It has been quite a busy year for the two of us. We have not been able to travel internationally (yet), as we have had to move into a new home and pack in lots of work to be able to afford things to fill our home. We have also had lots of family stuff going on, a visit from my sister from Hong Kong and my Mom’s wedding, and so we have been lucky enough to do lots of traveling within South Africa, which has been fun. All these changes have been quite stressful and chaotic to manage and so when it came time to start thinking about Pete’s birthday, I thought I wanted a really nice and relaxing way to celebrate. We have always preferred spending money on experiences rather than things and so I went looking for something new.
Pete had mentioned this all vegan retreat place somewhere in Mpumalanga a while back and I decided to research it online. I found Old Joe’s Kaia, an all vegan, family owned haven set in the Schoemanskloof valley in the Mpumalanga. I immediately loved their beautiful website and was somewhat surprised to read it was a fully vegan establishment. That, of course was enough for me and I booked two nights in one of their Kaia rooms. Once I told Pete, we were both excited, but to be honest we didn’t have high expectations as the standard of vegan food in this country has nothing on what we experienced in the USA, in my humble opinion. Granted, it is growing and slowly getting better. I don’t want to hate on anything vegan in this country, so don’t get me wrong, keep at it South Africa, I love you.
When we arrived a week later, we were stoked to find the location was really picturesque and charming. Our room was also lovely, with a big bath, a coffee and tea table with biscuits (all vegan) and a private deck looking onto the gardens. We also met the owners, a really sweet and friendly couple who from then on greeted us on a first name basis and chatted to us regularly. We were already very impressed and were super excited for our first meal, dinner. I had booked our rooms with breakfast and dinner included. The decor at Old Joe’s is very organic and eclectic, but quaint, and the dining room was the same. It was candle lit and moody and I kind of felt like I was in a small museum, with loads of interesting books around and African themed paintings and wall hangings. Then there was the food, a 4 course meal which was some of the best food I have ever had. Pete and I were in heaven. Every meal we had was really fantastic and very different to some of the vegan food we have experienced. All home cooked with some original flavours and displayed beautifully. I can honestly say, I asked if they offered a cooking course as the food impressed me so much. One of my other favourite features was the main deck, which overlooked their property and an amazing mountain. This was where we ate our breakfast each morning and read books or just relaxed.
Apart from the ridiculously amounts of eating, we also took walks along the Crocodile River, explored their organic gardens and had a massage and reflexology session. We were surprised and super impressed to hear that the owners practiced permaculture principles, which we learnt a little about whilst WWOOFing in the States. It was an extremely relaxing and glorious experience and we are already planning our next visit. It was sad to leave that little piece of heaven, but we really hope more people will go experience such bliss and friendliness for themselves, vegan or not. Seriously, don’t limit your experiences because you might not quite get veganism or think it’s not for you. A vegan retreat can teach us all a thing or two about living more peacefully with the world around us, and there’s no heavy, you will be welcomed and looked after either way. So here’s to Old Joe’s Kaia putting SA on the vegan world map, for real.
Watch this awesome clip and make a booking (this post wasn’t sponsored by the way)!
Words and photos by Cara