If there’s heaven on earth, I believe I’ve found it. Had life gone according to plan, I would writing this from Wellington but fate intervened at the proverbial last minute (half way up Sir Lowry’s pass with 2x packed cars) and within 24 hours, thanks to Ma Nguni and family friends, I found a temporary home in Stanford. And things got progressively better: we stumbled upon a Spookhuis one Sunday, met a wonderful Tennessee couple and the rest, as they say, is history…
A dirt road cuts a wide avenue through dense alien brush and heads for the mountains as the hold of the chaotic world loosens. I’m close to levitating out my seat with sheer anticipation when an ancient milkwood grove materialises from the thick army-green bracken. Potted cacti stand like sentinels, marking our entry to another realm: the sacred sanctuary of Lagoon Lodge.
A brief survey of the suite elicits an appreciative flurry of ‘ooh!’ – ‘ah!’ – ‘look at this!’ as I discover another elegant touch of bush panache. A boutique lodge, there’re only 5 suites and each is decorated with masterful taste and sense of style – glamorously rustic, if such a term exists. Prancing like Bambi along the boardwalk, I all but bounce across to the main lapa, nestled cosily beneath a massive, magnificently gnarled milkwood and I have to restrain myself from climbing the low hanging boughs. I don’t know quite what it is, but trees hold an elemental magnetism with a subliminal command: ‘climb me!’ I’ve dreamed of incorporating a tree into my home, creating a natural, living feature. Kathryn tells me later this beauty is over 800 years old! Imagine the history it holds…
Simone welcomes us warmly with tea – I’m even impressed by the sugar, accented as it is with whole nutmeg and star anise. Charmed by life’s ‘little’ things, Lagoon Lodge demonstrates an old worldly dedication to detail – it’s obvious how they earned their stellar rating. Ma Nguni and I sit on the deck, marveling at the epic beauty of undulating mountains, mirror waters and careless clouds scudding across the azure sky. Africa’s most powerful lure must be this vast sense of space. Far from skylines broken by buildings, one’s heart expands fully to bridge earth and stars. It’s why I love living in the country – I feel truly free.
Wise guide and son of a Shangaan medicine woman, Octavia, takes us out in the crisp spring afternoon for a game drive. Whilst there’re no fierce beasts on offer in the Overberg, he’s a consummate storyteller, offering keen insights on traditional plant cures and animal habits, weaving magic from the mundane. As we enter Walker Bay Nature Reserve, two ordinary pigeons insist on getting in the way of the Landrover. “That” declares Octavia, jokily “is a good omen. It means we’ll see whales!”
Low and behold, when we reach the beach, the ocean is a watery theatre of whale ballet! We spotted at least 7 distinct whales mobs (that’s one of the official collective nouns – I checked!), mostly mothers with calves, frolicking happily in the sea as we stand awestruck, sipping sundowners til the sun paints the skies pastel.
Back at the lodge, the grand tree is lit with lanterns as Breese and Kathryn Johnson, the lovely couple who own Mosaic Farm, meet us for a sumptuous dinner. Chef Jurie deftly presents homemade springbok carpaccio with salad and fresh farm bread, spicy pea soup and succulent fillet with red wine jus and butternut dauphine. Desert is a traditional malva pudding with a clever culinary twist: a subtly infused rooibos custard. Delicious! The Mosaic team proudly celebrate the ‘local’. Wines are sourced from the region; they boast an impressive list (featuring my favourite, Creation) and Raka is the house wine. They recognise local’s lekker – even though they’re from American.The Johnson’s are clearly passionate about the area, its people and produce. Promoting sustainable practise, they’ve created jobs through opting to build instead of buy furniture; clearing alien vegetation (which is how they discovered a perfectly concealed location for the lodge); rocks used in building were hewn from farm ground; branches reincarnate as rustic towel rails; trunks form curvaceous supports and even a shipwrecked Gabon tree, washed up on Muizenberg beach finds new life as a beautiful bar top.
I’m contentedly enchanted as we make our way to bed, stars glittering above. There’s another thoughtful handwritten message waiting in the room and an Amarula night cap. I run a generous bath, filled with salts and blissfully soak in the hot water, candlelight faeries flickering against the rough rock. When I finally slip into bed, I discover it’s delightfully warm – turn downs and electric blankets? This is the life!
Waking from the depth of sleep exclusive to holidays or heaven, sunshine streams through the mosquito net canopy, framing as it does another glorious view of lagoon, mountain and morning sky. We sit on our veranda, sipping tea in quiet contemplation of the rich blessing of Mosaic’s secret sanctuary. A gentle sadness settles since we depart soon: I’d recommend a 2 or 3 day stay to properly ‘experience’ the profound bliss on offer. There’s still a heated pool and spa treatments for the leisurely; quad bikes and cave tours for the adrenalin junkies; sunset cruises and picnic adventures… But you could just as well simply stare at the horizon, read or pen memoirs. Get married or celebrate a grand occasion birthday. Whatever the reason, a visit to this pristine paradise is a must.
Ma Nguni indulges in an invigorating outside shower as I scribble a few notes before breakfast. This is more of an event than a meal: a lavish smorgasbord, concluding with creamy scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Then it’s time for our morning stroll, a gentle 3km walk along the lagoon to the Spookhuis – punctuated by Octavia’s intriguing tales, discoveries of fresh caracal prints, wild flowers and porcupine quills. I’m suffering serious lens envy as we marvel at the graceful stand of flamingos, like a silent catwalk of models lolling backstage: one leg bent, hand on hip.
Marcelino meets us at the exquisitely restored and painstakingly rehabilitated 1892 Spookhuis. Another amazing venue! For yoga. A flamboyant music festival. Wedding reception. Or lazy family picnic. Replete with a wine cellar, Country Cafe, beautifully booked library (Breese’s beloved collection) and fully equipped conference room upstairs – there’re also gorgeously appointed 4-star self catering cottages nearby. This mosaic of stunning locations is run by a cohesive, passionate and experienced team who function more like family than colleagues. From handwritten welcome notes to turn downs, solar lanterns, wool and knitting needles, fresh flowers and homemade bath salts, each creative touch has been thoughtfully considered and lovingly executed. And the entire experience is surprisingly affordable :: luxury accommodation, 3 course dinner, exceptional breakfast and activities costs R2,800 per room, per night (more details on rates here).
Whether you’re looking to tie the knot in intimate Out of Africa 5-star luxury, a memorably divine honeymoon, once-in-a-lifetime weekend away or run an exclusive bush conference, Lagoon Lodge is the idyllic setting. You can trust this team to make magic happen…
…I’ll be back!