The Langkloof – better known as the Fruit Route of South Africa – rests its fertile soil and sweet harvest behind the towering Tsitsikamma Mountains on a stretch of more than 160 km on the wildly popular, yet still semi-undiscovered, Route 62. The road curves its way from Avontuur (or Herold according to some) in the Western Cape through Haarlem into the Eastern Cape, passing small towns and farming communities such as Misgund, Louterwater, Krakeel, Joubertina, Twee Riviere and Kareedouw.
It is a pretty special road; a stretch of South African tarred bliss, with dirt roads to your left and right where apples and pears shout sweet promises from the sides while proteas – in all shapes and sizes – colour the valley with a fynbos dress, dotted with splashes of pink and white.
And it is not special because it has a list of things to do, or places to visit or this or that.
It is a special mix of special; it is a combination of the people, the fresh country air, the mountain ridges, the rolling mist, the trickling streams, the picking of fruit, the silence and the face-to-the-sun tranquility.
It is just special.
So special that after a visit to the Langkloof last year, I went back for seconds less than two months later.
I returned with the hope of grasping the special mix of special a little bit better, I returned with the hope of finally making sense of the previous visit, I returned with the hope of writing about Langkloof.
Sixteen months later and I’m still at a loss for words, fourteen months later and writing about the Langkloof never happened the way I pictured it would happen.
But while scrolling through previously taken photos of proteas, landscapes and dirt roads, desperately trying to put things together, it dawned on me that maybe it is okay to not fully understand a place? Maybe it’s okay to linger a bit longer and hover a bit more over a map while trying to figure out where that camping spot is I visited in 2004? Maybe it’s okay that the stretch of road still holds mysteries along its kilometers? Maybe it’s okay to have a sliver of a glimpse and not grasp the entirety of the Langkloof? Maybe it is enough to just stay in awe of the landscapes, to feel the mist on your skin, to hear the sound of water, to watch the day go by, the clouds move and to just, be there, with no attachments of this or that, just there.
And then I stumbled upon this unpublished poem by Beth Dickerson:
Flying over the Langkloof
Looking down I see,
On the seaward side of this long valley,
Sharply folded ridges,
Ridge on ridge of mountains
Kneed up from the plain,
Deep olive-green and shadowed black.
And there a master-hand has drawn
In outline on the crest
A pale clear line.
Impossible it seems,
But yes it must be – yes,
Who would travel such a knife-edge course?
A shiny spot proclaims a dam;
No homestead visible from thirty-thousand feet.
Yet some habitation there must be
Some need to trace the cutting edge of the mountain
To span these deep-indented valley-sides,
To reach perhaps a haven
Or a place where things may grow.
And down below,
In twists made tortuous
By ridge on folded ridge,
A river winds.
Out of sight its outcome
In the sea,
But sunlight shows it clear
To distinguish it from roads.
How remote this landscape:
Inaccessible it seems –
Not what we know
On swift and easy passages
Along the Garden Route
Or through the Langkloof’s placid length.
Maybe it is okay to not fully understand a place?
The Langkloof: You never leave, you only return
The Langkloof is filled with farm retreats ready to welcome visitors with hands-on experiences such as fruit picking (and eating), feeding farm animals and swimming in the farm dam. But there is also an opportunity to do birdwatching, go hiking or horse riding, do some off-roading on a 4×4 trail, and you can even swing a club at Joubertina’s Golf Club. And of course, since the Langkloof also forms part of Route 62, it is part of the longest wine route in the world spanning a distance of 850 km.
And that is not all. The Langkloof is home to the Honeybush Tea industry and home to San rock paintings where South Africa’s first and only mummy was ever found. The remains of the Kouga Mummy were found in 1999 in a rock shelter in the foot hills of the Kouga Mountains where a large flat stone with San paintings marked the position of the body. If archaeology and history pique your interest, read this interesting research article, “The Kouga Mummified Human Remains”, to get a better understanding and background of the Kouga Mummy.
The area is known for its numerous farm stalls like the Kontrei Kombuis and the Klip Hotel with farm fresh roosterkoek, home cooked jams, gifts and unique restaurants like The Belfry Kitchen. And when I say unique, I mean unique. For me, The Belfry Kitchen forms part of this special mix of special and I can write about it, but it is best to experience the restaurant for yourself. If you appreciate a place that is humble, a place that is still and a place that “ranks relationship over commerce”, then take off your watch and stop for a visit.
During one of my trips last year I stayed at Grootnek Guest Farm where Gawie and Erika le Roux farm with pears, peaches and plums between the towns of Joubertina and Krakeel. There are cottages on the farm with all the necessities – like lamps and candles – you’ll need for a true farm escape.
One last thought
If you visit the area, don’t plan too much, leave it up to the hands of Langkloof. You’ll leave touched by the special mix of special because in the Langkloof you never leave, you only return.
Have a look at the video I made of my trip in May 2016.
Why not pin this image if you want to read it again later?