Take the N2 from Cape Town, drive for about 45 minutes — enjoying the twists and turns of Sir Lowry’s Pass — and you will find yourself in the Elgin Valley. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend away from Cape Town, but also for a day out, as it really is just on the other side of the mountain.
The Elgin Valley is perfect for adventurous, outdoorsy types, as it’s replete with natural areas where one can go ziplining, kloofing, cycling, horseback riding, and Segway-ing — or, if you’re into tamer adventures, wine-tasting and dining.
Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
From the Peregrine Farm Stall on the N2, turn left onto the R321 and travel along the lazy green country road and up Viljoens Pass for 12km to the entrance to the Hottentots Holland Reserve.
This is raw nature, with peaks rising up to 1590m above sea level, rough tracks, pristine fynbos, forested areas, and healthy flowing rivers.
Hiking in this reserve is an adventure, with day hikes or tougher overnight routes to choose from. Look out for the soaring Black Eagle, the darting speedy peregrine falcon, and the king of the hunters, the African fish eagle.
Leopards are seldom seen but do live on these mountains; zebra, and a variety of antelope are often spotted. In winter the peaks become capped with snow and the weather conditions can be treacherous. All hikes have escape routes and it is advised that you read the survivor’s guide to hiking, available at the main office.
Cape Canopy Tour
Getting to the Cape Canopy Tour involves a thrilling 40 minute drive in a 4×4 along a rough and narrow track that penetrates deep into the heart of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. Hairpin bends, sheer drops and grinding gears will have your adrenalin pumping and your body on full alert.
The attraction itself consists of 13 platforms and 11 slides, and a walk across a suspension bridge on shaky legs. Some of the platforms are constructed onto sheer cliff faces and defy belief.
This canopy tour allows you to fly, or so it feels. The scenery below is one of pristine fynbos, rivers, trees, gorges and ravines. The longest slide is over 300 meters, the shortest 120 meters. Some are fast, some are slow, and all are incredible.
The canopy tour is suitable for all ages, and for those who are a little fearful, or not so skilled at braking, you can go tandem, with one of the guides doing all the work. Children as young as 5 have enjoyed this, and recently a lady of 90 years old completed the course.
This is a 17km long kloofing (canyoning) adventure located in Hottentots Holland reserve. The trail requires you to fly down rock-slides into icy rock pools and take more than one leap of faith, falling for up to 14m before plunging down into the brown depths of the Riviersonderend River.
It can only be done in the warmer months, from November to the end of April, and even then you ideally should wear a wetsuit. Permits are required, and inexperienced kloofers must be accompanied by a guide. The weather conditions are unpredictable, and cell phone reception is sketchy.
Segway Adventure Park
If you have never driven a Segway, do yourself a favour and try this tour in Grabouw’s Biosphere Reserve. Glide along paths surrounded by trees and experience the thrill of bumping up hills and speeding down the other side. If you go too fast the handle will push back against your body to slow you down. This is an odd sensation, but you soon learn how fast you can go, and how to weave from left to right keep your speed at the optimum level.
Food and Wine
A stop at The Orchards for breakfast is a good way to begin your Elgin experience. If you are planning a self -catering weekend or day out, head to Peregrine, the oldest farm stall in the Western Cape. Fill your basket with old-school real food: breads, fresh seasonal fruit and veg, homemade jams, a variety of honeys, rooibos tea, local wines, man-sized homemade pies, and biltong. Elgin being apple country, you must try some of the local craft ciders; pick up a six-pack of Everson’s, made with either local apples or pears — and loads of love.
Elgin has always been the ultimate apple region, but now it is well known for its grapes and excellent wines, with 17 estates forming the Elgin Wine Route, and another 13 in and around the nearby village of Bot River, 22 km from Elgin.
The Beaumont Family estate gets rustic chic right, and is a pleasing blend of old and new. The tasting rooms are warm and friendly, while the outside area tempts you to relax with a picnic under the trees, on the lawns or down by the dam.
This area has its own brand of creative quirkiness, evidenced in the Beards and Barrels Festival, celebrated at the end of the harvest. The festival runs over a weekend and is a celebration of local wine, fresh food and laid-back fun. Wine makers stop shaving on the 1st of February every year, so by the time the harvest is completed, they are all sporting serious beards from long and bushy, to wild, curly and multi-coloured. These are proudly shown off during the Beard Parade, where the winner of the year is announced.
Mountain biking and horse riding are great ways to explore this area and details of the numerous trails can be obtained from Elgin Valley Tourism, situated at Peregrine Farm Stall.
Where to stay
Tri-Active Lodge is an adventure centre owned and run by the larger than life Cany Bugler and her intrepid husband Anton. The setting is pure nature, open spaces surrounded by trees, a dam and the mountains. Overnight accommodation is available in tented camps and Cany and Anton can arrange just about any activity you could possibly imagine.
Test your skills with air rifles, or archery, explore the Groenland Trail on a nature walk, quad bike or in a 4 x 4. Put your body through its paces on the Adventure Challenge, an exciting and trying obstacle course, or let Tri Active arrange some family fun time with a variety of games and team-building exercises.