We’re no strangers to Wild Olive Guest Farm. We’re one of many who return to this peaceful refuge where a couple of chalets and a cottage lie on the banks of the Goukou River estuary and a wild organic vegetable garden, set in amidst a series of olive groves, is the mainstay of a bustling breakfast and lunch time venue that attracts a constant stream of visitors from Stilbaai …
The main reason people head out here, other than the food, which alone is reason to visit, is Hazel. Hazel is a personality of note. She beams, bustles and constantly expounds about her passion for permaculture. It’s rather like being on the set of a Jamie Oliver shoot I would imagine. Like most women, Hazel manages to do two things at once – cooking up a storm whilst holding court. Her voice booms from her rustic, farm-style, organic kitchen as she entertains her guests to the latest in her numerous ventures that include writing a book whilst visibly preparing food just behind the counter.
The light-headedness you’ll experience after a couple of sips of home-made ginger beer is not due so much to an ‘awakening’ – although after chatting to Hazel you will definitely come alive to the benefits of attending one of her permaculture/organic vegetable growing courses – so much as the effects of the mildly fermented drink that has more than a respectable kick to it.
And the food Hazel prepares, along with her son Andrew who has recently joined her to take over running the guest farm so that she can get on with other projects, is unpretentious farm-style, seasonal food that is at once delicious and nourishing due mainly to the fact that little on your plate travels further than the distance from the vegetable garden to the kitchen. Cheese and milk is from a local farm, and any other ingredients come from the neighbouring town of Riversdale.
The farm is a find for children too. Oscar the horse, and the donkey with no name (although our son called it Donkey-doo) are both rescue animals that are wonderful fun and feeding them was a daily activity that could not possibly lose its allure. In the gardens are a flock of geese, that alongside the numerous chickens kept in a series of chicken domes produced as a community project on the farm, help Hazel keep her vegetable gardens well manured and free of snails and slugs. Closer to the restaurant are goats, ducks, pigs, more chickens, a couple of cats and the friendly farm dogs that together provide hours of entertainment for children.
Our first night there Hazel invited us to join some of her family who were being treated to home-made pizzas produced in the wood-fired pizza oven. Delicious combinations that involved any number of groupings of figs, feta, caramelised onion, rocket, cheese and spinach were the order of the evening, which turned out to be a star-filled, balmy night spent catching up and meeting new people.
Whenever you happen into the kitchen there is always the offer of tea, home-made cake or cheesecake, which you can enjoy out under the grapevines overlooking the river or in the garden at one of a number of wooden trestle and cement tables. A swing sways idly in the breeze a little lower down the slope from here and the wind moves through pines and wild olives with a gentleness that lulls. Staying here is real wind-down time.
Whilst there we enjoyed strolling through the vegetable gardens and swopping notes with the Malawians who handpicked Hazel from whom to learn more about permaculture on Wild Olive Farm, whilst their wives also help out in Hazel’s kitchen. On our second night there, we helped ourselves to fresh basil from which we made a delicious pesto sauce thrown over steaming pasta and served with an equally delicious salad, also from Hazel’s garden. There is something about eating just picked produce that is immensely satisfying.
The wooden chalets, set just up from the river, are secluded, shady and comfortable. Every now and again a power boat or two come hurtling up the estuary, but they’re dependent on high tide, and don’t disturb the peace and quiet. Hazel has a couple of canoes that you can take out on the river too, which are fun, and simply sitting on the balcony and spotting birds, or fishing off the banks, is enough activity once you have begun to unwind to the slow pace of life out here. In the early morning a few buck come down to the opposite bank to eat, and watching them makes early rising worthwhile.
If you must be active, then there are various strolls up in the hills behind the farm, where a San cave and fresh mountain pools should satisfy your need for adventure – Wild Olive Guest Farm draws all of its water from a reservoir up there. Or the little town of Stilbaai and the seaside are not far from here at all, although once you’re ensconced on the farm, little is more alluring than soaking up the peaceful atmosphere and eating delicious home-cooked food.
Wild Olive Guest Farm a great getaway that is an effortless distance from Cape Town or the Garden Route and, even if you cannot manage a stay, a stopover for breakfast, lunch or tea is something few can resist.
Wild Olive Guest Farm Telephone: +27 (0)28 754-2719