Anyone who ever read Fiela se Kind, Dalene Matthee’s popular 1980’s novel, might remember the evocative images she created of the Knysna forest: an impenetrable and mysterious place, with themes of woodcutters, danger, gold.
Fast-forward to the year 2011, and one can find it hard to conjure up the settings of Mathee’s imagination when visiting the Garden Route city of Knysna – especially if you’re there in December and January. If one actually has the patience to sit in the queue of cars slowly snaking their way into the city, the petrol stations and chain stores lining the main road will go a long way to erasing any romantic notions one may have of the place and its surroundings.
Yes you’ll find oysters and champagne, upmarket resorts with five-star restaurants and a brand-new shopping centre – but not the quaintness one might expect from a town with such an interesting heritage, and certainly not the heavy silence, gently rustling trees and muffled birdsong that Matthee’s forest scenes might have promised.
Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy, but why anyone would want to spend precious holiday time navigating the town’s high-season, increasingly built-up madness is beyond me.
However, not all is lost, and if one ventures just a short way off the N2 you can still take a slow, peaceful drive on meandering dirt roads and get a sense of what life before mega-tourism might have felt like.
There are hundreds of accommodation options around Knysna and its lakes, and an especially tranquil option is the Tauraco self-catering cottage, found on the Phantom River Pass. One of a number of cottages in the Phantom River View Estate, it is perched high up on its wooden legs, with magnificent vistas. Facing inland, rather than towards Knysna, the cottage’s balcony and bedrooms all have views of the forested hills rising and falling into the distance.
Sleeping six, Tauraco is one big step above your average self-catering accommodation. It has tasteful and comfortable furniture, peaceful bedrooms, an indoor Mexican fireplace and that saviour of marriages everywhere – a dishwasher. Thoughtful touches such as the complimentary bottle of wine and the hairdryers in every room make it more comfortable than many a hotel.
Taking the self-catering option obviously means that sustenance is the one thing you’ll have to worry about, but with a little forward planning you can avoid any multi-level shopping centres, stay put on the balcony and pretend that you’re hundreds of kilometres away from any form of civilization.
Tauraco falls under the umbrella of travel company Absolute Getaways, which has a number of other equally luxurious self-catering options along the Garden Route in its portfolio, including a further five at the Phantom River View Estate, cottages in Tsitsikamma and an especially gorgeous-looking option near Mossel Bay. Have a look at www.absolutegetaways.co.za or follow Absolute Getaways on Facebook for further information and competitions.