Restore body, mind and soul in the Cape

Whether you are looking for an adventure or a peaceful breakaway, the Overberg is the place to be

My latest foray into areas of the Cape that are not that well known – especially to us “wheelies” – led me to an amazing woman, Robyn Simmons, who decided to make people with disabilities part of her life. She has combined wonderfully skilled individuals with natural nature sites suited for adventures in and around the quaint town of Stanford in the Overberg to offer a holistic getaway from the rat race.

She invited me to meet the group and experience a taste of what is available, and check out the accessibility of the tours and accommodations that are currently being offered. As I was already flying down to Cape Town to do some training, I decided to extend my trip and persuaded fellow columnist Phil Case, who was at his Paternoster holiday home, to join me in Stanford.

The heritage village, which was founded in 1857, is located along the banks of the Klein River about 16 km from Hermanus. Some of the top attractions include bird-watching, kayaking and beer- and wine tasting. There are also lovely local cheeses and organic foods to be sampled.

Unique nature experiences are offered in the area. In the Platbos forest you’ll find a 1 000-year-old milkwood tree, and at the Sandberg Farm you can join a hands-on 4×4 fynbos experience that allows you to see, touch and smell the unique natural vegetation of this area.

Simmons’s home is on the river in Stanford and her self-catering cottage has been adapted with some features for persons with disabilities. It has a step-free shower, and a toilet raiser as well as a commode chair are available. The basin needs to be adjusted and the addition of some grab-rails fitted will make it more accessible.

However, the rest of the cottage is spacious and easy to access, with a sun-drenched private patio and colourful, peaceful garden. There is no TV, but the fireplace is lit with a fire on cold evenings, and is mesmerising to watch. I felt so much less stressed without all the bad news from around the world intruding into my life for a few days!

Simmons is waiting for my report and plans to make this space even more universally accessible.

Several practitioners in the area offer various treatments and therapies, including osteopathy and reflexology, sound therapy, yoga, reiki healing treatment and massage as well as dancing for persons with disabilities. If you are unable to go to their facilities, they will come to the cottage and work there. And there is a treatment bed at the cottage!

If you fancy trying your hand at painting or would like to take a birding trip with an ornithologist on board a river boat, Simmons would be happy to arrange this for you.

With her Toyota Prado 4×4 vehicle, she plans to offer transport for the adventure aspects on offer, like exploring the dunes nearby. She also has an off-road wheelchair for visiting the forest and plans on sourcing a beach wheelchair for beach and dune trips. In addition, she has designed a cool collapsible platform that fits on the side of the car with attached portable ramps that allow a wheelchair user to be pushed up onto the platform for a level transfer into the car.

Sally Langley, the tenant in the other cottage on Simmons’s property, is assisting her with the project. Langley worked as a carer in the United Kingdom for seven years and has excellent knowledge of how to transfer and accommodate guests requiring assistance.

As part of our trip we tested the accessibility of the Marine Dynamics Whale Watching outfit in Gansbaai. Their restaurant, meeting area and bathroom are accessible.

The walk from there to the boats is downhill, but you will need assistance to return. They do state that there is accessible accommodation, but there was insufficient time for me to check it out. Access to the boat is via a steep ramp, and from there the staff lift the wheelchair user onto the boat. The lower deck offers limited space, but you can request to be placed along the rail for your convenience – just be aware of the spray. Those who want an adrenalin-fuelled adventure, can opt to do shark cage diving.

If you are inclined to take a trip out to “brighter lights”, Hermanus is only 25 minutes away.  It is a larger town with a greater variety of accommodation options, a large shopping centre and more restaurants. Karin Coetzee, founder of www.disabledtravel.co.za lives there – if you would prefer to stay in Hermanus, we can assist with her list of accessible accommodation options and activities.

I’m definitely returning for some quiet time and to experience the therapies and bird-watching in Stanford! Contact Simmons at simmonsrobs9@gmail.com for the Stanford options.

Whether it’s peace and tranquillity or a more active break you are looking for when planning your next holiday, why not try the Overberg?

Happy travels!

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