East London - A spider web of small roads to the south-east of Graaff-Reinet promised to be intriguing. One of the hamlets en route sported the name Schlechtgenoeg (bad enough), a challenge in itself.
Following an ancient, but usually trusty, road map, I turned off the R63, leading to Somerset East, expecting to meander through Karoo scrub and mountains to a point north of Graaff-Reinet.
Almost immediately, passage was barred by an electronic gate marked “Samara Private Game Reserve”. Push a button, and it slides open. This is, after all, also a public road.
While much of the Camdeboo Nature Reserve is on the western side of Graaff-Reinet, here, on the eastern side, Mount Camdeboo towers above the surrounding veld. Road signs like “Leave the speeding to the cheetahs”, remind people that Samara has a well-known cheetah project in place.
What good fortune… taking a district road and in the process possibly coming across a racing cheetah. Some kilometres later, with no cheetahs to send excitement into overdrive, I began to be a trifle concerned. Surely the road I was looking for should have veered away by now?
Just after that a monster of a 4x4 approached and dutifully stopped when flagged down. No, said the driver, such a road did not exist. “Nonsense. It’s on my map,” was my retort.
The sun-bronzed man, clearly a local farmer, soon set the record straight. The road went either to Samara or ended against the mountains at the hamlet of Petersburg. The road I sought, he said, had been closed years ago. Before retracing my route, though, a visit to Samara was worthwhile.
Samara’s colonial-style Karoo Lodge, nestled splendidly beneath an amphitheatre of mountains, has a setting to boast about. Everything is huge and plushly decorated. One of the suites really appealed to the hedonist in me. Settled in a chair, I drank in its view of the mountains.
An enormous veranda runs around the entire lodge. Even if the weather is inclement, it is shielded from the elements. At night, when the lanterns are lit along the pathways, it must be warmly inviting. There are also garden suites. The historic manor at Samara features four luxury suites, overlooking a 21m infinity pool.
Afternoon high tea was being rustled up in the kitchen; an enormous tortoise plodded its way across the lawns; a game drive into the surrounding mountains sounded like a spectacular experience.
A brochure said Samara was voted on to Condé Nast Travellers’ hot spot list in 2006, 2007 and 2009. It featured among Harper’s Bazaar’s 15 greatest safari experiences in Africa; Tatler’s top 101 hotels in the world; while Travel and Leisure named it among the top 50 romantic destinations of the world.
I checked my watch, then my finances, and marked Samara for an overnight visit when time was less pressing and finances healthier.
Contact 049 891 0558; e-mail: email@example.com; web: www.samara.co.za. - Sunday Tribune