On arrival into Montagu I was determined to seek out a few interesting things to do in this “middle of nowhere” town on the cape’s route 62. I needed to find things which maybe not many out-of-towners knew about. So I asked the owner of a large shop in town if there was, maybe, anywhere I could pick fruit? He said a definite No and told me that the fruit season was over. So I asked if there were any other experiences I should try. He answered that there was nothing, only rugby! Well, with that answer I decided that perhaps I should try and seek out adventure on my own, and so the search began. And boy was I pleasantly surprised – there is so much more to do in this small friendly town than initially meets the eye. You just have to look.
Cycling on arty Dutch-style bikes
Cycling through the quaint town with Tour Guide Marchelle from Flying Feet Guided Town Tours is as much relaxing as it is informative and fun. The bicycles are single speed with upright handlebars so that you can actually enjoy the town views, and it’s great for the back and spine as you don’t have to lean hunched down with eyes focused on pavements. There are definite bells and whistles added to the bikes used. To begin with, they all have bells. Yes, and so wonderful to click them and hear them ring as you pass friendly pedestrians. Motorists cruise by, cheering hearty hellos to Marchelle who is well known in the town, and you become part of this friendliness with a return ring from your bike in greeting back. The bicycles are each painted by different local town artists in their own colours and designs, and a short description and picture of the artist is on a leaflet for you to read. On arrival at Flying Feet, the colourful bright bikes greet you, as does your tour guide for the ride. Take a seat on the comfy leather chairs as Marchelle does a short safety briefing. Grab a water or an Energade, the sunblock on offer, and pop them in the backpack provided. (and don’t forget your camera). All that’s left is for you to grab your helmet and choose your bike.
We had a wonderful 2 hr bike trip with great photo stops and an opportunity to sip some water and listen to the history and stories of how Montagu was born. We cycled through lover’s lane, over small bridges, on bumpy off-road sidewalks and ended with a much deserved Muscadel tasting. This is when you realize a backpack is essential for carrying that delicious sweet taste of Montagu Muscadel back to the finish line.
Avalon Hot Mineral Pools
Nothing heals or destresses better than a soak in a hot mineral pool fresh from Mother Nature. If you don’t have time to book a few days at this resort/hotel, then the good news is that they welcome day visitors. But be warned: the weekends are packed with excited children! The resort has two different pool areas, one for overnight guests and one for day visitors. The day visitors’ section also has a few small pools for children and a super tube. There’s even a pool table and braai facilities, so bring meat! As a hotel guest you have the privilege of using both sections of the grounds, as well as the indoor heated pool – a nice, quiet retreat where one can just sit on the seats in the pool and soak up the hot waters. Hotel guests also get to enjoy the first source of the hot mineral waters that come out of the mountains and into the Jacuzzi. The hotel has two restaurants, a take-away cafe near the pool area and a pool bar where cocktails are the order of the day (and night).
A trip down memory lane
With a choice of three well-restored muscle cars, American Dream Cars will chauffeur drive you around on a mini road trip like no other. Pierre-Jaques is your driver/guide, and is also manager at the Montagu Country hotel. And it’s just as well that he drives, the steering wheel in on the “wrong” side of the vehicle! As he drives Pierre-Jaques tells you some fascinating tales of the town, so all you need to do is sit back in the rather large seats and look out of the windows and take in the incredible mountain scenery. Our particular car drove quietly and smoothly, an opulent drive in large-spaced luxury. Choose between a trip to nearby McGregor, or a visit to Robertson for wine tastings. Price options range from 1 to 4 hr trips. We did a short trip through Montagu’s town centre, and PJ showed us the newer and older areas of Montagu whilst chatting on about ther town and even his old neighbourhood. Rain started to fall but that certainly didn’t dampen the mood or the American dream. We ended off by enjoying old school scones and tea at the Montagu Country Hotel.
