If you’re in the Gauteng area and hanker for a nearby spot for a weekend away, consider the quaint village of Dullstroom; known for its trout fishing and growing numbers of gay visitors.
Dullstroom is about two and half hours from Joburg. It’s far enough to really get out of town, but not too far for a workable retreat for a couple of days.
The drive there is one the highlights of the trip – you’re guaranteed of beautiful country scenery, made even more spectacular if you’re lucky enough to experience the glorious mottling of sunlight after a daytime thunderstorm.
Dullstroom was established in 1883 by Wolterus Dull to settle Dutch immigrants. During the Second Boer War the town was destroyed and most of the settlers returned to the Netherlands.
Thanks to the abundance of water in the area (the Crocodile River has its origin in Dullstroom), the village has today become known as “the fly-fishing suburb of Joburg”.
I’m not much into fishing of any kind myself (sitting around a dam or river waiting for hours for some poor fish to meet its maker at my hands does not appeal), but Dullstroom has more to offer the gay visitor.
The main strip is so small you might just miss it while driving through, but it’s certainly worth an afternoon exploring. You’ll find a selection of small restaurants, little delis, craft shops, a couple of art galleries, and even the famous Clock Shop boasting the biggest selection of clocks of all kinds you’re likely to see.
In addition to more informal country accommodation, there are two quality hotel style accommodation options in the town.
One is Urban Hip Hotels’ Critchley Hackle Lodge, which offers a fully catered lodge experience, from accommodation to dining and leisure activities. I haven’t stayed there but I hear that its currently being revamped – very much for the better.
The other is Peebles Country Retreat. It’s gay-owned and offers five-star accommodation with a great restaurant and spa facilities. Every couple of months it hosts an exclusively-gay themed weekend known as Kat-Man-Doo.
Owner Michael Smith, who managed the resort and then ended up buying it, allows only gay guests to book over those particular weekends; ensuring a safe and gay-friendly environment.
He says that he wants offer a space where gay guys can feel free to be themselves and have their every whim catered to, without raising any eyebrows.
Not only is Kat-Man-Doo an opportunity for singles to socialise and meet guys, it’s a great romantic weekend option for couples, all within a gay-context. The rates are also much reduced compared to the retreat’s standard rates.
Dullstroom is located 2100m above sea level in the Steenkampsberg mountain range so not only are you assured of clean mountain air, but there’s often thick fog and a nip in the air – often said to be reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. The winters can be brutal. Perfect for sleeping late, decadent snuggling, reading and other indoor activities of your choice…
My boyfriend and I spent much of a Kat-Man-Doo winter weekend holed up in our spacious and cosy room, engulfed in the comfy bed and warmed by the comforting fireplace.
You can also make use of their spa facilities, including a steam room and Jacuzzi (guests have been known to sneak off to these spots late into the night after one of the party nights).
The Kat-Man-Doo package includes dinner, breakfast and a party night, and you can even stay on the Sunday night at no extra cost. It’s intimate, fun and great value for money.
If you’d like a massage, a mountain horse-riding exclusion, a restaurant booking, room service at almost any hour, or anything else, manager Chris Grove will happily organise it for you.
Speaking of restaurant bookings, while in Dullstroom you have to pay homage at the town’s undisputed best eatery (and, in my opinion, one of the finest in the country).
Mrs. Simpson’s is an institution. It’s named after Wallis Simpson; the American socialite and divorcÃ©e who scandalised Great Britain by hooking up with Prince Edward, leading him to abdicate from the throne in 1936 in order to marry her.
The restaurant is a wonderful explosion of kitsch – covered with Wallis Simpson newspaper clippings and photos as well as women’s shoes, handbags and gloves of every variety hanging from the ceiling and piled up around the windowsills. The cat Wallis will also usually be found somewhere in the establishment overseeing his domain.
Moroccan prawns and mussels on mash
Proprietors Bryan Wolmarans and Stephen De Meyer – who are a couple – have been in Dullstroom for almost 20 years and opened the restaurant in 2004. You’re sure to bump into the guys while eating and you’re guaranteed of a chat and humorous tales of their lives in the village.
The menu is diverse and, of course, you’ll always find trout (usually stuffed with almonds and garlic) on offer.
On a recent visit I was treated to one of the most mouth-watering, moreish dishes I’ve ever tasted: A spicy Moroccan-style concoction with prawns and mussels on a bed of mash. I’m tempted to drive back to Dullstroom just to enjoy the dish again.
Dullstroom is an excuse to while away the hours, to spend time with your man or friends and to just forget about the stresses of the big city. And, thanks to the gay-friendly options in the town, you can do all this very much on your own terms.
â€¢ Critchley Hackle Lodge
â€¢ Mrs. Simpson’s