By Nerissa Card
When Garth and I are not slaving over The Meander Chronicle, we work as sub-editors for one of the country’s leading media houses.
There, a word that is often over-used and flagged by the spelling and grammar-check system is “unique”. It questions why whatever it is that’s being referred to is “unique”.
Last month, the two of us were due to go away for a night to review a Midlands venue, but unforeseen circumstances saw the outing cancelled at the 11th hour.
Wanting to get away, we put on our thinking caps and remembered there was a particular establishment in the Berg that we had always wanted to stay at.
A quick phonecall to the venue and our budget double room with bathroom was booked at a ridiculously reasonable R700-odd.
The next day, which was sweltering, we jumped in the car and headed for the hills.
A couple of hours later we arrived at Amphitheatre Lodge and Backpackers.
After checking in and receiving much information on what to do in the area from manager Eleanor Page, we headed for the very inviting pool area, where we spent the afternoon.
Whatever you do, put those preconceived ideas of backpackers on the, er, backburner. This is way more than that. It’s a family establishment with a big heart and lots to entertain.
The venue is incredibly quirky. Wherever you turn there is something to catch your eye. The walls are papered with sweet packaging, chip packaging, Lion Match packaging, coloured fabrics, bright pictures of Hindu gods… Glass bottles are inset into the bar counter, there are huge statues which serve as pillars for an upstairs balcony, rubber shoes decorate walls. There is a pool table, huge lounges with comfortable couches to laze on. Everything about the place is a feast for the eyes. Adjectives fail me.
If you can tear yourself away from the fabulous surrounds, with the most stunning mountain views, the venue offers a range of activities, including hikes, abseiling, summiting mountains via chain ladders and rock climbing. And if you need a bit of rock-climbing practice, there is even a mini-climbing wall in the bar.
If you prefer something a little more chilled, visit the battlefields, pop over the border to Lesotho or just hang at the venue, where you can enjoy the dams and river, with a spot of bird- or mammal-watching.
Accommodation ranges from camping, dorms and budget rooms to deluxe accommodation, and each room has its own outside seating area.
The restaurant features an a la carte menu for breakfast and lunch, with a set menu for dinner, but you are welcome to self-cater.
The fully equipped self-catering kitchen is located in a boma next to the pool and bar. It features a number of braai areas around which are benches. I can imagine lighting a fire there on a cold winter’s night and just chilling with a beer, chatting to fellow travellers.
For us, Amphitheatre Backpackers and Lodge was a truly unique experience, so much so that Garth is heading back there in April for a hiking weekend with his brother.
I have something on, so won’t be able to join them, but I was intelligent enough to book a three-bed dorm, so if circumstances change, I will be hitching a ride to my new favourite getaway.