SOMETIMES in life, opportunities present themselves which take you to places you would not normally go and into conditions that do not seem ideal. A case in point was winning a weekend for two (including a round of golf and use of a golf cart) at the Fynbos Golf Estate at Eersterivier, on the Tsitsikamma coast.
Since we are not golfers, and to be honest, had never heard of the place, we were mildly gratified to win, but did not make claiming the prize a priority.
Suddenly, a month before the deadline, we realised we had better book before the offer expired. As it turned out, they only had one weekend free.
By the time it came around, a cut-off low was due to hit the coast; floods had been predicted and we realised the weather was not going to be ideal. But as it was the only free date, we decided to make the best of it and packed our Kindles, raincoats and plastic bags to protect our cameras.
By the time we got to the turnoff to Eersterivier, we were warned that two drifts across the road were in spate and that we had to take an alternate route through some farmlands. This ended up delaying our arrival, not because of the extra distance, but because all the soaked fields full of arum lilies in the late afternoon light were so stunning that we kept stopping for photos.
We arrived in time to catch a glimpse of a whale spouting in the sea in front of us as we unpacked the car. This was followed by the sun settling gently into the sea in the direction of Plett, 70km away (apparently it is visible on a clear day), and we just knew we were in for a lovely weekend.
This was immediately confirmed when we were shown to the honeymoon suite, a lovely, peaceful and comfortable haven, complete with thatched roof, from which a peanut chair was invitingly suspended, a big oval bath for two and a romantically draped four-poster bed.
It turned out that the draping was more than just decorative; with all the swampy surroundings, it looked like a mozzie paradise, so I suspect summer visitors would be grateful for them.
For us, despite the fact that it was late October, summer was nowhere in sight and raincoats and anoraks were the order of the day. This did not spoil the weekend one bit, because while the rest of the province was being torn apart by floods, we were being spoiled to bits by the most hospitable host ever.
There are many lovely luxury resorts and golfing estates throughout the country, where the features designed for the comfort of guests are pretty standard. What set Fynbos Estate apart, for us, was the thoughtful attention to detail that showed great care for both the surroundings and the guests.
Things like original art rather than prints on the walls, fresh king proteas, pincushions and other fynbos in vases all over the place, including the loos and the walkway to our room. Handmade soap, attractively arranged with beads and candles on the edge of the bath, gave a personal touch that was very inviting.
Vaughan Tucker, the manager, had thought of everything. When I phoned ahead to ask about catering arrangements (all meals available but simple clubhouse food) and explained, my husband, Max, was dairy intolerant and fanatical about cholesterol, we found he had specially laid on grilled hake and kingklip with salad for our dinner.
We headed downstairs to the comfortable and attractively decorated clubhouse to find our reserved table, chosen in a prime spot overlooking a green and sea on one side and a lovely lake on the other. A fire warmed one cosy seating area and large-screen TVs were visible from all angles, so that we could keep track of the Kings vs Cheetahs (okay, that's a depressing memory, let's move on hastily).
Having mentioned our interest in the fynbos after which the estate is named, and which has been planted all over the roughs, we discovered on our table a book about fynbos, as the manager thought it might interest us while we waited for our meal.
There was a golfer's weather report too, giving detailed info for the next 24 hours, so that we could track the progress of the storm.
The next morning, binoculars lay on the table in case there were whales to watch during breakfast. There were so many similar thoughtful touches throughout the weekend.
After breakfast we went exploring along the drenched coast towards Tsitsikamma Village, where we enjoyed the funky retro Marilyn's Diner, dedicated to '50s kitsch paraphernalia.
Braving increasingly bad weather, we headed for Storms River Mouth for lunch. However, we wimped out on our resolution to walk through the dripping, slippery forest and across the suspension bridge … our excuse was that we didn't want our cameras to get wet, and we were sticking to it! By then the view down the coast was limited by the rain, but it gave the rugged, rocky cliffs a soft, attractive appearance.
Running the gauntlet of the deluge and howling winds, we made it back to Fynbos Estate just before the worst of the storm, and settled in for a cosy evening.
The next morning there was a small window of sunshine between the storms, and we made the most of it by taking up the offer of a golf cart, not to attempt to learn how to hit a little white ball over sodden grass, but to meander around the edge of the golf course, taking photos and enjoying the unique smell coming from freshly washed fynbos. The birds were loving it too, and their song accompanied our expedition.
It turned out to be a great weekend with a good balance between activity and relaxing, with just a bit of excitement thrown in by the weather. We raced thunderstorms back to an already flooded Port Elizabeth and the holiday threw a final adrenaline rush at us as we took a lightning hit on the freeway near Greenbushes. No harm done but a vivid reminder that travel is fun... but it is wonderful to arrive safely back home!