Pampoenstalletjie.Worcester District

Die Pampoenstalletjie, a few kilometres east of Worcester at the Vlakplaas turn-off must be the most photogenic stop along this route, with pumpkins large am small displayed with rustic abandon.

The pumpkin motif is carried through in the decor – check out the quilted patchwork pumpkins made by owner Hettie Viljoen – as well as the snack menu; be sure to try a pumpkin muffin with cheese and jam, together with a cup of moerkoffie or home-made ginger beer.

Apart from fresh fruit and farm veggies, among the baskets and knick-knacks you’ll find a range of biscuits, rusks, jams and quince sweets produced by Hettie and smiling sisters Sebiena Niewenhuys and Eva Mouton.

023 342 1224

At Pitkos Wines, you can buy Nuy Wines at cellar prices.A little further on, just before the turn-off to Nuy Winery, is Pitkos Farm Stall & Wine House, crammed with the most amazing variety of produce from the Nuy Valley – pop some honey, olives, grapes, curried peaches, jam and dried-fruit rolls in your basket for starters. You can also order roosterkoek with toppings such as cheese and biltong to consume at the shady picnic spot outside, followed by beskuit, filter coffee and ginger beer.

Nuy Wines are for sale at cellar prices, but you’ll have to go to the farm seven kilometres away for tastings. “We’re celebrating 50 years of our Rooi Muscadel vintages. It wins awards regularly,” says Frances Booysen, in charge of wine sales. Closed Sundays. 023 342 1534

Asthon

Platform 62 owner Leon Steenkamp tempts brandy lovers with potstill tastings. The old steam engine parked outside is a national monument.Platform 62 on the main road is big enough for several trains to park inside. Instead, there’s a CRB 13 2010 steam engine in the car park to delight avid train spotters and small boys. Browse through a hall of fascinating bric-a-brac and collectables on the way to an expansive wine, mampoer and brandy boutique, where you can taste and buy at cellar prices.

Beyond it is the farm stall area, well stocked with everything from dried fruit, honey and rusks to boereseep made by a real tannie. Patrons of The Shed coffee shop are welcomed with shot glasses of honeybush tea. Seating spills onto a lawn with a play area where fancy chickens roam. Springbok pies and kudu burgers are tops here for a taste of the Karoo. 023 615 1834 website.

Robertson

‘Trots Afrikaans’ is the sign over the door at Affie Plaas, which has mushroomed since Louis van Koppenhagen started selling apricots beside the road on the western edge of Robertson. You know you’ve arrived when you see a row of tubby straw people guarding the car park – pa, ma and kleintjies. These days, Louis does very little farming, but provides an outlet for about 50 farmers and craftspeople from the district. The farm stall’s fresh farm bread made with stoneground flour, plus its plump pies and melktert remain firm favourites, but you can stock up on everything from waterblommetjies and juicy yellow cling peaches to swanky salad splashes and homely rusks, pickles and jams.

Affie Plaas owner Louis van Koppenhagen started off selling apricots beside the road and his farm stall is now a popular destination. The cutesy straw-bale family stand guard in the car park at Affie Plaas.

At De Oude Kombuis next door, there’s a play area for the kids, while parents can watch them from the back stoep. Closed Saturdays. 023-626-4567

Montagu

Die Kloof is one of the most family friendly pit stops on Route 62.Die Kloof Padstal is one of the most family-friendly spots on the route, thanks to owner Astrid Bridger, who has made sure it’s a place her own kids enjoy. Here, on the western side of Montagu, you can chill under the trees in the back garden on the banks of the Keisie River with a view of Bloupunt Peak, while the kids cavort on the jungle gym and whizz about on a push-scooter track.

Rozaane London presents a delicious apple cake, one of the Dutch specialities on the menu.Hollanders Eric and Tineke Zilverentant bought the padstal in 1999 when it was a tiny shop with an honesty box, where fruit farmers sold their surplus. They expanded the operation and, since daughter Astrid took over from them, she’s added her own touches, such as mellow live music in the garden on the weekends. She’s retained their Dutch specialities on the varied menu, such as sweet and savoury pancakes and the ever-popular apple cake.

“We use cream and butter, no substitutes,” says Astrid of their tasty food.

023 614 2209

Tradouw Heights

The arresting view of the Langeberg mountains from Akkerboom Trading Post. At Akkerboom the relaxed vibe invites visitors to linger on the stoep.

Sitting on Tradouw Pass, 38 kilometres beyond Montagu, the views of the Langeberg mountains are so good from Akkerboom Trading Post that people drive out just to relax on the stoep and drink it all in. Informal tastings of the farm’s own Star Hill Wines, with manager Thelanie Alberts amid striking paintings by local artists, add to the laid-back ambience.

