Every now and then you will come across those skeptical phrases like ‘a stone’s throw away’ or ‘nestled between’ or ‘within walking distance’ and that red light of suspicion fires. Well, that is how it is for me. For that reason, I try to steer clear of such language on the odd chance that I end up arousing the same skepticism but in this case I feel some of these things are simply necessary and true enough to warrant their use – and Swellendam Backpackers deserves them.
The Backpackers and Adventure Lodge is literally nestled at the foot of the Langeberg mountain range (see, I did it right there, but really, it is!) and tucked away in a tidy row of overhanging trees that somehow take you immediately into their sheltering arms and leave you feeling precisely at home. As you park your car in the stone-lined bay you feel welcomed.
Swellendam is roughly a 2 (and a bit) hour drive from Cape Town and although I had visited the little village town on a number of occasions I had never taken the time to appreciate it in any way other than from a practical standpoint. For the most part it was just a place to pit stop, get some petrol and grab a cooldrink as we prepared for the next stretch of N2. On top of that the town is a busy and, at times, confusing little place to the outsider as you compete for space on the road between the hotel and the Spar. That is how I always saw it at least.
This time was totally different. As you pass the old Church on the main road you enter the more lush and definitely preferable part of this historic town and if you venture into the roads that branch off from the main you find yourself surrounded by all sorts of traveler’s delights. Restaurants, art galleries, curio shops, B&B’s, museums and more.
We found the backpackers with ease as it was clearly signposted all the way from the main road to its very doorstep and the staff had been very helpful from the word go when I dropped them an initial e-mail via their website and there are a few maps on it too if you really want to settle your directional nerves.
Using the backpackers as a sort of ‘base camp’ you have access to a number of activities that are (here we go again) a stone’s throw away. There is a giant mural of the town on the wall in the foyer that marks out a number of attractions including hikes, mountain bike trails, attractions in town, access points to nature reserves and so on (or just ask!)… If you want to immerse yourself in some nature and break that innercity grind this is an ideal place to do just that. Be sure to check the chalkboard in the kitchen for a list of hikes from waterfall surprises to more extreme climbs for the experienced hiker. Permits are R30 and available at reception.
Of course the primary point of a backpackers is in providing comfortable accommodation for your and your companion’s weary souls and in this department they have a number of options, from dorm rooms to an en-suite double, with camping and kitted huts out in the garden area that do just as well if you’re looking for a comfy bed to plop down into after a long day’s adventure. Prices are available on the website but let it be said here that they are extremely reasonable 🙂 On top of this, during our stay I also snuck a peek into the new wooden cabins with en-suite bathrooms that they were in the process of completing and these look great and I’m sure they’ll be up and running soon…
So if you’re tired of the usual N2 hussle, be sure to pop into South Africa’s third oldest town and go take in some of the sites and if you get to pop in at the backpackers you’ll see why I allowed those cliches up front. Grab a beer at the bar and chill out on the deck or in the garden or challenge a friend to a game of pool. Oh, and take a turn in the the hammock, you won’t regret it!
By Baywatch Bergemann