A few days before 2018 bid us all farewell, I messaged a friend and said, “What’s your leave days looking like? If you have two days available I really want to go to Greyton. Just putting it out there.”
I don’t know why, but I had this burning desire to visit Greyton. And I didn’t want to plan a visit for a few months down the line, no, I wanted to do it immediately.
The next day I booked accommodation and a few days later, as we stopped in Riviersonderend for a quick lunch, we realised that travelling to Greyton from Port Elizabeth for just a weekend was quite, uhm… far (especially if you do it over the last weekend of the holiday shut down period when everyone is on their way home).
But I wanted to go.
So I went.
And it didn’t take too long before this ‘burning desire’ started to make sense.
In fact, about 40 km before reaching Greyton – as soon as the wheels turned away from the N2 and some sheep and a dirt road, stretching all the way into the distance of the mountain folds, made its appearance – it was as if I stepped into a different dimension where time moved graciously slow.
The bright blue sky waltzed across the landscape’s colours of agriculture, here and there blue cranes lifted their heads from the fields while a donkey grazed peacefully, hypnotising me with the unhurried rhythmic sway of its tail, left to right, right to left.
The closer I got to Greyton, the deeper I moved into the dimension of slow living; a sense of calm rushed over me as the town gently grabbed me by the shoulders of my mind and massaged the haste away. I picked up the brochure that read, “Pure country, Greyton, no additives” and I began to understand that burning desire I had, still have.
Relaxation pulsed through my veins and my senses woke up to sights, sounds and smells; the oak leaves fluttered in playful shadows against window shutters, fingers ran over guitar strings and from someone’s kitchen a freshly baked bread filled the air with a fragrance of home.
Like visitors and locals alike I set out on an afternoon stroll under the shade of trees lined along the streets, and as the last rays of the day put on its golden theatrical production, I caught a glimpse of my mind drifting off. My heart moved my feet to property advertisements, I began to see a yard with a veggie patch, a big-pawed dog sleeping on the porch next to my sun-seeking cat and a tiny house – but a happy one -where the coffee steamed into the light from a freshly brewed pot. The longer the stroll the more I began to unlock dreams, dreams I were too afraid to put to the test, dreams I didn’t know about, dreams right in front of me.
As an outsider you feel the woven into the caring community as hands lift in “good mornings” and smiles stretch in “hellos”; donkeys, horses, cats and dogs (and the odd cow or three) have the right of way in the streets and the residents’ priority of looking after the well-being of the community and the planet, sparks interest and inspires change.
The thing is, there’s just something about Greyton.
And it is not just one specific activity or restaurant that draws the crowds, weekend after weekend, to this town in the Overberg. It’s an atmosphere, a feeling, and the collective initiative of Greyton, or rather, of Greyton Transition Town.
Greyton Transition Town forms part of a worldwide movement of +- 3000 towns bringing their communities together to find local solutions to the global challenges of peak oil and climate change, the first of its kind in South Africa. The town is committed to build a resilient, self-sustainable community, home-grown organic produce is swapped and sold, entrepreneurs are supported and here, rescued, orphaned, sick, abused and retired farm animals get a second chance at life at Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary under the watchful caring eye of Nicola Vernon.
In a way Greyton gives us all a second chance at life, it gives us the opportunity to reflect and ponder on how we are contributing to and supporting our own communities, what are we doing as custodians of the environment, how are you treating animals when it comes to pets, farm animals and wild ones and then as it inspires change, what are we going to do with this second chance, what are we going to do with all this inspiration?
Things to do in Greyton
- Visit the Saturday market (10:00-12:00) and stock up on fresh pesto, bread, veggies, baked goods, pancakes, vegetarian mince vetkoeke, succulents, books, homemade muesli and much more.
- Go meat-free in Greyton! The town is a haven for vegetarians and vegans and the numerous options at restaurants break down the stigma around these lifestyles.
