As far as rustic weekend getaways go, Die Houthuis is the last of a dying breed – a place where not even Triple-X Gel can keep the hair up.
It’s the oldest getaway in Bonnievale, dating back to 1968 when the Milnerton Jewish Guild sold what was then an old school building to one Laubscher van der Merwe for R400. The kitchen counter set him back a further R10 and the rest of the fittings probably not much more than that.
The grand opening took place in 1970, celebrated with potjiekos and a langarm boogie deep into the night. Die Houthuis hasn’t stopped rocking since. Appointed on a grassy verge of the river, this barn-like timber hall is totally laid-back and great for big sociable groups and extended families. It sleeps 12 dormitory-style, with further accommodation possible by way of a caravan or tent pitched on the green grass outside. Several tables and chairs are arranged down the middle, flanked by a massive fireplace at one end and an open kitchen and wall-to-wall counter at the other.
The kitchen is neat and fully equipped with a stove, fridge and microwave. The low roof theoretically means inferno-like conditions in summer. But hey, a boer maak a plan: at the first sign of a heatwave simply switch on the sprinkler system mounted on the roof and presto, the temperature will drop a few degrees!
Stepping outside Die Houthuis, you’ll find a braai area, an unsinkable Tupperware canoe or two, tractor tubes, a raft and a foefie slide draped across the river. The latter was erected in 1980 by a Mr O’ Connel and his family – even their 72-year-old gran took a ride to mark the auspicious occasion.
Starting to get a sense of what Die Houthuis is all about? Good. As long as personal space and modcons aren’t high on your agenda, you’ll love it.
While Die Houthuis is the obvious first choice, there's now a second as-relaxed option available, called A Snoozer's Cottage. The latter abode lies 200m away from the river, but comes with its own jetty and picnic and braai area on the water, plus canoes, tractor tubes, and Tarzan swing.
Snoozer's offers a casual stay for six adults and/or a child or two, plus there are outside 'Budget Rooms' to handle your party overflow. The decor is a mix and match of the old and less old and the architecture pretty basic. The house adjoins your friendly host Ronelle's home, but Ronelle reassures us this ain't an issue.