Tulbagh: A Less Obvious Destination in the Western Cape
If you only focus on big cities and the hyped “must sees”, you miss a great deal of life, and much of the excitement of tourism. A small town like Tulbagh will slow you down and will make you soak in big pieces of local culture.
Tulbagh is a small town in the Western Cape in South Africa, plopped between Capetown where we were staying and a vineyard that was well promoted. It was here that we met our frenzied friend, the raging peacock.
Frenzy, as Grumpy called him, lives in front of No. 29 Restaurant we had picked out for lunch (fabulous). The owner parked his vintage Rover in front and somehow our friend Frenzy the Peacock had taken major insult from this.
Maybe because it is almost the same colour as himself and he had bursts of jealousy. Maybe he saw himself in the sheen of the paint and thought is was a competitor. Whatever...he shrieked hysterically and attacked the Rover savagely with his beak, up and down the flanks and a final hammer on the tail light for good measure.
The owner burst from the restaurant in a olympic rage hurling insult and threatening hideous vengeance. The Peacock achieved a semi dignified scuttle, just ducking away from a hurled stick. The owner marched back inside, slumped in a chair and told us his tale. Frenzy and he had a long term relationship spanning two cars. Both vehicles had been nick named “the pox” in the town.
The poor man was exhausted with a war he lost daily. He outlined his plans for entrapping the beast, to serve him for Christmas dinner.
As the owner crept back to the house, guess what.....his wife snuck out of the kitchen and slipped some leftovers to Frenzy, who sensing his victory had slipped back to the front of the restaurant. Realizing that at least one death was inevitable in this scenario, we slipped away.
We had a taste of Tulbagh hospitality in this restaurant while chatting with the owners. The wife happened to have come from Canada and she mentioned that she had just baked an apple crumble, a favourite desert. I melted after already working through a satisfying meal.
South African portions are....ahhhhh...generous. Can't pass on crumble though and her own recipe was made from the fruits of Tulbagh. After months in Cambodia, where good crumble is non-existent unless I go to the kitchen myself, this was a promise of heaven.
Still, our trip to Tulbagh is forever etched in my memory. I smile when I think of the peacock. We had a great natter with the husband and wife team and still speculate what the closing chapters of this triangle would have been. The restaurant is no. 29 Church Street, in a line of "old Cape Dutch” houses and the food is worth the drive.
Church Street is very picturesque and has the greatest concentration of national monuments (32) in one street in any burgh of this size.
The houses on Church Street were restored to their original condition in 1969 after an earthquake that devastated the place. If you squint, you can pretend the Boers are all around you and it’s 200 years ago.
Located in the wine lands of the Boland of the Western Cape, about 120 joyous driving kms from Capetown, this place has some of the best wineries in the Cape producing both reds and whites. It also produces about 70% of the country's plums. (No slivovits...we asked...shame that!)
Tulbagh was first settled after the visit of Governor Wilhlem van der Stel in 1669. He began distributing farm lands to landless Dutch families who then transformed this place into Roodezland, a prosperous farming community. Our friends claim that there were no local people at the time so no land was “expropriated”.
By 1743, a Dutch Reform Congregation was established, it's church completed by 1749 and the town settled down to a rather ideal existence.
Apparently Tulbagh and the Valley is really popular local South Africans who love to come here especially to celebrate their weddings. The town is small, authentic and beautiful.
The Tulbagh Valley is so picturesque, surrounded by mountains with the highest, the Great Winterhoek, which becomes snow capped in the winter and is about 2077 m. above sea level.
The Valley blooms in the spring and apparently it is so beautiful with its wild flowers, proteas and trees in full flower that those who move here never want to leave for the dubious joys of Capetown.
We were there around Christmas so missed the outburst of Spring. We're still suspicious about Frenzy the Peacock's fate. Was he featured at Christmas dinner?
For those interested in traveling to Tulbagh, here's a map
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Have you visited Tulbagh? What tip will you give a traveller there?