There’s an image you might have in your head. It’s of a dry, barren strip of baking desert. Beat-up bakkies, rusty caravan parks, maybe; of us idling below the killer solar in sweat-wet white vests; sheep pilfering shards of pockmarked grass from cracked pavements.
Actually, Upington has excessive warmth. Its hotness is intense sufficient that some European car producers come right here to conduct weather-and-climate checks on new automobiles – they park next-season fashions right here for prolonged durations after which drive them round to see how they carry out in excessive circumstances. Plus, there’s the seemingly futuristic Khi Photo voltaic One power era plant that produces a daunting vibrant white glow in the course of the day. If you happen to’re not anticipating it, you’ll assume a UFO is hovering within the desert.
However don’t let off-the-charts summertime forecasts scare you away. That image in your head is useless mistaken – there are many nuances right here, plus the fertility issue, because of the Orange River, which runs via the city.
At Le Should Residence, a gorgeous guesthouse on the banks of the river, supervisor Cerina van Blerk calls Upington ‘a spot you all the time return to’.
‘We have now such a superb high quality of life: cruising on and swimming within the river, visiting farms and close by lodges, journeys to the Kgalagadi. The celebrities listed below are wonderful, too. Even the scent of this place is totally different from anyplace else; you breathe simpler right here. And the individuals on this area are unbelievable.’
Le Should’s privileged waterside location is complemented by a lush backyard and luxurious inside décor assembled by the late proprietor, Nëil Stemmet, a cookbook creator and artistic pressure who left his mark in town.
Upington does have its quirks, in fact, and in the event you’re visiting from an enormous metropolis, the retro environment can come as a shock. Other than the graciousness and seemingly quaint and old school good manners, there’s an undercurrent of leftfield creativity.
At Das Grün, a little bit café in an nameless constructing on one of many fundamental roads, the health-focused menu encompasses a “Grasshopper Pie” connoisseur milkshake. And – consider it or not – a “vegan” lasagne, albeit mistakenly topped with actual cheese. Nonetheless, it’s a far cry from the previous perception that, right here within the Kalahari, lamb’s a vegetable.
0–24 hours: A Day in City
Chances are high, in the event you made it right here, you travelled far, and maybe nonetheless have to journey on – to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park or Augrabies, every just a few hours extra. However relatively than rush off, spend a day exploring, maybe sampling wines grown alongside the Orange River.
There’s a little bit of tradition to soak up, too. The Kalahari-Oranje Museum includes whitewashed buildings erected by the city’s first missionary, Christiaan Schröder, within the 1870s. It has agriculture and native historical past shows, mineral collections and San artefacts. Exterior, the bronze Donkey Monument is a testomony to those animals’ function in growing the Decrease Orange River Valley.
About 2km from the museum, in entrance of the cop station, the bronze Camel and Rider statue honour the police who used camels as mounts when patrolling the Kalahari throughout the wild frontier days.
To attempt just a few wines, go to Die Kerkmuis at Orange River Cellars (054 495 0040, 079 594 1339, orangeriverwines.com). It’s a laid-back cellar/tasting room/restaurant spilling out onto an open terrace and backyard the place kids can run round. The identify (“The Church Mouse”) is a nod to what’s a humble venue that’s all the time striving for greatness. Service is pleasant, and meals ranges from pancakes filled with milk tart (as moreish because it sounds) to delectable sirloin steaks, pork ribs and connoisseur burgers made with two varieties of meat.
Upington’s largest “jol” is the sundown river cruise aboard Sakkie se Arkie (actually Sakkie’s Little Ark), a double-decker raft with a money bar. You may see catfish, monkeys, eagles and different birds. However the primary substances are the vigorous crowd, the mild sensation of the cruise, and cocktails made by Sakkie’s spouse (weekends solely until there’s demand). R150 pp, 082 564 5447,
082 575 7285, arkie.co.za.
Spherical off the evening at Pink Ox Steakhouse the place burgers are made with the best substances, slabs of meat grilled to perfection, and satisfaction taken in making each plate a miniature masterpiece – that is meat nation, in any case (vegetarians, take observe: the menu explicitly states, ‘No Meat, No Life’). The décor options plenty of mirrors and a set of work by the late panorama artist Walter Meyer. There’s now additionally a River Deck annexe, the place you sit on a picket deck floating on the river, and might order pizzas, every of which comes with a free cocktail. Like a lot of the city, Pink Ox is on Schröder Road. 060 329 3806, ncfamouslodges.com/red-ox-upington
24–48 hours: A Day Farther Afield
Spend a day visiting just a few outlying wine cellars, maybe going so far as Kakamas, 80km from Upington – the highway, which is similar one you are taking to achieve Augrabies Falls (120km from Upington), is enfolded by expansive vistas of rock formations in dazzling shades of ochre-orange, clouds adrift in blue skies, and the relatively surreal sight of gigantic communal nests constructed by sociable weavers that rework phone poles into photogenic artworks.
In Kakamas, when you recover from the shock of getting stumbled throughout huge and sprawling vineyards within the Kalahari, you’ll be able to settle in for a protracted and languid pizza-and-wine lunch or a wine, brandy, or gin tasting at Die Koker Kombuis (066 378 7034, diekokerkombuis.co.za). The identify means, actually, “the quiver kitchen”, named for the quiver timber discovered within the Northern Cape. The menu contains moderately priced pasta dishes and terrific steaks, and the restaurant is connected to the tasting room at Die Mas van Kakamas (072 421 1691), a family-run property the place spirits are additionally distilled.
The alfresco deck has ample winery views, and kids can comply with the boardwalk and busy themselves with a brief stroll alongside the picket walkway to see cattle and a herd of springbok across the nook.
There’s one other department of the restaurant on the farm stall close to the sting of city – you’ll be able to’t miss it, the pink signage for Die Pienk Padstal.
At Bezalel Property Cellars, together with wine, Tinus Bezuidenhout produces and sells actually good brandies and high-quality liqueurs produced together with his pot nonetheless. It’s a household enterprise, so both Tinus or his son, Martiens, will probably be pouring beneficiant tastings, one thing all besides the designated driver will admire. There’s additionally a walk-through of the distillery and maturation cellar, and a restaurant, Le March, serving Kalahari biltong and avocado salad, Kalahari venison pie, and beef-and-brandy burgers. It additionally sells a gorgeous vary of deli merchandise, from Kalahari salt and barbecue sauce to wild marula jam produced on the farm. Tinus is aware of everybody within the space, so consider him as a tourism useful resource, too. The property is located at Dyasonsklip, off the N14, between Upington and Keimoes (054 491 1325, bezalel.co.za); tastings value between R30 and R120 for one or two hours.
The place to Keep
Set in labyrinthine gardens amid expansive vineyards on Kanoneiland (Cannon Island) within the Orange River round 25km southwest of Upington, this good-looking guesthouse has a mixture of giant rooms stuffed with imaginative, handcrafted and/or upcycled furnishings and fittings and extra modest, however equally homey, doubles set in transformed farm buildings. Vineyards stretch out in all instructions. Plus there’s a superb on-site spa.
From R1 368 per room pn, together with breakfast
060 503 8449, 079 855 7565
Le Should Residence
Darkish-hued, immensely fashionable, and stuffed with classic furnishings, stunning interval items and immaculate antiques, this glamorous however unpretentious guesthouse is filled with individuality and attraction. It feels nearly like a museum, albeit one with comfy rooms, together with a huge marvel of a Presidential Suite. It has a lush backyard and you may stroll right down to the river. From R1 400 per room, excluding breakfast
082 828 1885
By Keith Bain
This text initially appeared within the January 2023 print situation of Getaway