You know those times when you poured water into your mug but forgot to boil the kettle first, or you have water ‘boiling’ on the stove, but the stove isn’t on. At the end of last year we felt like that constantly. Daniel was away a lot, travelling for work, and I had deadlines to meet for my PhD. Stress levels were too damn high, so we looked online for an escape that was close by and affordable. Fortunately, we found an amazing deal on SafariNow for a stay at Bergrivier Eco Retreat (50 km outside Port Elizabeth on the way to Jeffreys Bay). We booked for the next available weekend and counted down the days to our stay. For the next week, we smiled a little more feeling that new trip thrill.
Berg River Rondavel
We booked into the two-sleeper rondavel and were impressed with its quaint, homely feel. It was one large round room that held everything you could need: a comfy double bed, lounge suite that was perfect to rest on after the day’s activities, dining room table and kitchenette. There was also a small bathroom next to the kitchenette, with a surprisingly big shower. On the small patio sat a bench overlooking the well-kept garden. The bench and patio became our favourite spot! There was also a covered braai and seating area on the side of the rondavel. The braai had a cardboard box filled with wood and newspaper, which made it easy to fire up. There was no wifi and no television, which meant we could really unplug and unwind, escaping the pressures and stresses of life.
Looking at the hiking trail map provided to us in the room, we decided on the Blue Trail to the waterfall. For the simple fact that it was the shortest and easiest route. We wanted to get out into nature but also didn’t want to over-exert ourselves on the first hike.
Following the blue wooden blocks marking the trail, we were quickly smiling and laughing, our spirits rising and stresses fading away. The raw, wild nature we walked through was like something out of Jurassic Park, with the crunching stones beneath our feet making us sound like baby dinosaurs. Getting to the waterfall was quick and we spent time enjoying snacks at the water’s edge. The waterfall pool was big enough to swim in and being December at the time we came prepared with our costumes. Being German, Dan gets into cold water fairly easily and relished in a quick dip. Coming from Durban (with summer ocean temperatures of about 25 C), any water body below and around 20 C is practically freezing so I simply cooled my feet.
We followed the same trail back and joined the loop for the Nguni Hike. This hike took us out of the valley and up the hills opposite the Berg River accommodations. The climb up was quite steep, but the views were really quite stunning so stopping to take landscape photos were valid excuses for catching your breath on the way up.
Hikes: Two Valleys and Nguni
Waking up the next morning we heard the patter of drizzle and so enjoyed a cup of tea in bed. We eventually got ourselves up and took a pre-breakfast hike. The Two Valleys Hike is the longest hike offered but we couldn’t do the full loop because the trail was overgrown. The stretch that we did walk was wonderful. The arching trees over the path were magical in an untouched nature kind of way. We followed the path along the river, enjoying the sound of the bubbling water and meeting some crabs.
From deeper in the valley, we heard the baboon barks. With both of us trying to play it cool, we headed a little further on until the barks sounded a lot closer. With now less skaam, I said we should run back (only slightly joking). Dan laughed it off but we headed back anyway. We saw the turn to join the Nguni Hike and headed up the trail. I am no trail runner but I clambered up that hill like Gollum chasing the ring. I think we made it up the hill in half the time we had done it the day before.
With our hearts racing, we took a breather and looked at the opposite valley. Casually climbing up that hillslope and disappearing under the tree canopy was the baboon troop. Completely unphased by our presence. Feeling calmer now, we took a long break at the top enjoying the views of the forested rolling hills around us. Getting hungry, we headed back to the house.
Bergrivier Eco Retreat Accommodation Options
Walking to the hikes we passed the different accommodation options:
- The rondavel (Naguiltjie) is an open planned room with one double bed.
- The log cabin (Wielewaal) looks onto the valley and sleeps four (one double bed and two single beds).
- The stone chalet (Kroonarend) suit family adventures as it sleeps six (one double bed, two single beds, sleeper couches in the lounge).
- The cottage (Swaeltjie) is nestled in the valley and sleeps four (two single beds – forms a king size, bunk bed).
- Pioneer wagons (ox wagons) are also available. There is a double bed in the wagon and bunk beds in the adjoining cabin, giving the option to sleep four.
- There is also a campsite, primarily tents only because of the stream that is crossed to get to the campsite. Off-road caravans are also okay but standard caravans may struggle.
For further details, see the accommodation listed here.
History of Bergrivier
In the information folder in the accommodation, we read the history of the family, farm and area in general. It was a really interesting read! It told of the family travelling to Port Elizabeth in ox wagons (through Van Staadens gorge!) to sell their produce. The eventual construction of the railway meant easier delivery to and from Port Elizabeth. To create a stop nearby, the farmers gave the train drivers watermelons as payment. To this day, the area is known as the Melon District.
Bergrivier Eco Retreat
After our stay at Bergrivier Eco Retreat, we felt our energy renewed. The place is a great nature escape that is close to home. From playing cards on the patio with a cup of tea to stargazing with wine, you forget your stresses and pressures for a bit. If you want to hike and explore as we did or simply pack a picnic and layout on the lawns, add Berg River to your list.
Have you stayed here before? If so, share your comments below. If you visit the Eco Retreat after reading this post, share your experience with us too.
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Looking for more things to do in Port Elizabeth?
Look at our posts on the different markets happening, Thunzi Bush Lodge, Kragga Kamma Game Park and Addo Elephant National Park, hiking up Lady Slipper, staying at Umlambo River Lodge and enjoying Sunday lunch in the Zuurberg Mountains.
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