Wine, olives, horse riding, mountain biking, game viewing, zip lining, bygone ways of baking bread, cocktails, dalliances with Lady Luck - all of these are available to visitors to the Worcester area. We experienced a few of them and more than one has delivered ongoing advantages.
Here in the Breede Valley is the home of the award-winning Willow Creek olive oils, which you can taste and buy at the factory shop at very jolly prices. Besides, the fabulous range of flavoured oils which have been generously used in almost all my cooking ever since, jars of olives and tapenades make great gifts for yourself or others.
That is long-term pleasure number one. The other one which has surprised me enormously is the soap from the Worcester Museum.
The museum at Kleinplasie, a short distance outside the Worcester CBD, is not only a succession of rooms with displays of Cape colonial history with agricultural implements, wagons, furniture, glass, ceramics, textiles and metal inside glass cases and behind ropes (a locked cage in the case of the firearms), it’s a cultural history museum with a strong focus on agriculture where the grounds have been developed with structures forming a traditional Cape farmyard.
Live demonstrations depict activities of a bygone era such as the baking of bread in an outdoor brick oven and the forging of metal by a blacksmith.
A tour of the property takes you to these buildings where people dressed in period costume make things like bread and milk tart, cigars, witblits, candles and soap. Your guide will explain the history as you go along.
If you’ve seen Fight Club you might remember a bit about making soap. Apparently, any kind of fat can be used along with carbolic acid; for candles, you can use only beef or goat fat. Now you know. The sorcery of this soap, however, is that it is a fabulous stain remover when washing your clothes. Yes, I know terribly domestic. But also terribly practical. You can buy a chunk of it in the museum shop and you won’t be sorry.
Other activities demonstrated at the museum include the roasting and milling of coffee beans and metal forging. Two lazy-eyed donkeys are hitched to a cart on which you can ride.
Outside, all manner of fowl ranges around, including geese who surrounded our car, blocking our exit. I’ve learned on my travels not to mess with geese, so we just had to wait.
Among the wineries in the region is Overhex, which came to my attention earlier this year when it released a wine called Mensa, which is supported by an augmented reality wine app. I got the cabernet sauvignon which I have yet to open and discover but apparently, between the label and the app, it all comes to life as a book revealing the full story of the wine, which should certainly be lots of fun after a few glasses.
Next month - January 26 - the winery will host a concert featuring alternative Afrikaans music with Spoegwolf, ahead of the release of the band’s fourth album, Koma, in February. Tickets are R250 and include a picnic basket. Good to keep in mind when entering the competition alongside.
Our base during this stay was the Golden Valley Casino & Lodge. There’s nothing fancy or pretentious about it; simply a good old-fashioned no-frills stayover packaged in small-town hospitality and generosity of spirit.
The two-storey family-friendly lodge is a separate building from the casino. It’s here you’ll be accommodated in comfortable rooms (it is alongside the N1 so expect a bit of traffic noise if you’re booked on that side), and where you’ll take your buffet breakfast in the morning. The pool has views of the mountains in the distance.
You can stroll across to the casino, where you can try your luck (doubling my R50 on the roulette table was still a win, even if I’m hardly a high roller), have a super meal at Kuipers Restaurant, and enjoy live entertainment in the Winners Sports Bar.
Worcester is a lovely option for a little getaway.