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Upcoming Ficksburg Cherry Festival 17-19th October

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Eat, Drink and be Cherry at the 45th Annual Ficksburg Cherry Festival.

‘The Free State gladdens my heart, no matter what my mood! When I am here, I feel that nothing can shut me in, that my thoughts can roam as far as the horizons ‘– Nelson MandelaMadiba sums it up perfectly in one phrase and as you enter the entrance gates to the majestic Golden Gate Nature Reserve, it seems that some magical being lifts all worries and woes as you wind your way through seemingly sculptured sandstone mountains to a part of our country that is lesser travelled.

Summer is definitely here, as the birds are chirping and the smell of freshly cut grass and blossoms fill the air, and so the timing is perfect to celebrate summer with a long weekend in the ‘Forgotten Free state’.

The nicest route from Durban is to make your way through Winterton, Golden Gate and the small artist town of Clarens, which will take you about 4.5 hours,  to the annual Cherry Picking Festival in Ficksburg which takes place from the 17th – 19th November this year.

Each year, during the cherry harvest, the town literally comes to a standstill as visitors from all over the country descend to celebrate the harvest of this star attraction. Thousands of cherry trees, with their branches straining under the weight of this ruby red fruit need picking and so a tour at one of the local Cherry farms should be on your list of things to do.

The small tented festival feels like a time-warp and took me back to my childhood on our farm in Eshowe. Nothing has changed from ‘those days’ when most farming towns would arrange an annual ‘show’ where all the local farmers would sell their wares, host horse-riding events, beauty pageants and evening barn dances. The entire community turned out to support and enjoy the comradary.

The extensive order of events includes tours to the many Cherry farms, guest appearances by celebrities such as Nataniel, George Longane, and Snotkop! The crowning of the Miss Cherry Blossom and Mr. Cherry Pip is the highlight of the weekend, with local beauties strutting their stuff.

You could ‘spoeg’ your way to fame by entering the famous Cherry Pip Spitting competition, or if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, sip away at a cold beer or local ‘moonshine’ made from Cherry liqeur while munching on a real ‘boere sosatie’ at the ever popular Round Table Beer Garden.

Asparagus is also being harvested at this time, and GP Asparagus offer tours to the fields and packing sheds where you can help yourself to a bowl of freshly steamed spears, dripping in seasoned salt and home-made farm butter.

A relaxing way to end the day is to book a cruise aboard ‘White Mischief’, the only known floating cigar bar on the continent. The cruise winds through the Meulspruit River, before guests are able to disembark on a game viewing excursion. Dinner and a full bar are on offer during your cruise.

(Tickets for the Festival, farm visits, White Mischief cruises or asparagus farm tours are available through Computicket.)

Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp: Golden Gate Nature Reserve  R560.00 (1-2 persons) 021-975 8890

Brookeside House: Central  Clarens – R450pp bed/breakfast 058-256 1825

Moolmanshoek Pvt Game Reserve –  Ficksburg area R735.00pp dinner bed and breakfast 051-933 2220

Ashbrook Country Lodge – Clarens – R300 pp self catering 0834533684

Imperani Guest House – Ficksburg – R540.00 pp 051-933 3606

Malutizicht Lodge – Ficksburg surrounding area R900.00 self catering cottage (8 persons) 051-933 6171

Die Kersiehuis BB – Ficksburg R350pp 051-933 4872

Woodpecker BB – Ficksburg  R200 pp bed/breakfast051-933 6180

Bella Rosa Guest House – Ficksburg  R230 pp bed/breakfast 051-933 2623

Franshoek Mountain Lodge – Ficksburg surrounding area R440.00 pp bed/breakfast  051-933 2828

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