Northern Drakensberg & Natal Midlands

Accommodation in Northern Drakensberg and Natal Midlands

Taryn Cohn

Tucked away, deep in the Drakensburg, lies the road to a fantasy land. Not quite as enchanting as climbing through the cupboard or jumping down a rabbit hole, a short turn off Nottingham road in the Kwa Zulu-Natal Midlands starts the gentle climb to Cleopatra’s Mountain. The drive takes you through a landscape that during this cold winter month is like driving through the set of a Tim Burton film. Brown farmland stretching to the left and right punctuated by the bony skeletons of naked trees marching off into the horizon, and when you think you have driven too far, keep going.

Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, just half an hour’s drive from Nottingham Road (the heart of the Midlands Meander) is the destination.

Nestled in the Kamberg valley close to Giant's Castle Nature Reserve Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse is the vision of husband and wife team Mouse and Richard Poynton – widely considered the doyen and doyenne of the Country House movement in South Africa.

Dinner is a lengthily and entertaining production. Instructed to gather at the main lounge at 19h00, for a dinner that starts at 20h00 we were a little concerned that our boots and winter warms might prove a little informal. Informal turned out to be the mantra for the evening. Richard, a five star kitchen commander, and Mouse a gracious hostess joined us in the museum-like lounge and proceeded to greet every guest like a long lost friend. Once everyone’s glasses were adequately filled, Richard regaled us with a brief history of the region and their establishment. Sprinkled with personal references to a host of high profile regular guests including presidents to CEO’s, one couldn’t help but be impressed.

And then onto the menu - not a culinary getaway for nothing each day’s menu is created new from local ingredients. With 6 courses for a supper and up to three courses for a breakfast, come hungry.

Enjoying a view from the inside of a cosy dining room, out onto a trout filled lake and a starry sky (no.. really) we tucked into a wild mushroom crespelle followed by a pan grilled courgette soup. A beautifully wrapped parcel of oak smoked spingbok carpaccio served with a sweet melon and tomato salsa preceeded by norwegian salmon served with a pan flashed tiger prawn and hollandaise sauce.

Dessert was a weather perfect Van Der Hum crème brulee.

While the food is core to the experience, its worth pointing out that digestion is much aided by the landscape and serene surrounds. With no other buildings to be seen and mountains on each side of the grounds, it’s hard not to relax.

And when the fresh mountain air goes to your head, its time to retire to your chambers.

When we did managed to tear our bodies out of the super comfortable bed the next day we set off to uncover some of what the Midlands has to offer.

Being more culture vultures than extreme sports fans, we opted for the Meander which has over 184 craft shops, cafes and kitchens. After viewing many a piece of ugly wooden “cottage” furniture (thumbs down) to a general store with a kiddies store alongside herbal cosmetics and artfully deteriorated kitchen appliances from the 50’s (thumbs up) with names like Aladdin’s Cave and Thyme and Trout it was time to head home.

Had we been of a more athletic bent, we may have hopped onto one of the guest house’s Appaloosa horses and trotted up the mountains to seen the view, or perhaps taken a 2.5 hour walk to view the bushmen art at Kamberg. We could have strolled through the 500 acres at our disposal. 

If we had been on the other side of this recession, we would have considered chartering a helicopter for a breathtaking view, and if I had more patience (and saw the point of catching something to throw back) I would have taken in a day of trout fishing.

However, we were a couple of city girls loose in the mountain and we did what all city girls do really well. We spent ages getting ready in our delightful suite and we hit the shops. And we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the Sneaky Weekender articles on this website, do not necessarily reflect the views of Finding Africa.

Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse
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