Nature versus nurture

Nature versus nurture… The engines were revving high. The first few months of the year had taken my plans and goals and run amok, laughing in the face of my aspirations. The first quarter had literally demolished my calm, leaving me with only one option, a 2018 reboot. Hold power down and restart.

Given the urgency, my wife and I took a leap into the deep abyss of a “school night getaway” – fortune favors the brave – handing over the kids to apprehensive grandparents, loading the car with just enough to braai, and more to drink, and heading for the hills.

Kolkol Mountain Lodge has quite a reputation in Cape Town. Those who have visited, swear by it, while the rest of us remain ignorantly denied, or left sitting on the fence waiting impatiently months in advance. It’s not overtly publicised or advertised – these bookings are returning customers, all sworn to a vow of greedy secrecy.

So confident are the owners in the merits and simplicity of the place that no one feels the need to go through the typical process of a guest welcome. The key is in the door, the use of all facilities self-explanatory. I love that the owners allow the marriage of nature and solitude to play host.

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The quiet is almost confronting as you settle into the Canadian style log cabins and allow the Cape’s sweeping Floral Kingdom flood your gaze. A superb wood-burning hot tub nestles into the deck to wash off the city’s vice grip. Before long a beer perches on the tiled ledge next to the jacuzzi and I’m in the slipstream, finally. The thread unwinding off the spool.

As the sun draws down we spark the blitz to braai, and let nightfall ease its way in. The stars switch on, one by one until the black canopy is lit with the thousand sparkling dots of a planetarium.

Night sky

The morning demands a ride, run, or dip in the dam, before braai-fired bacon, hot coffee and a massage, or a final wallow in a piping hot tub. I resolutely decide to build a jacuzzi at home, endlessly toiling with the right position.

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We had made a critical mistake in our planning. Just one overnight was a #fail of significant proportion. Another night would have allowed for tasting at a handful of the 14 wine farms in the Bot River Region – With the luxury of time, we would have tackled the superb Lebanon MTB Trail in Houwhoek and the Kogelberg Nature Reserve for a sunset hike. My wife would have jumped at an out-ride at the Klein Paradys Equestrian Centre, 8km away. With a few close mates, the day would have been spent fly fishing.

Kolkol is one of the most popular getaways I have come across, and while it has superb attention to detail and feels luxurious, the fundamentals steal the show – the views, fireplaces, bath and jacuzzi, are earthy and authentic, and the privacy is refreshing. It’s these natural elements that strike a chord inside us, often challenging anything hoteliers or interior designers can throw at us.

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So had I drunk too much of the KolKool-Aid? Perhaps. But when asked what inspires me to travel somewhere, I argue that TripAdvisor is fine, but its subjectivity is way too unreliable. And Google is handy but some rather sharp search engine optimisers manipulate average properties to rank above exceptional ones. I conclude that the great litmus test will always be availability – just how many weeks or months it is before you can firm up a booking, and at Kolkol, an available cabin is as rare as hen’s teeth.

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