Publicity

Off the beaten track

Yuka Kondo. kondo@southafricantourism.or.jp

Herewith Japanese media feedback on the recent Off the Beaten Track Media trip arranged by SA Tourism featuring a safari experience at Makweti (Limpopo), the Western Cape & West Coast, and the Free State incl Clarens and Golden Gate.

Inspire your kids in Clarens

N3 Gateway, 29 Nov 2019

As adults, we love a saunter to Clarens… a weekend with friends enjoying the Clarens Beerfest, Pinotage on Tap, Cherry Festival or one of many sporting weekends on offer. All such fun!

However, traveling with the children not only builds togetherness as a family, it educates the little ones on subjects the classroom can’t always offer.

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Award-winning goat’s cheese from Clarens

After teaching herself cheesemaking, Estee van Aswegen entered her Baris cheeses at the South African Dairy Championships and won top of class.

Estee van Aswegen says it was her search for an alternative income stream on the family farm, Baris, near Clarens, that led her to cheesemaking about three years ago.

“I still don’t know why I decided on dairy goats, of all things. But I made my decision and the next thing I knew, my mum, Minda, and I were on a goat-purchasing road trip to De Rust,” she says.

“We returned with five goats, and here we are today with a herd of 50 dairy goats and an up-and-coming cheesery.”

Baris farm is situated 10km from Clarens, in the picturesque eastern Free State.

Van Aswegen says the trickiest part of the business was learning to make the cheese and sourcing the right equipment and ingredients.

“I read up on everything about goat’s milk, and invested in the best equipment I could afford. It called for a lot of research, talking to people in the know, and learning from my own mistakes.”

The artisanal Baris cheeses are sold at the farm’s deli and restaurant, Baris Monger. She also supplies the Cheese Gourmet in Linden, Johannesburg.

The Baris range consists of eight cheeses, including Camembert, Brie, feta, halloumi and the award-winning Vliedermaus, judged top of its class in 2018 and 2019 at the South African Dairy Championships.

It was named after the family’s beloved black Staffordshire bull terrier. Van Aswegen describes it as a rich, soft, creamy, ashed, bloomy rind cheese that is bold in flavour.

The Baris Camembert was awarded second place in 2019 and third place in 2018 in the category for goat’s milk bloomy rind cheese, with or without condiments. It has a buttery yet milky taste, and she says it makes a superb baked Camembert.

The halloumi, which gained third place in 2019, is made using the traditional style of folding, and contains mint from the Baris garden.

“Developing our range of cheeses has been a mind-blowing journey. Since we developed our own recipes, it took a lot of experimenting. It was important not to replicate other cheeses on the market, but to develop a range with its own identity and flavour.”

Goat production notes
The Baris goat herd consists of 50 Saanen ewes. The Saanen goat originates from the Saanen Valley of Switzerland. The largest among all the dairy goat breeds, they are mainly raised for commercial milk production. The herd was sourced from a number of farms across South Africa.

Van Aswegen recently introduced Toggenburg genetics into the herd. The traditional goat breed of the Toggenburg and Werdenberg regions of St Gallen in eastern Switzerland, it was first brought to South Africa early in the 20th century.

Van Aswegen has no plans for crossbreeding the goats.

The average daily milk production is 2,5ℓ/ewe, and the cheesery produces about 250kg of cheese during the summer months. The breeding season starts in March, and she keeps one ram for every 35 ewes.

The herd is kept on planted pastures, such as chicory and ryegrass. Van Aswegen believes in holistic care, but has the herd inoculated against endoparasites and ectoparasites. A mineral lick and concentrate rations are provided before kidding starts in winter.

The average temperatures on the farm go to below freezing in winter and as high as the mid-30s in summer.

During the off-season, she augments the goat’s milk with cow’s milk, which she says is a perfect alternative.

A challenging start
In the beginning, she did everything, from managing the herd to milking, making the cheese, and working in the deli. Later on, she was joined by her trusted helper, Martha Motobatsi, who works in the deli now. Tinashe Mataruse, a former waiter at the deli, has taken over as cheesemaker.

Van Aswegen says she was lucky to find Mataruse because he understands the intricacies and nuances of the industry, and produces cheeses that would impress the most critical of connoisseurs.

After only two-and-a-half-months’ training, he grasped what cheese production was all about and now forms an integral part of the business.

“I’ve never been afraid of a challenge,” says Van Aswegen.

“However, during those early days, I often asked myself why on earth I embarked on this wild, new journey! But the successes slowly started to overcome the failures. The awards the Baris cheeses gained at the dairy championships meant that we were doing something right.”

The farm’s extensive herb and vegetable garden, managed by her mother, Minda Farrell, supplies all the cheesery’s needs, such as mint for the halloumi. She also sells a range of preserves at the deli.

“In this way, I know exactly where the inputs come from. Not only does it save money, but it adds to the integrity of our products. I am committed to the production of truly unique artisanal cheese that is produced on the farm and from the farm.”

She says cheesemaking is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is only now that the cheesery is starting to show a profit; previously, she had to reinvest her profit into the business to get it to the standard she wanted it to be.

“At this point, I can say we are on the way to success. I must credit my husband, Pieter, for his input and ongoing support.”

 

The most charming Towns and Small Cities in South Africa

South Africa is home to a diverse landscape that comprises everything from pristine beaches, rugged mountains and craggy cliffs, to dense forests, crystal-clear lagoons and lush winelands. Interspersed around this varied topography are a vast number of towns and cities, each boasting their own unique character and cultural identity.

