As a Canadian who has lived in South Africa for nearly ten years, I have been hesitant about road tripping. The biggest reason is that the idea of piling kids and luggage into my Fiat 500 simply wasn’t a comfortable option!
In planning our December holidays last year, my son, Hal, and I knew, without question that we wanted to spend Christmas at Oaklands Country Manor. Oaklands has become a firm family favourite. Having been there at least 20 times over the past 5 years, including two Christmases, it has become our home away from home and the Oaklands family has become our family. We also knew that we wanted to set out on a bit of an adventure and see more of this amazing country.
In my very organised way, not knowing how we were going to skirt around the Fiat issue, I set out to plan our road trip. I wanted to make sure that there was never a drive over five hours and that we had a diverse array of destinations spending at least 3 days in each – ending up at Oaklands for 7 days of non-stop fun, horseback riding, amazing food, hiking and countless adventures.
With the gracious loan of a Land Rover, we were able to ditch the Fiat, affectionately known as Luigi, in the Midlands. Our first stop was to be Cathedral Peak in the heart of the Drakensberg. The natural beauty of the area is exquisite set in a valley surrounded by a jagged ridge of mountains. While the weather was shocking, it didn’t stop us from having some serious fun. The highlights included hiking on the valley trails, quad biking and, best of all, the Drakensberg Canopy Tour – a heart-racing zip-line adventure over the deep, lush valleys of the region. The driving rain only added to the thrill!
After three glorious days and an easy 5-hour drive from Cathedral Peak, we found ourselves in the quaint seaside village of Southbroom. The warm sun quickly dried our soggy souls, ready for some surfing, boogie boarding, paddle boarding and mud shrimp catching. The Coral Tree Bed and Breakfast, run by a lovely retired couple, was beyond perfect.
Now it was time to head back to the Midlands to our final destination – Oaklands Country Manor. But first, a quick stop at Nottingham Road to visit friends on their farm and find the perfect Christmas tree and share in their family traditions.
Once we arrived at Oaklands, after a wonderful 8 days in the Drakensberg and the South Coast, the fun continued for Hal – and I got to fit in some much-needed rest, relaxation, conversation, hikes and fill my belly with the most amazing farm-to-table food.
Hal’s adventures included tubing down the Wilge River in the shadow of the Nelson’s Kop riding his favourite steed “Moppy”, fishing in the dam, learning how to clean them and helping Chef Johnson prepare it for lunch.
I joke that parents always seem to be asking, “Have you seen my child?”
There is no end of activities and new friends at this magical place. It sometimes means that you spend slightly less time with your kids but when you do they are filled with stories, smiles and confidence.
On Christmas Eve, Santa managed to squeeze down the chimney into our room, drank the milk and ate the cookie that we left for him and blessed us both with lovely presents.
We have been blessed with having the opportunity to travel all over the world, but for both Hal and me, there is no place as special as Oaklands Country Manor.
Tessa Graham is a bit of a global nomad. Having grown up in Canada, lived in San Francisco, London and Cape Town, she has finally settled in Johannesburg with her 9-year-old son, Hal.