Montagu is known for its unique wines and its rich Muscadel (many Western Cape hotels have Montague Muscadel as their welcome drink – or even in the in-room decanter one often finds in your room). The recipe for the original Montagu Muscadel dates back to the 1930’s when it was first made by the Brink Brothers – who established this winery as the leader in the production of Muscadel in Montagu. Varieties include Ruby and Hanepoot, so give them a taste before you make your purchase. They also sell miniturized Muscadel bottles, which make a great gift or as a reminder that you need to go back soon.
A must for any woman on holiday!! Men have also recently started enjoying treatments and taking care of their bodies too, so whether you’re a sports enthusiastic or a nature lover, visit one of Montagues spas and complete your holiday in the hands of a professional. I visited two different spas. The Montagu Country Hotel uses Cspa, a South African product brought in to help support the locals. I did the “back up package”, focussing on my back – with an exfoliation and full body massage.
The pressure was perfect and my masseuse expertly located pressure points on my neck and shoulders. My shoulder blades were massaged and each muscle was professionally worked – a fantastic treatment!
The second spa I visited was at Avalon Springs Hotel. Here there are no frills or little extras, but the lady who worked on me was brilliant. She introduced herself as Marisa and used grapeseed oil mixed with lavender and rosemary during my Swedish massage, which uses pressure points to get rid of toxins. After the treatment, Marisa reminded me to drink lots of water and not to shower for an hour so that the oils could seep into my skin. If you make your way to Montagu, do pop in and book with Marisa, you won’t regret it. Plus…your children can enjoy the hot springs while you enjoy your much needed lift.
Buy a book at The Book Shop
You might wonder why this would be on a list of “experiences”, but books have something especially fascinating about them. Firstly, the suspense of reading a book to find out if the cover really showcased what the book is about, hense the saying “you can’t read a book by its cover”, is especially true of this little book store filled with unusual books, lots of character and the lady with a passion for books who runs it, Jo. It is not a massive shop, but it has loads of books to choose from, as well as two old book press machines which are an insight into the olde world of book production. So, if you belong to a book club (which we all know is more about enjoying some wine and chatter than talking about that books you read)grab one of Jo’s books a reignite the passion amongst your fellow readers with these weird and wonderful titles.
A 5 Star Fine Dining Experience
Dining at Mimosa Lodge is a must (the eight culinary awards displayed on the entrance wall is testament to the dining quality). We chose the two course meal and started with mains – a juicy Eland loin served with pocino mushroom sauce, baby corn, cauliflower, green beans and soft potato fritters. The Eland loin was cooked to perfection – tender and juicy – and the sauce was aromatic and creamy.
For dessert we enjoyed hazelnut Crème Brulee served with chocolate fudge pieces, gooseberries and kiwi on the side, drizzled with berry coulee., an explosion of senses. So, whether you love Fine Dining or simply a good plate of home cooked meals, the Mimosa Lodge is the place to be. The Restaurant is open to everyone, so booking is essential.
Guana Caves for the fit and able
The hike to the Caves is an experience on its own as you ramble up, and up, to get to the final stop. The two hour trip is a photographer’s dream, it’s so majestically beautiful and peaceful and you’ll get some incredibly scenic shots. One starts with a tractor ride before ending up by climbing many stairs to the actual Guana Caves themselves. This trip is available all year round, but bats are not always flying around. If it rains or the grounds are very wet, you might find it a touch muchy, so take water, sunblock and good hiking books. This hike is especially great if you love the outdoors, photography, the outdoors and loads of fresh air. I personally loved it more than I thought i would so believe me, Montagu, I’ll be back!
American Dream Cars (we were chauffeured around in a 1956 Cadillac Sedan De Ville. PJ Basson 023 – 614 3125
Cycle Montagu: Flying Feet – Marchelle
076 891 3623
Guana Caves Booking: 084 553 4187
Mimosa Lodge: Fine Dining Experience
023 614 2351
Avalon Springs Hotel and Spa:
023 – 614 1150
Muscadel tastings: Montagu Wine & Spirits: 023 – 614 1340
Story by Lisa Steffen