In Search of the Hidden Gem

We could have landed up anywhere in May 2021, after searching high and low in what seemed to have been both a need to find breathing space, and a wish to get out of an apartment building in the city centre.

The Bothmaskloof Pass of the Riebeek Valley, which boasts the most sweeping views over vineyards and olive groves, and gives access to some of the most historic wine estates, has been attracting enterprising former urbanites, as well as savvy travellers, in search of charming towns and idyllic countryside — for the past six years or so. The “Newbies”, as they were termed, by Ann Heynes of Riebeek Valley Tourism, are coming in fast and furiously into the Riebeek Valley.

But its transition from quasi-rustic to quietly glam, marks a new and intriguing chapter.

X Marks the spot

We definitely knew we wanted to go and live out in the country, away from the inner city of Cape Town. We also knew that it couldn’t be too far away from Cape Town, as we still fancied our regular dim sum and city treats, and the umbilical cord of the mother city was still a little intact.

Quite funny when I think back about it really, as we have not returned to enjoy many of those restaurants, as the Riebeek Valley and it’s surrounds enjoys an extensive taste of extraordinary local cuisine and talent, when it comes to the “Art of culinary expressions”.

What we have thoroughly enjoyed, in conjunction with the splendour of the Riebeek Valley, is that my Partner is able to commute a mere 80 km’s to his photographic studio in central Cape Town.

So I resigned from my corporate responsibilities after 18 years, as the functional systems had become quite untenable, in order to pursue passion projects in May 2021.

Covid made quite a few people experience introspection, and review what was ultimately important in their lives. Although I was immensely grateful for what my previous job had afforded me, selling airtime on television was no longer critical to my future’s end goal.

Country weekend drives were always enormous treats and stress release opportunities, and seeking out compelling retreats and restaurants was our ultimate, most specifically the Sunday drives to view the changing vistas, and to admire the flora and fauna.

It’s extraordinary how time seemed to stand still during those drives. It was easy to forget that the remainder of the world existed, as we were one with nature, and admired the skies splashed with vibrant colours. We have never hesitated to always welcome new adventures, and made sure that we took the scenic routes in all our travels.

How do you know you are making the right move?

Top of the list were the favourites, which people normally added to their bucket list, for those wine excursions in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, and of course our much loved fellow Swartland region of Darling…

After us having put down a deposit for a house in Hout Bay, spent months looking at the benefits and beauty of living in small towns like Arniston, Montagu, Tulbagh,  Paternoster, and the likes of Pringle Bay, we were not prepared for what we saw when we went over the well-engineered Bothmaskloof Pass, located between the towns of Malmesbury and Riebeek Kasteel.

It was as if we were entering a mini French town. We could have actually been anyway in the world, perhaps a small Italian village even. Strangely enough, parts of it also reminded me a little of the small village of Villebois-Lavalette, where my father and stepmother live in France.

This place was absolute magic to us, and we immediately felt a sense of peace as we went over the mountain pass, while enjoying the most jaw-dropping views over the local landscape.

… And it was as simple as that

Below was the quaint town of Riebeek Kasteel, at the foot of the pass. It seemed to be one of those towns that had become one of the chic and fashionable places to be seen, with some incredible eateries, and the zest of country life available via a variety of art, theatre culture and craft shops. We were gobsmacked – it was packed with delightful scenery, fascinating history, delicious food, and much more.

We were astounded at the fact that within a 60 minute radius of the Mother City, was an oasis of artists, theatre fundi’s, foodies and intellectuals, buying up cottages and moving out to this small town, and commuting into the city. It’s was really not hard to understand why.

There was a sense of community, as children played in the street and in the town square.

People kept chickens in their gardens, and shared their chickens’ eggs with us—nothing like our Cape Town life. Neighbours welcomed us with sourdough, and another neighbour gave us two bottles of really expensive wine.

We couldn’t help noticing that in every corner, people greeted us with an authenticity seldom seen in any of the other small towns that we had visited. People just started conversations as we waited to buy a loaf of freshly baked bread at the local baker. It seemed so effortless to immerse ourselves in the towns local culture.

You cannot blame us for having made our home happily here in the Riebeek Valley, surrounded by vineyards, olives groves and wheat lands.  Capetonians as well as people around the country search for getaways, to experience the more relaxed rural and artistic lifestyle that has inspired poets, painters, and playwrights with its beauty. The search is over – come to the Riebeek Valley.

The Swartland and specifically Riebeek Kaastel is a sweep of vineyards, olive groves and outdoor living with museums, wine estates, accommodation, eateries, and beautiful buildings no civilised weekend getaway could be without. Because the Riebeek Valley encompasses so many special spots for foodies, it’s so hard to pick just one.

The entire region is a paradise for food lovers, thanks to the expansive Swartland wine and Olive Route. You can’t go wrong diving into a mouth-watering steak, while pairing it with a bold and full-bodied Syrah (Shiraz).

Don’t leave without trying our famous olives, olive oil, Syrah (Shiraz)and famous port from our region.


Credit Makhosi de Wette Dludla