Coming up roses

Relaxing alongside the river at Summerfields River Lodge and Rose Spa, Jan Smuts’s former hunting lodge, offers heady romance and respite from the city madness

ANNA TRAPIDO

As our six-seater, private plane comes in to land alongside Summerfields River Lodge and Rose Spa, the great Sabie River snakes through the majesty of the lowveld landscape and the urban expanse of Hazyview, Mpumalanga quietly slips away. We step off the plane into a charmingly Out of Africa-style tented camp built on a working rose and macadamia farm that was once the site of Jan Smuts’s hunting lodge.

We are welcomed into a world of wooden verandas and silver rose bowls filled to capacity with burgeoning blossoms of every hue. Nothing is ordinary in this little lodge. The 12 suites are tented but no childhood flashlight and sleeping bag camping trip can prepare you for the luxury of the rooms with their percale linen and alluring fragrance of freshlycut roses.

These are tents such as a Bedouin princess might recognise – if she was a very spoilt princess with an in-room iPod and a well-stocked mini bar. At Summerfields not even a bath is just a bath, but rather a new concept in sumptuous comfort. No musty bathrooms and scratchy towels here: the bath for each room is situated in the open air and comes complete with riverside views and starlit vistas.

Then there is the “bath butler”. For those new to the concept of bath butlers, the role of such is to draw your soak, sprinkle it with rose petals and put the champagne on ice before discretely disappearing. Until you have bathed under the stars beside a roaring river with a glass of bubbly in one hand and a Belgian chocolate truffle in the other, you cannot say that you have truly lived.

For those needing to wash away city stress, this gloriously gourmet lodge also offers rose petal and macadamia nut-based spa treatments. As she works her magic, beauty therapist Isadora Wolfaardt explains, “Macadamia nuts are high in palmitoleic acid which, when massaged into the body, softens winter-damaged skin cells and soothes frazzled souls.” The treatment rooms are designed to maximise and take full advantage of their waterside location. It is impossible to remain an uptight townie while sipping rosewater cocktails to the soothing sound of the Sabie River. Add to this an exfoliating macadamia nut massage regime and you’re in heaven.

Macadamia nuts are not only found in the spa treatments but are also much in evidence at the bistro-style restaurant attached to the lodge. Chef Lienkie Erasmus bakes the opulent creamy nuts into her biscotti and tosses them over Parma ham. Despite her passion for local ingredients, this Institute of Culinary Arts graduate is no one-dimensional nut fanatic. While her apprenticeship at Le Must in Upington has provided her with a proudly South African culinary slant, her stints with Peter Goffe-Wood at La Couronne in the Cape Winelands and Reuben Riffel, with whom she opened Bruno’s in Cambridge, England have given her a depth of skill, flair and international sophistication that belies her youth.

Lienkie’s love of local cuisine is evident in her use of classic South African dishes such as bobotie, hearty Karoo lamb stews and milk tart. Each of these South African standards is given a new lease of life with surprising international twists. “It was Reuben who taught me to be brave with flavour combinations,” she enthuses. “My bobotie has the traditional apricot and cinnamon mélange, but it is also topped with a Parmesan and pine nut crumble in place of the usual egg custard. Without Reuben, I would have been too shy to be so brave with such a well-loved South African classic.”

She pays homage to the local terroir at every turn. Breakfast brings locally grown, dried mangoes in the homemade muesli. Lunch sees salmon trout so fresh from local dams that they practically swim to the table. As the sun sets, crab apple macerated oxtail in pinotage jus is the order of the day. Whether it be the soul sanctuary of a rose petal-sprinkled bath beside a roaring river, the sweet surrender of a rose-water infused pavlova with a glass of honeyed Muscat Blanc or the comfort of sipping a rose cocktail under the stars, everything at Summerfield Lodge and Rose Spa is coming up roses.

RATES
High season (October 1 2007 – April 30 2008), R1 985 pp sharing. All rates are per person sharing, inclusive of dinner, breakfast, use of the steam rooms and riverside pool.
Low season (May 1 – September 30 2007), R1 495 pp sharing. No children under 16 years. Rates are inclusive of VAT and tourism levy.

GETTING THERE

Summerfields River Lodge and Rose Spa is nestled in a valley near Hazyview, Mpumalanga, and about 10km from the Kruger National Park. The lodge is about a four-hour drive from Johannesburg. Return flights between Johannesburg and Hazyview/Kruger Mpumalanga International are priced at about R1 995 pp.

GOOD TO KNOW
• Summerfields is located in a malaria area.
• Activities that can be arranged at the lodge include horse, quad-bike and hiking trails, hot-air ballooning, river rafting, bush walks, golf (at the Sabie River Sun Golf Club) and open-air vehicle safaris in the Kruger National Park.
• Summerfields long-stemmed tea roses are cultivated in a greenhouse on the estate and are sold on the farm as well as at outlets in White River and Johannesburg. Contact the lodge for more details.

Summerfields River Lodge and Rose Spa and Summerfields Kitchen, R536 Hazyview – Sabie Road. Please call 013-737-6500, email [email protected], visit www.summerfields.co.za

SOURCES
VANESSA GROBLER

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