There for an overnight stay before the start of a Ceres Rail Company steam train adventure, what we also found in the fruit-famous town in the mountains, were a number of interesting watering holes.
By Nancy Richards
1 THE LAST STRAW
We got off to a good start with a meal at a surprisingly trendy little eaterie (call me judgemental but we hadn’t anticipated trendy in Ceres) named Capish! A good green beginning, because there was every evidence that here was an environmentally-friendly establishment – hessian coffee bags for sale, a notice claiming the phasing out of straws – a top of the range sea polluter – and locally grown asparagus from Gabriello Carmazza’s farm on the menu (in season). The pasta was excellent (with gluten-free options) and former-teacher waitron Chantal Manuel from Wolsey was a mine of local information.
2 # INFO SITE
Also appealing about Capish! is the spare eco-décor and a lounge area with a table full of newspapers and shelves full of previously-read books for purchase or browsing. Over a nice hot cappuccino, interesting to read in his forward to a 1988 edition of Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Paton refers to the population of South Africa as 15 million. The population of Ceres is said to be around 34 000.
3 SWEET SLEEP
The Italian connection continued as we booked in to La Dolce Vita guest house owned by Peppe Canelli. Once an oat and lucerne farmer, Senor Canelli is relatively new to the hospitality industry and is thus super-caring, making sure we had everything and all the town and around advice we needed. Back home in Italy, Canelli also used to be into motorbike racing – with scars to prove it and daring pictures on the walls of the nice sunny little breakfast room.
4 OF COURSE
A draw card for many is the Ceres Golf Club at the south end of town. Embraced by mountains and well forested with pecking and nesting birds, it’s good for the soul as well as the 18 holes. Not to mention the smart members club house. So if you have aspirations to improve your handicap and you’re looking for somewhere to settle yourself, The Ceres Golf Estate with eighty properties already built is expanding to accommodate just over 200.
5 TRACKING SYSTEM
Adjacent to the golf course is Demeter train station. Demeter being the Greek equivalent of Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility after whom the town was named back in the 1850’s. It’s from here that the Ceres Rail Company operates sending steam trains on rail excursions to Cape Town and other destinations.
6 HOME STRETCH
A steam train rounds a bend as it makes its way back to Ceres through Michell’s Pass in the Witzenberg mountains, what has got to be one of the most scenic rail routes in the country. Although Ceres is famed as an agricultural and fruit-growing district with canning and fruit juice factories, in winter when it snows, it has been described as ‘the Switzerland of Africa.’
7 & 8 TAKING ITS TOL
When trade began between this fertile mountainous area and Cape Town, farmers had to make the precipitous trip across steep and rocky river paths. Then along came Andrew Geddes Bain and built a pass named after Colonel Michell the colony’s surveyor-general. It was opened in 1848 and cost the princely sum of 21 000 pounds. The Tolhuis was an attempt to partially recoup the money and wagons were charged three pennies a wheel, one penny for a pack animal and a ha’penny per sheep, goat or pig. Now turned into a fun and leafy bistro, the Tolhuis will still take your money – but in exchange for good, honest and ‘trustworthy’ food where ever dish tells a story, according to the vision of owners and former journalists Reint and Karien Grobler.
Tourist office 023 316 1287