In South Africa, there are many cities, towns and dorps that are more than a century old. I personally love the sense of history, but one has to ask the question, is that enough to make one visit? In truth, I think not. I am interested in visiting villages that have a sense of pride in their history, and that have preserved their historical buildings and the dorp in general. I have no interest in places that are in complete disrepair, as this smacks of disrespect – a disrespect for their history, for the inherent value of the buildings and ultimately a disrespect of themselves. I am also intrigued by older towns that have taken the initiative and gathered all their resources together, presenting them proudly to the marketplace. Almost as though they are saying “This is us! We’re fabulous – come and visit us!”. I admire that. A sense of community and inclusion, an attention to detail, a gathering of all things culture, art, adventure, food and beverage – basically a collection of anything that may appeal to tourists. And then they market the hell out of it – within the limited budgets they have. Clarens is one such town.
The superb views from our Villa.
Situated in the Eastern Free State, Clarens has a history which has created what the town has become today. The area’s history begins quite literally thousands of years ago when prehistoric dinosaurs were wandering around in the vicinity. Dinosaur eggs were discovered in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and South African National Parks (SANParks) is building a massive multimillion-rand Dinosaur Centre legacy project. The Godumodumo Dinosaur Centre was funded by the National Department of Tourism through its Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund in 2018 and by all accounts will be quite something to see once complete!! In fact, it is billed to be a world-class and state-of-the-art interpretive centre. The general area also has fabulous rock art created by the ancient San people.
Our villa’s parking spot came complete with cover – which was a good thing, as the weather wasn’t ideal…
The town itself was established in 1912, as a result of two farms (Leliehoek and Naauwpoort) being sold to a company who, at the time, wanted a village in the area. The two farms were divided evenly and sold for fifty pounds. The village was named after President Paul Kruger’s influence on the area after he as a voluntarily lived his last days in exile in the town of Clarens in Switzerland. This little village is nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State”.
My room featured beautiful proteas and botanical art on the walls.
The focus our column this week is on accommodation, and one delicious breakfast! The Cross Country team travelled to Clarens for a wonderful event involving Vespa scooters (the subject of next week’s column), and two of us stayed at the Clarens Golf Villas – a development on the Golf Course. I was initially completely unaware that this was possible. There are a number of units available on the golf course, and the pricing is really great. Depending on the unit you take, the minimum fee of R1200 per night applies, or R500pp and R250 per child. Which is really good value – especially if you have a family. The security on the estate is superb – complete with access codes and electric fences.
Lovely lounge area complete with TV and fireplace.
There are several stylish, self-catering, two-bedroom Villas to rent, and a couple of larger units too. Most villas have one double bedroom (usually upstairs) and one twin bedroom, both en-suite. The venue was immaculate, the shower head produced a wonderful spray with great water pressure and there was more than enough piping hot water. Which, as a rule, is so often the exception to the rule.
The main bedroom.
The kitchens are fully equipped with an elegant dining area and the comfortable lounges are fitted with DStv bouquet. In the quieter afternoons, we relaxed and watched the Olympics Games taking place in Beijing. And when they mention “fully equipped”, they mean it. I’m not sure that I have ever stayed in such a well-equipped unit – absolutely everything was available – including a supply of ice in the freezer. The units are only cleaned before arrival and after you leave, but if you need a cleaner it can be arranged at a nominal fee.
The covered patio, complete with a lovely gas braai and a little table perfect for a family meal, overlooks the valley and golf course – and was very useful on our weekend as it poured most of the time. I personally loved the peace and quiet – it was simply fabulous to be so close to the village (literally across the main road), yet away from the hustle and bustle. I slept with my window open and felt completely safe doing so. The only noises were the sound of the myriad of resident birds – you could quite comfortably get a bunch of ticks for your bird list.
The nearby Clubhouse – perfect for an early breakfast!
One can take long leisurely walks around the extensive property, or even do a run. The only thing you may bump into is the occasional antelope or a golf cart… Talking of which, guests at the villa also qualify for a discount on the 18-hole golf course designed and constructed by Golf Data. This par 72 golf course is sure to excite golfers of every level as great care has been taken in the design to ensure that each round of golf is unique and memorable.
On the Saturday morning, we had a wonderful breakfast at the Clubhouse on the golf course. The first half of the course is near the clubhouse, the second half is where the Villa’s are and the 18th hole is back on the clubhouse side. There is a walkway underneath the national road should you wish to walk there. The food was delicious and reasonably priced, and the menu was comprehensive. The restaurant is not open for dinner though – but you are a mere hop, skip and a jump from the village which has more than its fair share of restaurants.
Our super-friendly and efficient waiter, Frans Mabe, with the kiddies playground in the background.
We met the Operations Manager, Desiree Humphrey, who welcomed us with a big smile. From what we could see, she should be very proud of what they are achieving there. Everything is immaculate, neat and tidy, with the usual sense of quiet efficiency, history and ceremony that you find in these Clubs. We didn’t play, but I can imagine that every single hole has spectacular views!
The traditional ladies’ cloakroom.
All in all, we had a wonderful weekend, and next week’s column will detail the Vespa ride which instigated the trip, as well as our drive in the Golden Gate National Park.
Have a super weekend!
Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team
Contact: George van der Merwe
Address: Clarens Golf & Leisure Estate, Clarens, Freestate, 9707.
Phone: +27 82 466 5410
Tel: 058 256 1270