Set on a hilltop overlooking the Langeberg mountain range and Duiwenhoks Dam near Heidelberg, the Moroccan-styled Akasha Mountain Retreat reaches deep into your soul and uplifts the spirit.
Lazing in the hammock taking in ever changing views up and down the valley with each gentle sway, the absolute thrill of solitude in this serene mountain hideaway began to take hold. I don’t often experience the feeling, but growing up on the edge of the Rift Valley as a child, the longing for it never leaves you. Wandering barefoot, cup of tea in hand while everyone was still sleeping, I ambled downhill to the edge of the fynbos, breathing deeply to take in its unforgettable early morning scent. I surprised three shy klipspringer who’d been quietly munching in the bush. As they bounded off downhill, I noticed that the light morning mist was now drifting off the water on the dam below, slowly revealing its meandering shape and the contours of the green hills and valleys as far as the eye could see.
Before long a sultry heat sets in, so days are filled with trips down to the dam, where owners Chris and Elana van der Walt have a small boat known as the ‘Bondmobile’. It’s now a delightfully aged, retro version of what was a glitsy waterskiing boat – think postbox-red glitter with white stripes! Discovered by Chris in a barn in Albertinia, it’s now powered by the quietest electric engine and is perfect for a few hours of birdwatching. Each day the kids kayaked, fished and swam in the dam’s tea-coloured waters for hours. Languid lunches, afternoon siestas and warm summer evenings spent mesmerized by the changing light on the mountains soon become etched in one’s memory. Our first night was filled with the glow of full-moon and the scent of jasmine, and on the second, by the sound of Chris’s instrumental guitar. We lit every candle in the house and watched the shadows of the Moroccan lanterns flicker late into the night – a magical end to our holiday.
Next time you do the Garden Route, take to the hills and break the journey at Akasha. You’ll fall in love.
Need to know:
Akasha is powered by solar and entirely off-the-grid but we didn’t miss a hairdryer or toaster. Laptops can be charged and there’s reception, but you’ll be digitally disconnected before long, believe me! The master suite is en-suite (light the candles and lanterns and laze back in a huge oval tub with a view), and the second double bedroom and twin third bedroom share a spacious bathroom with a beautifully tiled Moroccan-inspired shower. The cottage (just above the main house) sleeps two and has its own kitchenette and bathroom. In winter, a cosy fireplace keeps you toasty warm, while the breezes that come up the valley keep the house comfortably cool in summer. At the very least, book a crystal healing session with Elana – also the artist of the paintings throughout the house; a therapeutic massage, or guitar lessons with Chris. And, if you don’t feel like cooking, you can order from the local restaurant in Heidelberg (the kitchen is complete pleasure to cook in though, as sun streams in in the early evening making the mirrored mosaic on the central table sparkle). You’ll find everything from quality cookware to tagines to prepare a country feast.
A complete escape. Go with friends and family, some good books and delicious food for a weekend or week of total relaxation. The house sleeps 10: six plus two small kids, and the separate cottage is ideal for romantic couples or grandparents who need their space and siestas. (There are an additional four beds at the main farmhouse, if needed) Akasha is also perfect for a yoga retreat or a base for day trips to the beach or a scenic route over the little-explored Gysmanshoek Pass, following in the footsteps of the elephant that once roamed the region and an ox wagon trail dating back to the mid 1700s.
Experience it for yourself
From Cape Town, up the N2. Just over three hours’ drive takes you to the R322 turn off to Barrydale, just as you leave Heidelberg. It’s about 12km or a ten-minute drive up into the hills from there. Book through Perfect Hideaways, perfecthideaways.co.za. More info on akashamountainretreat.co.za
Text and photographs Michelle Snaddon