One family day out in the Namib desert saw us reach the red dunes for a day of dune boarding. Sun shining down, clear blue skies, vibrant red dunes and a whole lotta good company was the order of the day. The best part of being a desert baby is the bakkie that would pick you up and take you back to the top of the 300-foot dune once you’d slid down.
On this day, my Dad’s double cab was particularly full. Packed with chairs and cooler boxes and feast items for the late afternoon braai along the Orange River we had planned. Having slid down the dune, my brother and I were waiting for our “bakkie funicular” to take us to the top again.
As the deep, powerful purr of the gears carved the way up the dune, we suddenly hit a bump. I recall the sound of my brother double-tapping the roof of the bakkie, indicating an urgent stop, as I opened my eyes to see my Dad’s face sticking out the window to see what the commotion was about.
There I was, on my knees, in the warm, loose sand having somersaulted off the back of the bakkie and landing, unscathed, on the dune. (I should possibly mention I had colours in gymnastics so my fall was well executed.) That was the height of a bumpy ride, but it was paradise compared to the route up Vondeling‘s mountain “road”! Washed our vineyards, boulder-strewn pathways, overgrown fynbos and 30-degree inclines were the order of the day as farm-owner and adventurer, Julian, gathered us all for a trip of a lifetime.
Shoving Max in the middle, due to her hip surgery requiring her leg to sit out straight, piling AJ, Dean and Sir Winston into the back, Dan and Tracey sandwiching Max in and me in the front with my gimble out the window – absolutely none of us could predict the absolutely incredible and hilarious adventure that was about to ensue!
Having taken a walk on the farm earlier in the morning, we knew there would be some beautiful vistas, but none so incredible as the mountain top at Vondeling. With Table Mountain peeking out across the mist, lush green “patchwork” valleys with farm dams reflecting the silver shimmer of the sky, a troop of baboons running away from the grumble of the landy, brown mountains at equal eye level to our altitude, light pink king proteas and boulder outcrops sheltering us – this was absolutely one of the best experiences in our blogging adventure to date.
Weekends at Vondeling
Having arrived on Friday afternoon, AJ begun his routine of taking photographs while I popped back down the road to join the team for a spot of Friday wine tasting. Hosted and educated by Mark, the winemaker, it was an excellent way to shake off the city and indulge in some high-quality wines as the sunset behind the mountains.
Friday night’s festivities continued with more wine, a broodjie (fire sandwich) braai for Shabat (half of the team was Jewish), the most delicious carrot cake and many laughs around the lounge’s cozy fireplace.
Saturday began with bacon and eggs and a walk around the farm’s vineyards. The colours of autumn softening the hills of a usually extremely hot area that is Paarl. Near the end of the tour, the offer to escape should an extra few kilometers be too much saw me exit the group with my gimbal in hand and “me time” underway. The reflections of the dam were mirror-like before ducks squawked their way onto the water.
What’s For Lunch?
“Why not braai now? The winter sun is keeping us thawed in the cold winter month, the sun will be setting early, let’s make life easier and just prep everything we want to eat for late lunch and dinner now!” And so we did. A few of the gals hopped into the pool for some “Wim Hof Method” while us sane ones poured ourselves a gin and lit the fire.
Grilled asparagus, black pepper sirloin, lemon and herb chicken breasts, fire-roasted butternut, potatoes and carrots wrapped in tin foil always provide the “healthy” option in the meal. Without a speaker, we were left to use our mobiles for a song or two, which we were happy to do. Friends passed and lounged on the sun chairs in the last of the afternoon sun, before Julian arrived for our wild Landrover adventure.
The Price for 360 Degree Views
Boobs bouncing, hips flinching, dogs flying, men tumbling, gimbles working overtime to keep a steady shot, were all part of the Landrover’s mission to the top on one of the bumpiest roads we’ve ever been on since the floods in Marloth Park! The same devil though – the rains come down and strip the farm roads; dislodging large boulders that end up resting in the middle of the road, washing away loose soil from the vineyard ridges and encouraging exquisite fynbos and proteas to overgrow on the path.
A troop of baboons excitedly run across large boulder faces as they hear the sound of the engine and fits of giggles emanating from the vehicle. While the drive was somewhat treacherous (at no point were we ever in any real danger), it was also absolutely hilarious as Julian remained totally calm and cheerful while he navigated his way up the wild mountainside. “The road’s not in the best shape.” YOU RECKON?!
Once at the top though, it was one of the most beautiful, unexpected, spectacular views we’ve ever experienced on any of our trips. Ice cold glass of Vondeling rose, warm jackets and beanies, the giggles, and great friends made it one of the best trips to date.
Winter Nights in Paarl
The sun began to set quickly it was time for us to make our way home before nightfall set in. Happily chatting all the way down the mountain about Cape Town restaurants and travel, we arrived back at the Vondeling homestead for the evening. Since our dinner had already been cooked, we were out the way for the dozen other guests to cook their dinner. The evening ended with another round of delicious hazelnut cake to celebrate Tracey’s 30th.
The large lounge provided ample space for 10 of us to hunker around the fireplace, drinking the last of the delicious Vondeling wine before settling in for the evening. Dean and his brother, Brett, were running the comrades marathon in the morning and we’d had quite enough excitement for one day – so off to bed we went.
Vondeling is a beautiful farmhouse located in the vast Paarl Valley. While large, it feels like someone’s home – a place where life’s highs and lows permeate through the walls. There are 7 bedrooms, all ensuite, 3 of which are located on the ground floor with 4 double rooms upstairs. There’s a television and pool table between the 4 bedrooms, creating an extra entertainment area for the “loft”.
Downstairs, the large foyer includes sporting equipment while the lounge boasts precious South African art and coffee table books on the largest “rimpie stool” table you have ever seen! The kitchen is spacious and well equipped, including a wine fridge, extra fridge and enough cultury and crockery to feed a small army.
While there is a dishwasher, Christina, the home housekeeper pops into manage cleaning as the weekend unfolds. This was a godsend, with so many moving parts and people to cater to, ensuring the upkeep of the house during our time at Vondeling. The dining room also seats about a dozen guests making the living areas conducive to a large number of guests.
Security has been reinforced on the farm with security gates, panic buttons in each room and on-site guards to ensure guest safety whether in the home all weekend or in and out for a wedding (there’s an Anglican church next to the wine tasting venue). The house includes two large gardens (front and poolside), tennis court and access to the greater farm area should you want to walk/hike, etc.
We had a wonderful time celebrating our friend Tracey’s 30th birthday and would happily recommend the house to anyone looking to do the same – whether it be for a birthday, anniversary, wedding accommodation or for a family holiday. Vondeling is a great self-catering house for a short to long-term stay in the Paarl Valley.
Thank you to Vondeling for having us and for the grand adventure!