We travel in style with Lexus to the idyllic Whispering Waters manor house in Dullstroom to find a dreamy country retreat.
By RUBIN VAN NIEKERK & ALAN SAMONS
Heading to Dullstroom from Johannesburg takes two-and-a-half hours of relaxed driving on mostly magnificent roads with gorgeous scenery. Once you exit the autobahn-quality N4 towards Belfast and along to Dullstroom you do encounter some badly repaired potholes, but at least we observed road workers doing repairs, which is a sight we are always grateful for.
As far as ground clearance goes the Lexus RC 350 F Sport offers significantly more than what you would typically find in a grand tourer. Consequently, it boosted our confidence somewhat when we drove around Dullstroom and Walkersons where some of the roads require caution and good eyesight. Typically, low-slung sports cars excel on race tracks while failing miserably everywhere else. Not the RC though, which had an incredible standing ovation-worthy suspension that would neutralise the nastiest speedbumps, whilst easily gliding over the pothole repair zones with remarkable flair.
This well-behaved car has a rebellious streak that begs to be released in the wild open spaces and such a temptation was too strong to just ignore. Whenever overtaking-acceleration is required, we were delighted with the magnificent baritone exhaust sound the V6 would enchant us with. Undoubtedly, the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the RC is the way such low frequency sound embeds itself into the centre of your driving experience, if not your soul.
Sadly our journey went in a flash and we stopped at Mrs Simpson’s for lunch. Mrs Simpson’s is an iconic feature in Dullstroom, and the owners, Stephan and Brian, are well-known way beyond Dullstroom. Part of their charm is their stunning wallet-friendly menu where anything from oxtail to trout, bobotie and hake, calamari and chips is highly recommended.
Brian fell madly in love with the Lexus and I had to take him for a spin! Busy restaurant? No problem, his patrons adore him and were shouting at him to, “Go, Brian, go”. Only in Dullstroom… When we returned, Brian had a healthy flush and an itching credit card. The Lexus bug bit him big time!
Driving from Dullstroom to Walkersons Hotel & Spa only takes five minutes and we were warmly welcomed and asked if we would also like to have the RC polished. Apparently, many guests enjoy having their cars washed upon arrival and one feels rather special cruising around town in a gleaming carriage. Nothing looks better than a shiny black metallic car and we took some stunning pics on the short two-minute drive to Whispering Waters, which is a magnificent house perched on a steep hill.
Of all the places we enjoy visiting, Walkersons is among our favourites. We’ve been going for years and have gotten to know the owners, Geoff and Dandré. They own several properties, among which is the spectacular Turbine Hotel in Knysna. Their beautiful home is now the star of the rental pool at Walkersons and offers guests the intimacy and privacy of staying in an elegant home, with access to all of the hotel’s amenities.
Three bedrooms and a cottage provide accommodation for up to eight people. The gorgeous grassy landscape changes to white in winter. Any season in Dullstroom is picturesque, even the freezing winters, but the lovingly decorated house has many seating areas with romantic fireplaces and heaters to enjoy a cosy winter getaway.
Massive sliding windows and doors open the house up to vistas of babbling streams a few meters below the house, rolling green hills and forested mountains. Every so often a goods train chugs past high above the valley, adding its sound to that of birds, flowing water and the wind in the trees. As a sure sign of our overworked state, we ended up sleeping and dozing the first day away. There is something to be said for the invigorating mountain air, so different from Jo’burg’s smog.
As privileged travellers we are used to some pretty spectacular places, but Whispering Waters is so infused with light and the sound of the river that we never even explored all the state-of-the-art sound systems.
Part of the charm is that you have access to all of the hotel’s facilities, even a takeaway option! Alternatively, Adri van Wieringen, the executive chef (and member of Chaîne Des Rôtisseurs), will create culinary wonders for your guests. Anything can be done as the house is incredibly well equipped with everything you’d need to turn any dinner party into a memorable event. Adri is 1,96 metres tall, but as imposing as he is, he blends perfectly into any environment with his sharp wit, great sense of humour and diplomacy. He has been hobnobbing with the rich and famous for forty years, but despite this he is as altruistic and down to earth as can be. Not that it even matters when the food is that good!
On our second day we decided to stay in and just observe the magical change of light at sunset. Dullstroom, as you may know, can have many seasons in one day due to the high altitude and humidity. Sky-gazing should rate on par with fly fishing for trout as an activity, since the sky changes constantly on most days.
We were lucky to experience Dullstroom on two hot days, which were followed by a spectacular thunderstorm that was even more dramatic viewed through the massive double volume windows. Perched high on a steep hillside, this light-drenched house had an incredibly tranquil energy which induced a dreamy state. Very few places have such an innate tranquillity and we discover maybe one such an enchanting place every three years during our travelling.
For those who enjoy supreme luxury self-catering holidays, Whispering Waters is ideal and this Highland dream stay can be yours from as little as R1 160 per person per night.