Introducing the Darling Stagger

Are you a hardcore mountain lover, a twitcher, or botanist, do you want to take your family on an easy walk to appreciate nature? Do you see yourself as a  modern-day strandloper?

The Darling Stagger (launching September 2011) :- A slow-paced, mouth-watering hiking trail from the hills of Darling through wine and olive farms to !Khwa ttu San Cultural Centre and down to Yzerfontein on the coast.

It’s great to see South Africans finally picking up on what the Italians have known for centuries; that this is the way life is meant to be lived – slowly and simply, with good food and wine and good company, in a natural, outdoor setting. This is a trail for those who know how to experience the good things in life.

This 2.5 day, 25km trail begins in Darling. Tucked away between hills of vineyards and golden wheat fields, the trail winds through olive groves and wine farms up to the highest point in Darling where you will take your time sampling local fruits of the vine direct from the farmer.

The trail then meanders through renosterveld and fynbos full of flowers, game and birds, en route to !Khwa ttu where you spend the first night at the unique San Cultural Centre. After a leisurely breakfast, we continue downhill through the strandveld to Tygerfontein Farm along the coast to Yzerfontein, sampling local seafood along the way.

These new 2.5 day slackpacking trails, without the schlep, are guided and catered, comfortable and safe.  Hikers carry a small daypack, lifts and luggage are organised and local folk and restaurants prepare meals in traditional West Coast style.

For more information, full itineraries and prices and to book please call or email.

 

The Darling Stagger Slack Packing Trail

Review by Louise de Waal

Courtesy of http://baobabtravel.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/the-darling-stagger-slack-packing-trail/ 

 

Earlier this month (July 2011) the Cape West Coast Trails were launched within the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve (CWCBR). The CWCBR, with the West Coast National Park at its centre, is one of the 6 UNESCO recognised Biosphere Reserves in South Africa.

Paul and I were invited to explore the brand new Darling Stagger, a cycling and walking slack packing trail between Yzerfontein and Darling. The Darling Stagger is one of the five trails planned within the CWCBR. The other four include the Eve’s Trail (a walk mostly along the West Coast National Park beach), the Five Bay Trail (a coast hugging walk between Paternoster and Jacobsbaai), Wheels of Time (a cycling tour from Mamre via West Coast National Park to !Khwa Ttu), and the Berg River Canooze (a kayak trail from Hopefield to Velddrift).

Why a Biosphere Reserve?

With Cape Town rapidly expanding north, West Coast communities recognised that action was required to ensure that conflict between urban expansion and the diverse ecosystems on the West Coast would not get out of hand and appropriate development plans were put into place. Hence the CWCBR was proclaimed in 2000.

The idea behind the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme is a sustainable and balanced approach between human development and nature conservation. Part of the sustainable development of the CWCBR is enhancing its tourism potential and the Cape West Coast Trails are part of this philosophy.

The Darling Stagger Stage 1

At lunch time we left Cape Town on an unseasonally warm & sunny day. The meeting point just outside Darling at Alexanderfontein Farm was also the first activity of the weekend. Olive tasting at the home of Darling Olives is an all-round olive education on growing, pressing, and use of these originally Mediterranean fruits. As a non-olive eater, I was fascinated and partly converted. A total surprise to see how many uses olives can have. From your simple virgin olive oil and cured olives to olive pastes and olive cooking & bath salts. Maybe I am pretty ignorant when it comes to these little fruits, but the biggest revelation was to learn that black olives are just ripe green ones. Always believed these were different types….

After this olive experience we set off to !Khwa ttu, San Education and Culture Centre and home for the night. We worked up a bit of an appetite with a cycle from the Bush Village Camp to the Atlantic Ocean for a traditional African sundowner. Staying in locavore style, we had a Darling Brew, a slow beer inspired by the rare geometric tortoise. Although a reasonably light beer, the return cycle was far more challenging than the first leg. Or maybe it was more due to the fact that we ended up cycling in the pitch dark, under the most magnificent night sky? The Scorpio constellation was a gentle reminder that it really still is winter in South Africa.

Returning to camp, a typical West Coast dinner was awaiting us, mussel soup, grilled snoek, and several traditional deserts prepared by Natasha and Cariline from Langebaan. All flushed down with the lightly wooded Quercus Gold Chardonnay from the Darling Cellars.

Was this setting the standard for the rest of this slack packing weekend? Can it get even better?

The Real Darling Stagger

Waking up after a chilly but comfortable night, I bumped into yet more great cooks. Natasha & Kyle from Chefs on the Move in Scarborough, although not quite Darling local, were here to show our guides, Morgan and Jacky, what can be achieved with some TLC and fresh ingredients. For a change I was not the odd one out, the lonesome vegetarian, the one declining a full cooked breakfast. This time breakfast consisted of Mobi’s organic granola with fruit & yoghurt, a vegetarian spicy Lebanese take on a cooked breakfast and good quality coffee. Basically I was in heaven.

Coming down to earth with a bang, I realised why this weekend was called the Darling Stagger. After all this fabulous food, walking is no longer an option. So we just staggered to !Khwa ttu, where Ivan gave us an introduction to San medicinal knowledge of the Fynbos vegetation. Fynbos is not only the most diverse vegetation types known on earth, it is also rich in medicinal purposes.

From !Khwa ttu we walked through the fields, vineyards, and olive groves of Ormonde and Alexanderfontein with stunning views of Table Mountain, Dassen Island, and the Atlantic Ocean behind us. The terrain varies from sandy & grid tracks to some tarmac roads or just through the fields. The trail is not hard, you only carry your day pack and the distance is limited to about 15 km. I had no problems at all, so basically anybody in reasonable shape can do it.

