Stepping out of the fast lane at Rotterdam
by Wessel Badenhorst
Quiet the mind and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones at the Fraser Jones luxury boutique hotel.
We fell asleep to the sound of complete silence.
In 1953, a Porsche 550 Spider rolled off the assembly line. As one of only 90 ever produced, this Porsche was special. It is not the one that went to James Dean; instead, this machine was destined for Africa, ordered by one of the only South Africans to race in the Grand Prix, Ian John Fraser Jones. The trophy room on the family farm is a testament to the success of Fraser Jones on and off the track. It is in front of this trophy room that I found myself one Saturday evening, with my two kids running themselves to a standstill on the hectare of soft lawn.
A little over two hours' drive from Cape Town, before the hamlet of Buffeljagsrivier, an unimpressive turnoff waits. It is hard to imagine how many times we have sped past this road with no inclination of what we would discover if we were to turn off. What always seemed to be nothing more than a small town, a petrol station, a farm stall and a correctional facility, turned out to hold so much more. As is the nature of the world, I found that when you quiet your mind, stop the perpetual rush to get somewhere and just look a little deeper, you discover things you would never have dreamed of.
The farm Rotterdam was established in 1794, which makes it one of the oldest farms in the Swellendam area. When the late Mr Fraser Jones bought the farm and asked that one of his children sees to the property, his son took the mantle upon himself, and he never left. A tree-lined road leads straight to the main house, which still holds true to the Cape-Dutch style from the early 1800s when it was first built.
Jaco Badenhorst from the OENA group met us in front of De Wagenhuis, which was reconstructed using dug-up foundations and a painting of the original building. We were led past guava and cumquat trees to the boutique hotel. Two lemon trees form a gateway to the building named “The Fraser Jones”, in honour of the family. The bubbling fountain in the courtyard is surrounded by high walls and a second-floor balcony. A part of me wants to live in a house like this. When I mentioned this to my wife, she joked that we would have to have seven kids, so we could complete the Sound of Music-feel of the building with its classic hardwood staircase in the main entrance.
At 72 square meters, the main room had enough space for all of us, with an en-suite twin shower as well as a bath, and a private garden overlooking the Buffeljags River. This private sanctuary is the perfect place to enjoy the breakfast basket that the Badenhorsts packed for us. Early morning you can sip on your coffee and watch the cattle wander by, tranquillity at its best.If you want to have a large family get-together or prefer a self-catering option, De Wagenhuis would be the best option. Large families can occupy all five the upstairs suites, while smaller groups can be accommodated in the two-bedroom flat where Jan Auger spent his last years after he had retired from his post at the Company Gardens in Cape Town.
Most South African families enjoy a good braai, and ours is no different, so it is always deeply satisfying to see a braai that was built by people who share this passion. The braai itself is covered, which means that even in the dead of winter, you have no excuse to skip the fire. On warmer days, guests can relax by the pool, or chat away around the firepit.
One of the best parts of heading out of the city is that nights are so much darker, and you get to gaze up at a night sky that seems alien to the average city dweller.
We fell asleep to the sound of complete silence.
The next morning, we were invited to visit the Swellengrebel flying club for their annual flying, a celebration of their 60th anniversary. The kids were enthralled with the light aircraft landing and taking off. After this weekend, I am definitely taking up flying.
The buzz of small aircraft faded, and another kind of buzz welcomed us to Bee Things, the ultimate bee and honey educational experience. They stock all the equipment you need to become a beekeeper, right down to the only beekeeping manual you will ever need. The highlight of the experience was not the opportunity to taste honey directly from the comb, but rather to see the inside of a working swarm of bees. Jaco Wolfaardt and his team built a hive with glass walls. It has an opening to the outside world, so the workers can head out to collect pollen from the fertile gardens of Swellendam. Yet, they all return to the hive because that is where the queen bee lives. We were not lucky enough to see the queen, but maybe you will be the one to spot her.
To reinforce my growing awareness of the magical experiences that lie in wait just beyond your everyday experience, we simply had to continue past the Buffeljags BP fuel station I mentioned earlier. About four kilometres down that road, you find Kwetu Guest Farm. Here, between blocks of citrus and persimmon trees, we discovered a game farm. It looks like a little bit of Highveld got lost and settled in the Western Cape. Overlooking the valley, we were treated to a delicious picnic and cheese platter. Our Ford Kuga was the perfect vehicle for this excursion – with its extra clearance, we could easily spot herds of young springbuck in the tall grass. There were a number of other wild animals that also made their appearance, like the pair of young giraffes who recently joined the eland, kudu and sable on the farm.
After the excitement of the day, we headed back to the hotel to put our feet up and enjoy the calm. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the six-pack of friendly dogs residing on the farm. As my family headed inside, I stood still for a moment and took a deep breath.
That is how I found myself standing in front of a trophy room, on a farm, close to the highway, and I wondered how many more of these hidden gems are left to discover.
You too can experience the wonder of the Fraser Jones boutique hotel on Rotterdam Farm.
Visit: The Rotterdam for more information
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