Author Archive | Sarah Duff

Papkuilsfontein: the perfect guest farm

Sometimes I bemoan being a travel journalist because it means I have to share the special spots I encounter on my travels, which means that they get booked up and if I go again I have to reserve months in advance. But then again, I get to find these amazing places in the first place.

Papkuilsfontein went straight into my little black book of travel awesomeness pretty much from the moment that we drove through the gates after a two-hour drive north of Clanwilliam through the barren blow-drier-hot vast landscapes of the Northern Cape. The farm has several restored century-old gorgeous country-chic cottages (with luxurious modern touches, such as hot outdoor showers) on its vast property of sheep, rooibos, fynbos and olive trees. There’s a 180-metre canyon on the farm, ancient rock art, a waterfall, rock pools and a chic minimalist pool overlooking a windmill, and nothing else around for miles. There’s no electricity, so at night your cottage is lit up by candles and paraffin lamps. It’s tranquil, restorative and utterly romantic.

Papkuilsfontein, perfect guest farm accommodation in the Northern Cape Karoo

I loved the farm tour which took us off road through thickets of fynbos and past interestingly-shaped boulders in a trust old Landy, sitting on our stoep drinking red wine under the Milky Way and whiling away hot afternoons in the pool, but my highlight was the food.


As we arrived, roosterkoek were being braaied over the fire in the dining room of the main house and we were given a basket full of the piping hot bread, together with bowls of farm butter and homemade apricot jam. It reminded me of the Karoo farm childhood I never had. In the evening, instead of self catering, we opted for a cooked dinner. This is not just your average communal dining room affair. Instead. a two- or three-course fabulous meal is prepared for you, brought to your cottage and set up at your own table with candles. We were served a delicious vegetarian feast of mushroom pot pie, green beans cooked in the farm’s olive oil, honey-glazed carrots, perfect roast potatoes and cucumber salad, topped off with pavlova filled with decadent cream and fresh peaches. Breakfast, served back the main house, also passes the gourmet test: fruit salad and yoghurt, the best porridge oats ever (with butter and brown sugar) and a three-cheese-asparagus souffle.


I can’t wait go back in early spring (July to September), when the farm is covered in carpets of wild flowers  – although it will have to be in 2014, as Papkuilsfontein is already almost entirely booked up this year. Whether you visit Papkuilsfontein in the heat of summer, like me, or in the cooler months (when you can light fires in your cottage fireplace and snuggle up to hot water bottles) you’re likely to fall in love with this perfect country retreat.

Papkuilsfontein, perfect Northern Cape Karoo guest farm accommodation



How to get there: Papkuilsfontein is near Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape. It’s 350 km from Cape Town (around 4.5 hours), which makes it a bit far for a weekend. It’s best to take a long weekend or full week and do a road trip up the N7 through the Cederberg (one of my favourite places) and stay on a farm outside Clanwilliam to break up the long drive. Once you book at Papkuilsfontein, you’ll get detailed instructions on how to get there from Niewoudtville.

Accommodation: There are three cottages on the Papkuilsfontein farm, which sleep between two and four people (we stayed in the lovely De Hoop cottage). The family also own a guest house and two other cottages nearby, closer to Niewoudtville.

Rates: It’s R350 per person for the self-catering cottages, with breakfast (R110 per person) and dinner (two courses R160, three courses R215) extra.

Contact: Tel 027-218-1246, [email protected]


10 things travel has taught me

After working at Getaway for three and a half years, I’ve decided to leave my dream job and embark on a freelance travel writing career (and start a mobile yoga studio).

My assignments for Getaway have taken me on some incredible adventures, from hiking into an active volcano on Reunion islandtracking mountain gorillas in Rwandaoverlanding from Joburg to Malawi in a Minitrekking in the Namib Desertbeach hopping in Mozambique, rafting in Zambia, partying at the best festival in the world, eating my way around MauritiusPrince AlbertDurban and the KwaZulu-Natal Midlandsroad tripping in Namibia and riding elephants in India.

In short, it’s been an awesome ride. Apart from the fun stuff, I’ve learnt a couple of things along the way about travel, people, food and how to pack light.


1. No matter where you go, once you get past superficial differences (language, culture and strange tastes in dancing), we all have a lot in common. Sometimes the differences cloud what we share, but they are always there if you look hard enough.

2. On the whole, people in most developing countries want to help you, rather than steal your stuff. There are mostly good people out there, and it helps to drop the cynicism that many of us have.

3. Amazing places to stay aren’t defined by how much they cost. I’ve stayed in campsites, guest farms, dorms, backpackers and some of the world’s top luxury hotels, and the ones I’ve liked best are not necessarily the most expensive. It’s all about the people who work there, the effort put in to make the place more than a collection of rooms and the location – whether on the banks of a river, in the wilderness of a game park or on an undeveloped stretch of coast.

4. Food leads you to the heart of a culture. Whether it’s eating sushi in Tokyo’s top Michelin-starred restaurants, tucking into a curry from a roadside stall in India, or eating deep-fried cassava sprinkled with lime juice and chilli in a Kenyan village, there are stories behind everything you eat in a new place. Learn the stories and connect with the people behind the food and you’ll learn more about a place than you ever would by reading a guidebook.

5. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a 4×4 to travel overland in Africa. I’ve driven over 4500 kilometres from Johannesburg up to the top of Malawi, and along the coast of Mozambique in a Mini Cooper and didn’t have so much as a flat tyre. Off-the-beaten-track travel is generally a lot easier and less scary than guidebooks (and travel agents trying to sell package holidays) will have you think.

6. Always have your camera with you, ready to shoot. Once you see a good photo opportunity, shoot it right then and there rather than waiting for another chance to get a similar photo, or shooting it on the way back.

7. Travelling light is the only way to go. I used to try and pack for every weather eventuality, lugging huge suitcases around countries and wearing only half the clothes I brought, but now I stick to a strict list. Unless your trip requires heavy duty gear (I’m thinking a polar expedition or heli skiing) try and fit all your clothes into a bag small enough to fit into the cabin.

8. Locals make the best guidebooks: connect with them through blogs and social media and you’ll get the best insight into a place.

9. Travel apps aren’t essential (remember a time when we all managed to travel without cell phones?) but they do make life a lot easier. Travelling organised is about jacking up your smartphone.

10. You don’t have to travel to travel. Reading great travel writing will teach you more about the world than going on package holidays where you only see in the inside of the airport and your resort.