Riebeek West offers residents a rural lifestyle not too far from the city and a host of outdoor activities that includes hiking, climbing, mountain biking and watching bird life
The slow-paced hamlet of Riebeek West, about 90km north-west of Cape Town, has seen a surge in local semigrants and foreigners who realise the Cape Winelands offer country-living opportunities without sacrificing things to do.
“Riebeek West is a rural working town where you’re likely to see more tractors at the only petrol station than cars. “Paydays bring an influx of workers – agriculture is still a large seasonal employer – a material boost for local businesses,” says resident and restaurateur Robert de Vivo.
“The properties are generally large, making gardening a favourite pastime for many. A plus is access to the Kasteelberg mountains for hikers. At a height of 966m, they offer diverse fauna and flora and exude an energy that is tangible when exploring.”
The cosmopolitan nature of the town has brought together residents of divergent skills, and often these are on tap for locals’ benefit. One example is Flour and Oil.
Nicole Neethling runs authentic Indian cooking courses from her studio in Riebeek West. The recipes are based on her mother’s, using ground spices for their healing properties – spicy, but not necessarily hot.
For historians, Riebeek West was the birthplace of two South African prime ministers Jan Smuts and DF Malan and in the early years, the houses were mainly along Voortrekker Road, with good ground-water and fertile soils below the road.
Today Riebeek West offers a diversity of shops, restaurants, wineries, farming supply shops, banks and the main resident support system for the Greater Riebeek Valley.
In 1997 house prices began around R150 000 and plots fetched as little as R32 000. “Now, realistic starting prices would be R1.9 million for houses and R570 000 for plots,” says Daniel Christen, Leapfrog agent for the Riebeek Valley.
“The N7 dual carriageway from Cape Town to Malmesbury and beyond will significantly decrease travel times when completed, and this will mean the Riebeek Valley becomes even more sought after.” The gentrification of the area has seen creative redevelopment of existing buildings.
The Barn is a typical example of a duo with vision who transformed an industrial property into an exquisite character home. Two ocean-going yachts were built in the barn, both completing a Cape-to-Rio race. It is now a rustic, slightly industrial-feel home, sporting a 5m-wide patio and eco-friendly splash pool.
“Riebeek West, and by association the greater valley, attracts those looking for a lifestyle change. The outdoor opportunities to recharge one’s soul abound.
Robert de Vivo’s favourite places and things to do
The Kasteelberg mountains offer many outdoor activities. You are likely to hear and see baboons and, if you are lucky, a rooikat. The challenge is to get to the top, with all routes requiring a good level of fitness and agility. 0224481545
Mountain biking is served by a network of farm roads. Round the Kasteelberg is the top choice – about 29km with two main climbs, one on gravel and another on tar. 0224481545.
The bird life is prolific with more than 250 species including paradise flycatchers, gymnogenes, black eagles, sunbirds and many more.
For the less energetic, the large plots make gardening a sufficiently active pastime. Check Riebeek Valley Garden Centre for ideas. 0224612002
Old Dalby on Main Road, run by chef Jaco, offers excellent food at good prices. Their ice cream is yummy. 0224612012.
Angie’s Coffee Shop is where locals solve the world’s problems over coffee, beer or glass of wine. Unpretentious food, good value and always some company. 0224612080
Ideal for a sundowner in the garden and a meal is the Riebeek Valley Country Retreat. A B&B with a relaxed feel, views over the vineyards and Kasteelberg mountains. 0224612672.
The town is bracketed by two wine cellars – Pulpit Rock (0224612025) and Allesverloren (0224612320). They offer wine tastings and direct sales.
For almost 19 years, the market takes place on the second Saturday of each month. Under shady trees a range of crafts, homemade eats, soap, honey, orange juice, plants and more are available. Agrimark is an emporium which makes you feel you are a farmer/builder/gardener. 0224618260