Ask around for the sights of Piketberg and the ensuing pause in conversation will be palpable. You can excuse locals for being “sights-blind”. I live near the sea and don’t get to the beach nearly as often as a visitor might.
But the thing about this little Swartland town on the shoulder of its eponymous mountain is that the slower pace too many country towns claim, really exists here. It’s like the last of the bells and whistles dropped off the wagon travelling out of Cape Town. And there’s plenty to like about that.
Piketberg lies off the N7 and is a 90 minute drive north of Cape Town. The region’s main farming activities are wheat and sheep, although not exclusively so. Using the town or a local farm as a base, there are a number of interesting and nearby places to visit, including Piketberg Bo-berg or “upper mountain”. Wine-lovers are certainly not left out of the loop either, with a handful of fascinating producers open to the public.
In fact, this is the place to check into a local farmstay or guesthouse; cruise the wine farms; go bike-riding; and, take walks. Here’s a list of some highlights.
Start with the tourism office
The official Piketberg tourism office is located at the N7 Winkelshoek Centre, off the main intersection into town. It’s the best place to start your visit. You can also visit www.piketbergtourism.co.za. In addition information about events and sights, it has the telephone numbers of local farms with hikes and walks.
Take a stroll through history
Piketberg, previously Piquetberg, gets its name from its days as a remote bordertown in the early 1600s. As a picket or piquet, soldiers stationed here were required to warn of potential incoming threats to the region. The town was laid out in 1835, becoming a municipality in 1906. Cape Portland Cement Company also has a long history here, dating to 1921. Goedverwacht, the former Moravian mission station located nearby, was established in in the mid 1800s. Much of this history is visible in the town’s preserved architecture and can be appreciated on the historic walk, which takes you past amongst others, the old bioscope; the restored Commercial Hotel; the Voortrekker Garage in Zebra Street; and, the gabled building housing the local police station.
Visit Org de Rac Wines
Looking for an elevated stoep and a view across the rolling fields to while away with a glass of wine and bite to eat? Org de Rac is that place. The pioneering Swartland farm is the maker of award-winning organic wines, but also grows lavender, citrus, rosemary and olives. A big attraction is its MCC-and-oysters offer advertised to passers-by on the nearby N2.
www.orgderac.co.za; 022 913 2397
Visit Testalonga Wines
If it’s the outliers you’re after, then don’t miss Testalonga Wines – home of brands like El Bandito, The Dark Side and Sweet Cheeks. Craig and Carla Hawkins’ farm has been called “the brilliant project” and lies at the fringe of the Swartland, situated in the Banditskloof of the Olifantsberg. Visitors are welcome, by appointment – email@example.com.
Taste Winkelshoek and Schenkfontein wines
The farm Schenkfontein originated on 9 December 1992 when a certain portion of the old Winkelshoek family farm, was separated and sold off to Hennie Hanekom. Their first certified wines were produced in 2014. Schenkfontein cellar has open days where they serve homemade pizzas along with their wines. Visitors are advised to make bookings prior to a visit.
www.winkelshoek.co.za; 022 9421 985; Kliprivier@winkelshoek.co.za
Visit Wildehurst Wines
Koringberg is a beautiful hamlet and certainly off the beaten track. So too the winery. A tiny operation, Wildehurst Wines was fonded in the early 2000s by Joanne Hurst, who planted a garden vineyard and produced her first wine in 2009. In July, Joanne announced that winemaker Riaan van der Spuy had become co-owner of the enterprise.
www.wildehurst.com; 022 423 8396
Make the effort to see Goedverwacht and Koringberg
Goedverwacht is a former mission station. It’s annual Snoek en Patat Festival helped draw it out of obscurity, but it’s a wonderful destination even for simply taking in a small village with lots of history. Likewise, the miniscule Koringberg has its own share of period buildings, many of which have been restored and taken up by city-slickers who’ve swopped the city for quiet streets and views of surrounding farmland.
There are two events that draw MTB cyclists to Piketberg – the Piketberg Bo-berg Cycle Challenge and the U MTB Stage Race. Despite the disruptions of the current year, the organisers have confirmed the dates for 2021. The U takes place on October 22-24 and the Challenge on September 4. At time of writing, the website www.piketbobergtrails.com, was being updated. Also keep an eye on www.kolsvleimtb or Kolsvlei MTB & Hiking facebook page for details about its own competition.
Linger at Bravo
Among the town’s most popular coffee shops is Bravo, located in the small Droomland shopping centre. In addition to the traditional fare, you’ll be able to buy oil from local canola producers; and, preserves made by Fruit Lips – a dynamic company established on Achtervlei Farm in 2014 by Liebré Jacobs, Elouise Josephs and Deidré Eigelaar.
Farm market at Kruisementvlei
After months of lockdown, the market re-opens in October. The popular event takes place on the farm, on the last Saturday of every month. It also gives you another reason to venture up the scenic pass and experience the surprisingly large, but hidden world of the Bo-berg.
Try remarkable accommodation
Among the local offerings are Soutkloof game farm, which is home to amongst others Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok, Eland and Wildebeest. At Bo-berg, the 550ha Highlands Eco Estate has en-suite rooms and tents on offer.