For example, an iced coffee with plant-based milk at Pure Café is JUST R24. The café is open 08:00-17:00, Tuesday to Saturday, and 08:00 to 15:00 on Sundays.
Heart & Soul Vegetarian is only open on Fridays and Saturdays for lunch (11:30 to 15:00), and they grow the food on the property. You grab a plate, dish up, the food gets weighed and then you pay.
I only visited the two restaurants mentioned above, but there are also other spots to visit (that yes, will serve meat too), such as Abbey Rose Restaurant, Fiore Coffee Shop, Rupert’s Bistro, and the historic, Old Potters Inn and Brewhouse (the 1830 heritage building – once a pottery – also offers accommodation. Of course there are more restaurants in Greyton, so if you’ve been to one that hit the right spot for you, comment below and let me know!
- Explore Greyton Nature Reserve. It is one of the largest reserves in the Western Cape (2200 hectares) and offers a variety of different walks and also a longer trail that can be done as an overnight trail (28 km) that connects Greyton to McGregor.
- Bring your own bike or hire a bicycle; you can leisurely explore town or rough it out on one of the many mountain biking trails.
- Day-time strolls through town and shopping; some of the boutique and antique shops might not be in everyone’s price range, but it is still worth your time.
- Buy Von Geusau chocolate (the dark espresso one is espressiolly good).
- Treat your senses to the aromas and unique designs of Greta Quinlan’s bespke artisan candles at Greyton’s Candle Shop.
- Evening strolls through town, just before sunset, it is magical.
- Visit the Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary. There are pigs, ducks, cows, more and a whole lot of love. Visit by appointment, give a pig a belly tickle, and volunteer your time. You can also sponsor an animal. Visit their website for more information.
- You can go wine-tasting at Swallow Hill Vineyard and Winery, Andy Mitchell Wines, and Lisamore Wine Estate.
- Follow the road to Genadendal and visit the oldest Moravian mission village in Africa.
- If you have extra time, go over the mountain and explore McGregor, another small town that will find its way into your heart.
- Greyton has a busy schedule, try to align your travel dates with one of these events:
Greyton Trail, Yoga & Wellness Weekend (29-31 March 2019)
Fools & Fans Beer Festival (6 April 2019)
Greyton Genadendal Classics For All (24-26 May 2019)
Geyton Rose Fair (26 & 27 October)
Greyton Art Walk (November 2019)
And there are about half a dozen running-and-or-mountain-biking events throughout the year as well.
- Put your vehicle to the test on a 4×4 trail. The Glen Oaks 4×4 trail has a 3 to 4 difficulty grading and will take you about 8 hours to complete, it’s not a walk in the park but a rewarding trail that will challenge you with a few obstacles alongside sand, stone, mud and water. Recovery gear will come in handy if you find yourself knee-deep – or wheel-deep – in the rutted mud tracks. Obstacles are colour-coded to mark difficulty and you can give some a skip if you are not up for the task. Proceeds from the trail go towards the removal of alien vegetation. If you are in the are for a bit longer why not try some of the other 4×4 trails in the Overberg such as the 20 km long Walker’s Bay Fisherman’s 4×4 trail in Stanford (90 km from Greyton).
Visit Greyton Tourism to find out more about what you can do while visiting.
Greyton is 620 km from Port Elizabeth, and a quick 140 km from Cape Town. For this trip I used the Isuzu mu-X, which is powered by the goold old trusty Isuzu favourite, a 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine with peak outputs of 130kW and 380 Nm. This 7-seat has ample space which makes it perfect for travel, whether you’re a couple with lots of adventure gear, a couple of friends or a family. It is available in either a 2×4 or a 4×4 and the Terrain Command Dial on the latter – with electronically selected modes of 2 High, 4 High and 4 Low, makes this vehicle the perfect off-road explore. Plus, the ground clearance of 230 mm and underbody protection is the perfect cherries on top. It has a combined cycle consumption figure of 7.3 L/100 km, but for more information, head over to Isuzu’s website.