A journey to yesteryear via Matjiesfontein


I often have conversations with people about how we should give our children less “things”, instead teaching them how to be content with playing in nature, making mud cakes and climbing trees. The grown-up version of this is the “trend” of becoming a minimalist, having less clutter in your house, heart and life and striving for a more wholesome, simplistic way of life. As the saying goes “simplicity is not about deprivation. Simplicity is about greater appreciation of things that really matter.”

I’ve always wanted to travel to Matjiesfontein with our two children as it’s a place I have never been to before. Whilst packing for our two-day trip, I asked my husband if he thinks I should pack some snacks for us for when we are there, or if we should buy it in Matjiesfontein. He laughed half-astounded that I did not know there are no shops in Matjiesfontein. This was when I realised we would be switching off our busy lives for a two-day-stay in a one-street-only-town in the Great Karoo.

We stayed in the Lord Milner Hotel, which has an exquisite, old world-beauty with lush gardens. It was like stepping into another world. Upon arrival our kids were out the door and running at full speed to explore the gardens and the pool area. It is a large garden in which the kids got distracted on the way to the pool – running through the sprinklers, jumping over rocks and collecting bird eggs that fell from the various large trees in the gardens. Once we finally arrived at the pool, the crisp water was a treat to play in. (I would recommend taking some sort of flotation device with for your swim in the pool – I had the thought more than once!). We stayed by the pool with the kids for the rest of the day, “building houses” in the garden or splashing in the pool. It was wonderful to play, relax and connect with each other.

The next day we collected mountain bikes at reception and went off to explore the Great Karoo around us (to be fair, our kids are 6 and 3, so I use the term mountain-biking loosely). Luckily, the Karoo does not pose the threat of hills, or mountains so it was the perfect terrain for our youngsters to learn how to navigate over the loose rocks. We discovered a tortoise whilst biking, seriously improved our biking skills and fell in love with the landscape (and if you were wondering… no – it really was not that hot at all).

Staying on our bikes, we stopped at the Museum (apparently the largest private collection in South Africa) and did a walk through. I was incredibly surprised at how long we stayed in the museum, how many questions the kids asked and how interesting they found all the old-world artefacts. Matjiesfontein also has a car-museum with an old steam train. It was fascinating to see what the carriages had looked like some years ago and it felt a bit like walking onto an old film set. We ended our outing with lunch at Matjiesfontein’s famous coffee house. In the evening we had dinner on the outside terrace of the hotel, sipping wine whilst the kids caught frogs near the fountains.

Matjiesfontein is only a 2.5hour drive from Cape Town, yet it feels like being in a time machine, away from the hustle and busyness of city life, away from consumerism, televisions, shopping centres or other entertainment. In all honesty it took me a few hours to settle in – to be reminded again of the things that really mattered. After that, the two nights in Matjiesfontein felt too short. There are no trampolines, no jungle gyms, no shops and no televisions in Matjiesfontein, yet our kids begged us to stay. Is this a child friendly place? I think they would say YES!!

Go somewhere you have never been before – go to Matjiesfontein.


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