From the N2 Albertinia might look industrial, a bit of a stofdorpie with not much going on. And I like small dorpies. Even stofdorpies. But the last time I drove past Albertinia the thought of putting my indicator on didn’t even cross my mind. And one might think that I judged a book by its cover but the reality is: I didn’t even notice the cover.
Luckily, I turned the page.
Albertinia is just 50 km from Mossel Bay, at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, and can very much also be called Aloetinia. The area is home to the indigenous Aloe Ferox/Cape Aloe and home to two aloe factories where the juice and gel get extracted for health and skin care industries.
But gooey face masks, bitter drinks and agriculture aside, Albertinia is also the principal source of yellow and red ochre; a type of powdered clay (a mixture of ferric oxide, clay and sand) that is known as the oldest natural pigment in the world. The use of ochre dates back to the Middle Stone Age and it is still used in some parts of the world, such as Namibia, as sunscreen and mozzie protection and more modernly used as an adhesive and as a pigment in paint and artwork.
Albertinia, Aloetinia, Ochretinia, regardless of what the town is known for it is still a “dorpie” where everyone greets you warmly, smile sincerely and wave with enthusiasm. It is a dorpie home to a champion tree, a dorpie an ex Dior model stumbled upon and chose to call home, it is a town where you are always “just in time” for coffee or tea, it is a place where you are immediately recognised as an out-of-towner but welcomed like family, and it is worth putting on your indicator, making a turn and stepping on the brakes.
Things to do in the town of Albertinia
Below are just a few suggestions and while there are certainly things to do, see and experience in Albertinia, the conversation-and-connection with individuals at certain places was the highlight of my time in the town. So get talking. Maybe it won’t be the same for you, but maybe it will be even better.
Tuinplaas (right on the N2, you can’t miss it) is a mixture of restaurant, nursery and museum. When you are done dining or landscaping your garden in your mind as you browse through the different pots, pay the R10 entrance fee to experience the museum.
Inside there’s a toy car collection of nearly 10 000 pieces, veteran tractors like the 1933 McCormick Deering (look out for the cat named “Malema” who takes a liking in tractor seats as beds), an operational model railway and the world’s largest hand-knitted jersey! Yes, the tannies of Albertinia brought a Guinness World Record home by knitting a jersey, in the colours and pattern of the South African flag, that weighs 25kg and took 250 balls of yarn and 6 and a half months to complete.
And if when you step outside you will enter the R.O.A.R (Royal Ostrich Ancestral Republic); a comical portrayal of the plight of ostriches, from a President to a jail bird, that came all the way from Oudtshoorn but got stuck in Albertinia when their truck broke down. They say seeing is believing but when the storyteller tells you the tale of each ostrich, with so much enthusiasm conviction, hearing is believing…
Go meet the Champion Tree of Albertinia, otherwise known as the Whispering Tree. It’s a wild fig tree (Ficus Burkei) and received its champion status by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The tree, which has been dubbed as one of the ten thickest trees in South Africa can be found and visited at Voëlroepersfontein Guest House & Writers’ Retreat.
When you stand under the tree you realise that it is not just a tree, it is more than bark and leafs – it’s a feeling, a sort of presence – and they say if you listen closely you’ll hear the tree whisper.
There are multiple nooks and quiet spots in the garden to just be, sit under one of the two Ficus Burkei trees, day or night, and experience the magnitude and magnificence of nature.
As the guest house’s website states, “those seeking solitude, i.e. noted artists, authors as well as those struggling to find their voice – or their story – find solace and clarity in the natural, peaceful surroundings of Voëlroepersfontein.”
If it sounds too airy fairy for you, just remember… don’t judge a book by its cover, rather turn the page.
There is really something about those trees.
Garden Route Game Lodge
If you have seen an elephant next to the N2 close to Albertinia, then no, your eyes are not deceiving you. Garden Route Game Lodge is situated right on the N2, and offers easy access for those with limited time, looking for quick safari fix and who want to experience a game drive and some of the big five (all game drives are guided by knowledgeable guides). They also offer luxury accommodation, a spa and a dining experience in their Serengeti’s Restaurant.
Garden Route Game Lodge was started to restore an area of once degraded farmland to its former glory of natural vegetation and game and it is something to keep in mind if you are expecting a wild wild west experience right next to the N2. If you are spoiled when it comes to size and the abundance of wildlife found in national parks and reserves, you might be disappointed. If you have never been on a game drive and only have 2 hours to spare, you might be overjoyed. Click here to find out more.
You can also shop for aloe products and go on a tour in the aloe factory, visit the Albertinia Museum, go to the nearby Jakkalsvlei Wine Farm, Gourikwa Nature Reserve and Gourits to name a few. For other suggestions of what to do in Mossel Bay, click here.
Eating in Albertinia
Die Pienk Stoep
Think Pink. Die Pienk Stoep is a coffee shop you can’t miss! Here everything is pink, the stoep is decorated in pink plastic flowers, bird cages, hearts, pink furniture, pink tablecloths, pink scatter cushions… pink, pink, pink! Drinks are served in dainty cups while meals are put together like art pieces on dainty plates. It is not kitsch, it is an experience. Cash only.
Built in the 1900s and still standing today. Albertinia Hotel prides itself in its food being its greatest claim to fame; it has wholesome traditional dishes, an intimate dining experience and a wide selection of wines.
Find a place to sleep in Albertinia
While Albertinia is just 50 km from Mossel Bay you can also find accommodation in Albertinia at Voëlroepersfontein Guest House & Writers’ Retreat. Yes, the place with the trees! The guest house has a few rooms, with their own bathrooms, and there is also a small self-catering cottage if you prefer a bit more privacy. This affordable guest house has braai facilities, is great for group bookings (there is a fully equipped kitchen) and offers discount to authors. Click here to find out more.
For more on what to do and see in and around Mossel Bay, go to www.visitmosselbay.co.za.