De Rust, meaning ‘place of rest’, is located a scenic one hour drive from George in South Africa’s Western Cape. A part of the iconic Garden Route that stretches approximately 500 kilometres from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay, De Rust is a unique little town in an area the locals call Klein Karoo (Little Karoo).
Stepping out of the car was like stepping back in time. A cart pulled by a donkey rattles past on the rickety road driven by an old man with a face that told a lifetime of stories. He grinned gingerly at me showing a toothless gummy smile. Curious locals begin to emerge from the scattering of shops that from the signage claim to have the best local jams, baked goods, artwork and curios.
Before I can take in this old world charm I am greeted by Mr Martin from Martin House Guest House. Exchanging hellos, I am showed to my room, a welcoming warm cottage. The cottage resembles the same old world charm of the town, with a large double bed and bathroom that to my delight has heated floor tiles.
The guest house is located on the main road, with it’s restaurant deck right on the roadside. This offers a fantastic place to sit and just watch the world go by in this tree lined village boasting late 19th century architecture.
Its time for me to hop on a donkey cart and see what makes De Rust famous for their title ‘Town of the Year’. I make my way up and down the road exploring the quaint little shops along the way. From hand made glass to local jams, marmalades and condiments, I am fascinated by the handiworks of the locals and the pride they have in what they make.
With a few purchases in hand, it’s time to leave the town and begin our drive up into the surrounding mountainous area of Meiringspoort that the Klein Karoo is famous for.
A scenic passageway carved through towering sandstone cliffs pierces the heart of the Swartberg Mountain Range. The rich red and orange colours of the rock mixed with such a diverse fauna takes my breath away.
Hidden in these mountains deep ravine is a spectacular waterfall that drops some 60 metres into a deep pool. Legend has it that a mermaid hides in the rock pool at the base of the fall, but on this day we do not see her.
As the sun begins to fall and the warmth of the day is swelled by these incredible mountains, we make hast to the top of the mountain range via 4WD truck. The road is rough terrain and I am thrown about the truck with fits of laughter as though on a roller coaster.
The ride is worth it, as the sun slips behind the mountain to rest for the night. The sky turns an array of blues, pinks and oranges that offset some magnificent Proteas (native flower to South Africa) that are scattered around the ground.
After such an eventful day, the belly is yearning for some food. This can only be satisfied by the braai (South African BBQ) that awaits us at the bottom of the mountain. A delectable selection of meats, salad and baked potato hit the spot, washed down with some local South African wine.
With a full belly, it is time to head back to Martin House and escape the 1 degree cold of night under some toasty heated blankets.