After a 10 year absence, we were very excited to be returning to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, a place that I have always felt I might like to live in if I didn’t live in Cape Town (but I am Capetonian – so I admit to prejudice!)
We were lucky enough to be travelling down from a few relaxing days in the Drakensberg and decided to bypass the highway and take the R103 from the top. It was interesting driving through towns with names I remember from school geography – Estcourt, Mooi River and the like.
We had a few loose plans about where we were going to stop on the way down to our destination - the Nottingham Road Brewery and craft shops around Nottingham Road were an obvious choice.
The beer tasting at the brewery was most refreshing but unfortunately the lunch was definitely a miss. Due to the astonishing heat of 39°C we were experiencing, the delicious hand-crafted chocolates from Chocolate Heaven had to be eaten fast!
The heat was certainly a factor in us moving just a bit faster to our final destination of Caladdi Guest House and we were not disappointed. As we drove up the long, winding avenue of trees that takes guests up to the guest house, we immediately felt cooler.
Welcomed warmly by owners, Nova and Wayne, we were shown to the Cabernet Family Suite which consists of two en-suite double bedrooms joined by a charming little lounge. Fresh flowers, soft pastel colours and crisp linen had us smitten from the start and the kids’ hot chocolate tray was a lovely touch. In no time the kids were at home as evident by their little soft toy creatures taking pride of place on each of their beds!
We made short work of getting into the swimming pool and once again the kids were delighted... a pool full of children! Nova and Wayne run an innovative programme every Wednesday where guests and locals are welcomed at Caladdi for afternoon tea and a chance to simply hang out. The children swim until they have had enough, then they can have a bath while their parents gather on the verandah to have a drink and catch up. A child-friendly supper such as lasagne is served and families spend time together in a relaxed and safe environment. Everyone is happy! In such small communities opportunities to bond with your neighbours is invaluable. Hats off to Nova and Wayne for making it so easy.
Caladdi’s innovation does not stop there. Earlier this year they hosted a music concert, which they plan to make an annual event, once again using their gorgeous space to bring people together. Hampers filled with farm bread, blueberries, jams and home-cured bacon, plus a Dads and Lads mountain-bike camping weekend and trail running stopovers are on the cards too.
Later in the evening, once we’d had a drink from the honesty fridge and enjoyed the view, Wayne recommended Il Postino, a nearby pizzeria for our dinner. He kindly made the reservation for us too. It was such a lovely experience. It was not a ‘designer’ restaurant, but I have rarely had such exceptional service (yes, Cape Town!) We enjoyed the great food and a fun atmosphere (admittedly the Springboks were whipping the USA in the World Cup Rugby match on the TV screens at the time!).
On our drive back to Caladdi after dinner we stopped on the long driveway to admire the sky – Lidgetton has almost no light pollution and the stars were a special sight.
After a great night's sleep we wandered over to the verandah for breakfast the next morning. All signs of the previous evening’s gathering were gone and a tasty looking breakfast buffet was laid out. Two small calves were in the garden to the surprise of my urban warriors and the view of Nova’s beautiful ex-race horse galloping across the field finished the idyllic setting.
Not to be outdone, Wayne served a superb breakfast of homemade bread, Caladdi’s own eggs, garden rocket and home-cured bacon. The proof was in the eating!
So often places are described as a home-from-home, but Caladdi really is. Nova and Wayne go out of their way to make guests feel welcome in the relaxed and unpretentious surroundings.
With Tsonga Shoes’ original home and factory shop, the renowned Piggly Wiggly market, the divine Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant (highly recommended by Nova) and Nelson Mandela’s Capture Site down the road, Caladdi is perfectly placed to make the most of the Midlands Meander. We will be back!
Text and images: Heather Coull