After about three quarters of the hike, we arrived at an idyllic setting in the olive groves, where a Bedouin type tent was erected, straw bales set out to give the old legs a good rest and a delicious light lunch of salads ready to be devoured. Natasha, Kyle and Morgan had done an sterling job!

The last stage of the stagger was fortunately mostly downhill, a good thing as drinking wine at lunchtime and climbing hills is not a good combination. Little did we know however that more wine was on the itinerary with a full blown Ormonde wine tasting. For some strange reason, nobody seems to quite remember how many wines we tried, but I can tell you we sampled the whole Alexanderfontein, Ondine, and Ormonde ranges.

The evening programme was the cherry on the cake – Evita Bezuidenhout’s Christmas in July show and babotie at Evita se Perron in Darling. Having heard so much about Evita se Perron and Pieter-Dirk Uys’ character Evita Bezuidenhout, I can confirm that all the praise is well-deserved and more. She is not only funny, but very sharp and willing to stick her neck out by tackling political issues in a way that everybody, regardless age, gender and race, will listen to and take note off. In addition, she does amazing work raising funds for the Darling Trust. Girl you totally rock!

The Darling Stagger finale

The second night we stayed in the heart of the sleepy village of Darling in Trinity Lodge. Here you don’t need an alarm on Sunday, as the church bells, calling Darling’s community to the early morning service, wake you well on time for breakfast.

After breakfast it was time to burn some of those calories with a short cycle through the village, a visit to the fascinating Darling museum and Nicolaas Maritz’s Studio Gallery.  Nicolaas, a well-established local artist, decided it was time to have a proper Studio Gallery, so people can have a look ‘behind the work’ and understand it better. He created the most incredible house full to the rafters with art, mostly his own but also some of his fellow South African artists. You roam from one room into the next, into his waterwise garden and his studio, and lose yourself in his intriguing work described by art critics as zippy, post-modern ethno-centric punk, naive, and challenging. No idea what that means, but I love his work.

The finale to the Darling Stagger is wine tasting and lunch at the historic Groote Post wine farm. I have always liked their wines, but the Groote Post Chenin Blanc 2011 is exceptionally good and great value for money. The mini ‘Ice Age’ last spring led to a very late harvest of this cultivar and the beautiful guava and green-apple flavours.

Overall the Darling Stagger slack packing trail was a great success with fabulous food, wine tasting to make anybody’s mouth water, mixed with a good amount of calorie burning of walking and cycling, and great company. Thank you guys for hosting us!

tel: 086 187 2457 (TRAILS)
Cape West Coast Biosphere Central Office: 022 451 2648
Cape West Coast Biosphere Hub R27: 022 492 2750
083 261 7960 (Ivan)
083 628 3426 (Sheryl)
email: trails@capebiosphere.co.za
web: www.capebiosphere.co.za/trails
notes: Special offer! Ask about reduced prices on initial exploratory trails.
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Nicolaas Maritz receives French honour

Nicolaas Maritz

Nicolaas Maritz

A FRENCH NGO has selected a Darling artist’s designs for an international Aids campaign.

Nicolaas Maritz, 52, said the news came as a shock to him as he was unaware that his designs had been entered in a competition. Dessine l’Espoir (Designing for Hope) selected his poster design, “Love the one you’re with”.

The NGO will be using it on condom packaging, posters and stickers for its campaign, “I love you positive or negative”.

The campaign aims to fight HIV/Aids-related stigma and discrimination in South Africa, Swaziland, Burkina Faso and other countries.

Maritz said he recently sent the NGO a batch of poster designs he had made on computer, from scanned sketches and slogans.

“The prize has come as a complete surprise because I never thought (my work) would be entered in a competition. I thought it would just be used in various ways that it could.

“It’s wonderful when you create something that assists in making a change. Art is something I have a love for and I believe it shouldn’t be done just for making a profit. We have to use our talents to benefit each other.”

Six of Maritz’s other designs are to be reproduced on T-shirts, bags and other products.

He shows his work in a 1927 farmhouse in Nemesia Street, off Darling’s main road.

Source: Cape Times

Nicolaas Maritz profile: http://www.capegallery.co.za/nicholas_maritz_cv.htm

Nicolaas Maritz Open House for the Darling Music Experience 2011

To mark the 2011 Darling Music Experience (DME)

the artist Nicolaas Maritz

will open his studio gallery to the public

with a special representative exhibition of his work.

To celebrate this event

you are cordially invited for drinks

at the Maritz Studio Gallery (MSG)

5 Nemesia Street, Darling, 7345

on Friday 25th February from 11.30am – 1pm.

MSG viewing hours during the DME week-end, 26 – 27 February: 10.30am – 5pm

Otherwise by appointment only: 078 419 7093

Nicolaas Maritz website: http://sites.google.com/site/nicolaasmaritzgallery/

Darling Music Experience (DME) website: www.darlingmusic.org

Maritz Studio Gallery

Gedurende die 2011 Darling Music Experience (DME)

sal die kunstenaar Nicolaas Maritz

sy ateljeegalery vir die publiek oopstel

met ‘n spesiale oorsigtelike tentoonstelling van sy werk.

Ter viering van die geleentheid

word u vriendelik uitgenooi vir ’n drankie

by die Maritz Ateljeegalery (MSG)

Nemesiastraat 5, Darling, 7345

op Vrydag 25 Februarie vanaf 11.30 vm – 1nm

MSG besigtigingsure tydens die DME-naweek, 26 – 27 Februarie: 10.30vm – 5nm

Andersins slegs per afspraak: 078 419 7093

Nicolaas Maritz se webwerf: http://sites.google.com/site/nicolaasmaritzgallery/

Die Darling Musiekondervinding (DME) webwerf: www.darlingmusic.org