Land 'Without Fat' is an article I wrote for a local leisure magazine exactly 3 years ago this month. For the hell of it I thought I'd take a look at it again....
Round trips: Travelling the Cape West Coast - Land 'Without Fat'
After leaving the town [Malmesbury] make a concerted effort to get off the N7 and take the remote, much less travelled R46 through the magnificent scenery of the Swartland - where extraordinarily fertile soil produces bountiful grapes, grain and olives - to the Riebeek Valley.
Riebeek-Kasteel, on the R311 about 75km NNE of Cape Town, is on the slopes of the Kasteelberg (Castle Mountain). This 946m high solitary rock of Table Mountain sandstone is a sentinel amidst the rolling wheat fields and vineyards of the Swartland. It's a beautiful, tranquil village - particularly when framed in the soft hues of pink and white during spring when the peach orchards are blossoming. Or in autumn when this picturesque valley is transformed by the unbelievable oranges and reds of the vines.
Named after both Jan van Riebeeck and the Kasteelberg, its name appears for the first time in the journal of the surgeon Pieter van Meerhof as far back as 1661 while he was on a discovery expedition.
Restaurants and bistros pepper the village. It's well worth stopping to enjoy a meal and a glass or two of Swartland wine while soaking in the silence of this peaceful, albeit sophisticated rural setting. The serenity is broken only by the crowing of cocks, birdsong and the odd barking dog.
Riebeek-Wes is merely 4kms away. You're now travelling towards the West Coast on the R311 Moorreesburg/Hopefield road. Take the time to stop and, literally, smell the roses, as well as anything else in bloom at the time. Park, walk and stare into the gardens and homes – this is how other people live. Both hamlets are increasingly popular with city dwellers that have discovered Cape Town is an easily commutable hour's drive away.
There's a monthly market in the valley and the increasingly popular Ribeek Valley Olive Festival in June is a draw card. The PPC – Berg River marathon happens in August and the Riebeek-Kasteel half marathon in September.
This is also where two of South Africa's major political figures were coincidentally born and raised: Jan Christiaan Smuts on the farm Bovenplaas in 1870, and Daniёl François Malan on Allesverloren in 1874.