A dog ambles along as a hot air balloon takes flight in Clarens (Photo: Di Jones)

5 Free State routes to add to your bucket list

Are you thinking of a South African holiday and do not want to visit the usual attractions in Cape Town or Durban? Then you should give Free State a try.

The province boasts five routes named after popular South African animals and birds, offering a range of attractions that would make your holiday worthwhile.

Free State offers plenty of activities, sightseeing opportunities and cultural experiences. The Cheetah Route offers many adventures. Picture: Cheetah Experience.

#Clarens: A charming town full of adventure

The town is full of charming stores, featuring stunning art, collectible vintage paraphernalia, and interesting food stuffs. Choosing to head to Clarens in the middle of winter is a pretty brave undertaking. But my family – me, my wife and two children – were desperate to get out of Joburg and we had the slight hope we would encounter some snowfall while there. The charming town in the Free State is close enough to warrant a quick escape – it’s only a three-and-a-half hour drive – and we decided to give Airbnb a try to find affordable accommodation for our four-night stay.

 

Gosto: Obrigado for the music, a fist-bump for the calamari

If you’d blindfolded me, bundled me into a helicopter, flown me for hours and then pushed me, still blindfolded, through the front door into Gosto, I would have thought I was in a super-cool, insanely vibey and ultra-hip restaurant in the Big Smoke. Joburg or Cape Town, maybe even Hong Kong or London. But Clarens? No, not even the Swiss one. Clarens, Orange Free State.

 

#TravelTuesday: Clarens, the jewel of the Free State

The eastern part of South Africa’s Free State province, lying along the Maluti mountains, is a place for all seasons. Enjoy afternoon thundershowers in summer and see it transformed into a snowy wonderland in winter. In autumn, trees and grasses form a mosaic of red and copper. Here’s my pick of 15 things to do in Clarens in the Free State.

 

Something new is brewing at #CraftFest

Durban – In the summer heat, no CraftFest would be complete without an ice-cold glass of craft beer.

Brought to you by the Independent on Saturday and the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market, the festival celebrates some of the best brews in the province.

From the Upper Highway area come the 1000 Hills Brewery and the Standeaven Brewery. Clockwork Brewery and Doctrine visit from the capital, and newly featured in CraftFest this year are the Lions River Craft Brewery, the Happy Days Brewery and Nottingham Road Brewing Company, all from the Midlands.

 

A weekend guide to Clarens

I have been visiting Clarens since I was a little girl. Every year, around Autumn, my family would bundle into a car brimming with warm clothes and head in the direction of the Eastern Free State. The reason: my dad absolutely loved to photograph the tall, lanky poplar trees as they began to turn from green to yellow to fiery orange. In fact, every year we would travel with a heap of photographers who would do the same.

 

Into Clarens

If you’d blindfolded me, bundled me into a helicopter, flown me for hours and then pushed me, still blindfolded, through the front door into Gosto, I would have thought I was in a super-cool, insanely vibey and ultra-hip restaurant in the Big Smoke. Joburg or Cape Town, maybe even Hong Kong or London. But Clarens? No, not even the Swiss one. Clarens, Orange Free State.

Now this is not to cast nasturtiums at that province. The southern Free State is utterly beautiful. Magnificent mountains, fabulous greenery. Fresh cherries to sweeten your drive. Diverse and lovely bird life. We’re so used to our comfort zones – the usual, obvious destinations/ the beach/ the Winelands/ Addo/ Kruger – that we’re missing out.

 

15 Things to do in Clarens

The eastern part of South Africa’s Free State province, lying along the Maluti mountains, is a place for all seasons. Enjoy afternoon thundershowers in summer and see it transformed into a snowy wonderland in winter. In autumn, trees and grasses form a mosaic of red and copper. Here’s my pick of 15 things to do in Clarens in the Free State.

 

More South Africans are buying up properties in Clarens – here’s how much a home costs

The eastern part of South Africa’s Free State province, lying along the Maluti mountains, is a place for all seasons. Enjoy afternoon thundershowers in summer and see it transformed into a snowy wonderland in winter. In autumn, trees and grasses form a mosaic of red and copper. Here’s my pick of 15 things to do in Clarens in the Free State.

 

Clarens: The jewel of the Free State

Find mountain magic in Clarens and surrounds. Just look out for the potholes! To explore the eastern Free State stretching beneath the Maloti Mountains, we took the N3 out of Joburg, pootling around the Gilloolys noodle for Villiers, before turning onto the R26 towards Frankfort. I don’t do highways so, by way of a chauffeur, I had solicited the services of my sister.

However, even with an advanced driving licence, Mags was no match for the bone-jarring potholes – some big enough to swallow a tractor – that confronted us on the Reitz-Tweeling road.  As she swerved like a Hollywood stunt driver in the pouring rain to a surround-sound of shrieks, gasps and under carriage rasps, we alternated between aquaplaning – drenched by approaching trucks negotiating their own pond-sized crevices – and driving over what felt like a rockery.

“They’ve even got 60km pothole speed limits,” exclaimed my brother, out from San Francisco, for this was a family jaunt. He aimed his camera at the sign as if taking pictures in the circumstances was even possible. Incidentally, we drove home via Warden, which added 70km to our trip but was so much easier on the nerves!

On the plus side, having to slow to a crawl gave us ample opportunity to drink in the bucolic beauty of the vast highland plains with cows and sheep safely grazing, yellow sunflowers in sway, golden fields of mealies, Swiss-rolled bales of hay.

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