In season, the fruit on the shelves comes straight from the packing shed across the road, so you know the apples and pears are really fresh. Some of them make their way into bottles of chutney, jam and yummy apple sauce, which jostle for space on the shelves with local olive oil and golden honey. Favourite dishes on the menu of light meals are a tasty fish soup and the chicken schnitzel. 028 572 1186 Email Website

Barrydale

Ronnie's friends hoped to get him into hot water when they tampered with his sign; instead they made him famous. Diesel & Creme with its retro American diner-style decor is the new kid on the block in Barrydale.

There’s an overwhelming array of choice as Route 62 cuts through this friendly dorp, so choose your stop according to what kind of food you crave. First up is newcomer Diesel & Crème, an American-style diner with recycled vintage decor, where you can find milkshakes, waffles dripping with cream, and tall burgers.

028 572 1008, EmailWebsite

The Country Pumpkin was the first pit stop on Barrydale's busy Route 62 strip. Terri Williams, owner of The Jam Tarts, jokes she's the queen of tarts in Barrydale.The Country Pumpkin is an old favourite with bikers, who tuck into burgers on the deck. The service is friendly and the potpies memorable. The farm stall section stocks local olive products, jams and wines.  028 572 1019

A Place in Time opposite rustles up a good springbok potjie as well as wood-fired pizzas. 028 572 1393 Email, Website.

The Jam Tarts tapas is always popular and of course you have to try one of their sweet or savoury tarts.  028 572 1173 Email.

Ladismith

A freshly picked garden salad on the stoep at Algerynskraal Coffee Shop is a great way to break a journey. Algerynskraal Coffee Shop and Farm Stall is a great new stop at an organic jojoba farm 19 kilometres west of Ladismith. It opened early in 2014 after Arnold Schoeman did a beautiful job restoring a decrepit farmhouse. His wife Antoinette has filled it with gifts, arts and crafts, plants, grape juice, delicious home bakes, farm bread, preserves, olives and more.

Build your own breakfast from a list of ingredients, or indulge in ouma’s melktert. Light meals, such as quiche and savoury pancakes come with salad ingredients picked mostly in the garden outside. You’ll need to book for the Sunday lunch special. Algerynskraal has a wheelchair-friendly toilet and access ramp.

028 551 2463 or 082 462 0669

The Parmalat Shop in the main road of Ladismith is a favourite for stocking up on cut-price cheese (Brie, Camembert and feta as well as Gouda and Cheddar), yoghurt, ice cream and juice. Their milk bar serves yoghurt shakes that can be enjoyed in a garden area with swings for the kids. Closed Sundays.

028 551 1030 or the CEO office 021 809 1400

Calitzdorp

Elnatan Farm Stall is part of a successful community project to alleviate unemployment in Calitzdorp.Elnatan Farm Stall and Calitzdorp Fruit, at the top of the hill before you drive down to this charming Karoo dorp, is crammed full of tangy jams, marmalades, jellies, preserves and a variety of locally grown fruit dried in the little factory at the back, using solar technology and the least amount of preservatives possible.

“Elnatan means God’s gift,” says Ignatius Coetzee of this community project established to alleviate unemployment in the area. Fresh fruit available in season includes grapes and quinces. You can also buy your own solar cooker here if you want to prepare delicious slow-cooked roasts and bakes using green technology.

044 213 3859 Email

Oudtshoorn District

A windmill signals Karoo delights at Smits Winkel outside Oudtshoorn.The kids aren’t going to like this, but there are no more donkey rides at Smits Winkel, 28 kilometres west of Oudtshoorn – the donkey is too busy looking after sheep in the veld. But there are still swings, slides, geese and ducks to amuse them, plus enough kudu pies and thick roosterkoek stuffed with cheese, jam, or whatever to keep them from whining about hunger pangs for a good few kilometres.

After a meal on the stoep – the three-course Sunday lunch is particularly good value – browse the crafts and baked-goods section for some great finds. The crocheted, knitted and sewn items on sale are part of a project to provide an income for enterprising local women. Prolong your taste of the Karoo by taking home a farm chicken from the fridge, as well as warm blikbrood, olive oil, dried fruit, preserves, biltong pâté and some local wines. 044 213 3801 or 082 411 9691.

Ladismith and Calitzdorp is part of the Open Africa Kanna Biodiversity Route. Open Africa is a social enterprise that works with small businesses to establish rural tourism routes that offer travellers authentic experiences, while generating income and jobs for local people. 

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