The perfect place to explore ‘big sky country’ near the Gariep Dam

Farmer’s Weekly found the ideal midway stopover between Gauteng and the Western Cape or Eastern Cape if you travel in that direction, says Riaan Hattingh.

The perfect place to explore ‘big sky country’ near the Gariep Dam
The large, shaded stoep is ideal for relaxation.
Photo: Riaan Hattingh
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Driekwartblou Guest House & Venue lies south of the Gariep Dam, with only a narrow part of the Oviston Nature Reserve separating the property from the dam.

It is in the Eastern Cape between the towns of Gariep Dam and Venterstad. Owners Meyer and Carina van der Walt tell us that their farm is en route to “everywhere”, and with the peace and quiet experienced there, this is the ideal guest house to recharge your batteries.

The venue is named Driekwartblou (translation from the Afrikaans three-quarters blue) because three parts of the view guests have to the north is blue: the blue water from the dam, the blue mountains in the distance, and the blue sky. The fourth quarter is the land up to the edge of the dam.

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The farmhouse was originally built in 1803, with extensions added over time, and the house close by, now turned into the Driekwartblou Guest House, was built shortly afterward.

When the Gariep Dam, South Africa’s largest dam, was built from 1965 to 1971, many properties affected were bought from the owners. Towards the end of the project, the land not covered by the dam and surrounding Oviston Nature Reserve were rezoned and resold.

Land that wasn‘t needed for the establishment of the Gariep Dam in the late 1960s was resold to the public.  Photo: Supplied

In July 1970, Meyer van der Walt’s father, Banie, purchased Schalkwykskraal, and in July 1988, Meyer and Carina took over the farming activities. Schalkwykskraal is still a working farm where now mainly cattle are bred.

Three units are available to guests on the farm. The cluster originally was a house and later used as a shed. In early 2013, the Van der Walts converted the shed into accommodation for guests.

Farmer’s Weekly was allocated Unit One. It has one queen-sized bed and a single bed, and an en suite bathroom with a shower. A full kitchenette is available. A stoep with a view over the dam makes for great sundowners.

This picture sometimes is rounded off with sheep from the farm grazing in front, or antelope from Oviston Nature Reserve a little bit further.

Units Two and Three form a family unit and are booked as such. It has a queen-sized bed in one room facing the dam and with a stoep, and three single beds in another room facing the farm dam behind the cluster in which guests may swim from November to February. A kitchenette is available and both rooms have an en suite bathroom. An interleading door between the two rooms makes it easy for parents to keep an eye on the kids.

Unit Four has a queen-sized bed, two single beds, a coffee station, microwave oven, and basic self-catering facilities.

The unit is at the rear of the cluster with no view of the Gariep Dam, but it has beautiful views of the extraordinary sunsets of the Karoo.

Mobile braai facilities are available at all units. TVs in the rooms have access to the DStv Hotel package, and you will also find air conditioners in the rooms. A bonus is the solar power used on the farm; Farmer’s Weekly appreciated the luxury of not being vulnerable to load-shedding.

Meals are available on request and are served in the dining room in the main house. Wi-Fi is available, and if you need to catch up on work, the dining room is where you may spend some time with your laptop.

Driekwartblou Guest House & Venue is pet friendly during certain times of the year and with prior arrangement, so be sure you check on that beforehand. Pets are not allowed in the adjacent nature reserve.

Weddings and other events
The Venue is a large barn, previously a shearing shed, that is frequently used to host weddings and other functions such as reunions and meetings. Wedding ceremonies are usually held in the garden, and up to 150 guests can be catered for.

Farm activities
Guests may hike anywhere on the farm, provided they stay on existing roads. The best hike is up a hill on the southern side of the farm for a picnic with great views over the farm and Gariep Dam. Depending on farming activities at the time, guests may view shearing or even partake in the feeding of lambs.

Schalkwykskraal, on which the guest house is situated, is a working farm with sheep and cattle. Photo: Supplied

Oviston nature reserve
Oviston Nature Reserve, 1 600ha in size, is on the southern side of the dam and stretches from the dam wall in the west up to Bethulie in the east. Some of the wildlife that visitors may encounter are eland, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, and a diversity of birds. Day visitors are welcome, and self-drive game drives are allowed during summer.

Explore the area
The area can be explored on foot or by vehicle. Energetic guests may partake in an accompanied trail run or a hike in the reserve or on participating farms, and Driekwartblou will get you in touch with an expert.

The distances and specific areas can be adapted to your needs, or for your group or team-building exercise.

By car, the Gariep Dam wall is less than 30 minutes away and offers parking spots on top of the wall to allow for photo opportunities, and Oviston offers a viewpoint over the dam. From the viewpoint at Oviston, the infrastructure can be seen from where water is pumped via a tunnel over almost 80km to the Teebus Spruit, feeding into the Fish River, and allowing farmers to irrigate their crops in that area.

You may get hungry while exploring the area. For meals, visit Willem se Kampie road stall between Driekwartblou and Venterstad. Farmer’s Weekly purchased dry wors from them, and wished we had bought more. You may also have meals at Tjailatyd (book a Gariep

Dam Boat Cruise while you are there) and at De Stijl in Gariep Dam. If you have an interest in history, be sure to visit Norvalspont and Bethulie. Both towns played major roles in the Second Anglo-Boer War and were home to concentration camps.

The complete concentration camp graveyard in Bethulie was moved to a higher and safer location during the construction of the dam.

Email [email protected], or phone 082 578 7622