Botrivier and Open Closed Gardens

botrivier open gardens


Our normal mischief-mood made us deliberately turn right when we kind of had it all planned to go left, and instead of heading to Stellenbosch, we found ourselves on Sir Lowry’s Pass. It was the weekend of Elgin Open Gardens, and on the spur of the moment, we thought we’d check it out.

We managed to pass Peregrine Farm Stall without stopping for stuff we could not refuse and got to an open garden. Or a closed garden.  Well, it was open if you paid.  It was a toss-up… Spend the time in an open, not so tranquil garden between a whole crowd of people, or go on to a wine farm. I say toss-up, but it was really a no-brainer and no coin was tossed as we unanimously declared that no closed garden had ever stopped us, so there was no point really.

It was busy!  Everywhere. So we kept driving and eventually got to Botrivier.  I love this little village in the Overberg!  Some years ago friends of mine arranged with the Botrivier Hotel that we could camp on their lawn for New Year’s.  That was during one of the weirdest times of my life, so I remember it very vividly.  I was, how can I put it, between homes?  Yip, let’s go with that. I was between homes at the time, working at the Spur in Gordon’s Bay because I couldn’t find a job in the film industry after moving to Cape Town.  To avoid spending time at what passed as home then, and also because I was doing whatever it took to keep going, I worked double shifts almost every day.  That means I started before 7 am and finished around 11 pm and spent nearly all that time on my feet.  I was completely exhausted!

So on the 31st of December, I took a tent and a sleeping bag and drove to Botrivier.  It was a great, relaxed afternoon with friends under the trees on the cool lawns of the hotel with a bar dating back to 1890.  For our New Year’s Dinner, we went to the Shuntin Shed for pizzas.  The restaurant is in the old station building, right between the tracks.  Long ago, in the 80’s I think, the Afrikaans series Nommer Asseblief was filmed in this charming town with a rich history of trade and transport.

After eating my pizza and enjoying some wine, the weeks of double shifts kicked in and I could hardly keep my eyes open.  I decided to get some fresh air to wake up. Then I decided to get something from my tent.  I crawled in and thought, just for a minute I am going to lie down on the cool, soft sleeping bag…

Around 3 am I woke up in an almost sleepy town.  Only the real die-hard party people were still around, too few of them to even make a decent noise.  I had slept through the midnight countdown, the New Year’s wishes, the cheers and the music, on nothing but a sleeping bag on the grass under the tent.  It was pure bliss!  I went right back to sleep for more pure bliss.

In the morning I paid back my dinner debt to my friends who had paid it when I didn’t return, and gracefully – I hope – accepted their teasing about my disappearance and fading on a party.

A year or two later I worked for a boss lady from hell who made me make a YouTube video about Botrivier one Saturday afternoon.  It was going to be the big launch of a project, and because she decided, around Thursday afternoon, the launch would be that Saturday, it was going to be that Saturday. We had about 10 min of footage of a valley near Botrivier, filmed with a handheld camera from the car.  Oh, and some interesting shots of a graveyard that had to be dug up to accommodate her housing project. So, basically, it was a Youtube video for a non-existent audience, produced in an impossible time-frame, with non-existent footage, about a non-existing business that wanted to build a non-existent housing development on a piece of land they didn’t own. Near Botrivier.  At least the town exists! I told her it was not really possible to make a video with what we had and she said she was sure I’d come up with something.

I worked like crazy through the Friday, and everybody who has ever edited a video will understand how time-consuming it is.  Even more so when you have nothing to put in this video. So, by closing time on Friday, I reiterated that I could not make a video in the given time.  With a dramatic sigh and stern face I was told that I would have to come back to work on Saturday then.

That Saturday I sat in her cold lounge finishing the video with some free, and some not so free, nor legal, generic still photographs I found on Google. The big launch of the big project was to… *cue drumroll*… click the upload button on Youtube.  About 5 minutes later YouTube declared the upload completed. Yay! The big project that could not wait, was launched with fireworks and fanfare. Or no, wait… none of that. No champagne, no cake. Not even a beer. But hey!  All those people who were invited could now see the movie! Of course, they were friends of the boss, rather than confirmed, or even potential, investors. Both of them!  Unfortunately, they were out doing Saturday things, but politely though vaguely,  said they’d watch the video sometime in the coming week.

Now, two years later, I see the video has actually been viewed 143 times.  Wow. That is impressive, considering the development still does not exist and the movie was made with no footage.

But to get back to my story, Bev and I were near Botrivier, and I remembered, from my extensive research for the big launch, that there was a wine farm with a B. Not Beaumont. Well, that too, but that is the obvious one, but there was another one I could not remember the name of.

We were driving along, and then we saw the B.  Barton Wines. They were open, and they had wine.  Some pretty good wine too!  After the wine tasting, lemon picking in the vineyards (shhh, don’t tell) and climbing around on their tractor, we went to the Botrivier Hotel to watch the All Blacks making mincemeat of the Boks.  We ended the day with a stroll through the old town. There are many geraniums growing near the historic station. Pink, red, dark pink, purple; all kinds of beautiful geraniums. And that garden is open. I have Botrivier Geraniums planted all around my shack now…

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