How lucky we were to find this gem in South Africa! We were driving from Johannesburg to Phinda Private Game Reserve and needed to find a location to overnight. Looking at our map of South Africa, Piet Retief seemed like a good place to stop, so I did a search of accomodations in and around Piet Retief and the look of the African Thatch Garden Cottage appealed to me. I contacted the owner, Heidi Maree, for more information and she was prompt in replying with the answers I needed. All seemed good, so I booked a one-night stay for our family.
The cottage is located on the grounds of the Maree family farm about 40 km outside of Piet Retief and just a stone's throw from the Swaziland border. The cottage does indeed have a thatched roof and contains two large bedrooms and a large bathroom (with separate rooms for the toilet, huge bathtub and shower) in an oval-shaped building. The main bedroom has a double bed and the second bedroom has two twin beds--perfect for our family of four. The beds were comfortable and fitted with electric blankets which came in handy as we were there in winter. (Each bedroom also had an electric radiator which kept them toasty warm.)
Connecting the two bedrooms is the large bath area. First is the vanity area with sink and an assortment of nice soaps and bath products. There is also a stocked minifridge and an electric kettle for coffee and tea. (The coffee and tea are complimentary and there is a price list for the items in the minifridge.) Next is the room containing the huge bathtub and adjacent to this is the large shower room. What luxury!
All of the rooms, including the bath area, are nicely appointed with furniture which appeared to be antiques and mosaics which Heidi created. Just outside the door is a garden table and chairs which were a nice place to sit and admire the garden--rosebushes, fruit and nut trees, etc.
Upon our arrival, Heidi showed us a gravel road around the property and said that we might enjoy a walk. The road led to a small pond surrounded by bamboo and we did, indeed, have a nice afternoon hike.
We had arranged with Heidi for her to provide us with dinner that night since we were some distance from the nearest restaurant (and it's not safe to drive after dark.) Heidi had e-mailed me a sample menu, but I had no idea what an event her dinner would be. First, we were seated at a candlelit table on the patio outside her home. (It was chilly outside and Heidi had offered to feed us indoors, but we like the idea of eating outside.) Our starter was fruit kabobs on skewers of porcupine quills! Next was soup followed by the main course of a delicious baked chicken and several side dishes. Virtually all of the fruits and vegetables came from the farm itself. Finally, there was a dessert of hot bread pudding with ice cream. Wine was also available at a modest additional cost. The food was simply delicious and the setting under the stars could not have been more perfect.
Breakfast is included in the cost of the accomodation and it was a full, hot breakfast of eggs (cooked to order), bacon, sausage, toast, cereal and juice--more food than we needed to eat after the previous night's feast.
Upon our departure after breakfast, Heidi presented us with a bag of pecans (which she said were called pica nuts there) to take with us as "road food". They were a nice treat to eat during our driving trip.
This was certainly an unexpected highlight of our trip to South Africa. The location on the farm was unique; the accomodations were very comfortable; the food was so fresh and tasty; and our hostess (and her husband whom we also met) were extremely hospitable.
A stay at the African Thatch Garden Cottage is worth a special trip to Piet Retief.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- African Thatch Garden Cottage is a private cottage in a beautiful garden, on a working farm with a view of maize fields and Swaziland hills in the distance. It is located between Piet Retief and Pongola (Mpumalanga, SA) just off the N2. This establishment is a Bed and Breakfast but does offer Dinner on request. Come and enjoy a peaceful night or two in our African Thatch Garden Cottage and experience true South African hospitality in our beautiful, secure surroundings. ... more less