Don't panic if you see somebody walking around the Caledon Hotel with brown-stained trousers - it's probably from the iron in the hot spring baths! It's also good advice to avoid wearing a white costume in the pools :-)
Before we visited it was interesting to read the chapter on Caledon in Laurie Green's book, Beyond the City Lights: "Within living memory Caledon belonged to the agterwereld. It was a poor relation of the other Western Province districts, an area without a railway, still in the Cape cart and wagon age. "Kale Donners," as some were pleased to call the Caledon folk, were regarded as much less sophisticated than the well-educated and more prosperous Boland people. But the rough young men of Caledon had a suitable nickname ready for their critics from the wine districts. "Rosyntjietone", they would shout, a cunning reference to the old-fashioned method of pressing the grapes with bare feet."
For most people a visit to Caledon is all about the hot spring baths. There are so many pools that even though we visited on a weekend there was no point where we felt crowded. Because of its rustic setting, my favourite is the old historical pool which is set away from the others - I felt a powerful sense of history over there, as well as being out in nature, with its view of the Zwarteberg.
Pools are open until 11pm - they used to be open 24 hours a day until guests started finding condoms in the pools in the morning! However, it's not possible to close the old historical pool as it's out in the open.
The brown colour of the water is due to iron, and the oily surface due to the high mineral content (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulphate, sodium, silica bicarbonate and chloride). The pools are drained completely and refilled every week.
View of the Victorian Spa from the Khoisan Ponds above it, and the Caledon Hotel & Casino in the middle, with Caledon's grain silos and mountains in the background (not a bad view!).
Here's a garden next to the Victorian Spa where guests can put their feet up and relax.
The lower pool is the one closest to the hotel. It has clear water and isn't heated.
The lower pool is the easiest to photograph, so here's another shot of it.
The entrance to the main spa baths is marked by this old tree - if only it could talk, it must have a lot of stories to tell.
I wish I could photograph the smell of these roses:
My favourite pool is the old historical pool, which is set away from the others (to the east) near where the zip line starts.
In the cold winter months water vapour can be seen rising above the piping hot spring baths. Pro tip : on Mondays when the spring baths are closed for cleaning, the outdoor one remains open (same with after hours).
Let it not be said that I hold back and don't get in the water when I shoot video footage for travel reviews!
Here's some video footage of the source of the warm mineral water, flowing first into the highest pool (called Khoison Pond 1) at a temperature of 42 degrees celsius, and then in Khoisan Pond 2 and 3. Each successive pond is cooler. There is a maximum recommended time in the Khoisan 1 Pond of 1 minute - I tested the water temperature, and my big toe told me that it was a bad idea to go in for even 10 seconds!
Here's Khoisan Pond 3, which was the only of the Khoisan Ponds that wasn't too hot for me.
In Khoisan Pond 1, we can clearly see the minerals and iron on the surface, similar to those witnessed over hundreds of years here: "The water is moderately hot, and deposits a great quantity of a light yellow ochre (hydrated iron oxide) at the bottom of the channels in which it runs." Thunberg, 1772.
Here's the source of the water flowing into Khoisan Pond 1:
This photo from the top of Khoisan Pond 2 shows the views from the upper pools:
This long pool is great for swimming lengths, and is set at a cooler temperature:
In case the hot spring baths aren't warm enough, the Caledon Spa has a sauna and a little plunge pool next to it.
Most people visit the hotel in order to go to the hot spa baths - for easy access choose a ground floor room facing the spa baths. Rooms 109 and 111 face the spa baths and are on the side of the main baths, as well as being sufficiently far from reception not to be overly bothered by any noise there. Here's the view from our room (105) - which had a TV, safe, queen size bed and a couch which folded out into a bed. A funny incident which happened was we discovered a mouse under our bed which had made a nest and had about 6 babies - staff helped escort our little "guests" out, apologised profusely and offered a different room (we declined, it wasn't a big deal to us, as we've had mice at our house before).
If you're one of a minority of people who are not going to be making extensive use of the spa baths, then for best views choose an upper floor room facing the valley.
The acid test as to how child friendly a spot is, is whether our 5-year-old wants to go back, and I'm happy to report that the Caledon Hotel & Spa passes this test with flying colour - our daughter desperately wants to go back.
The floatation pool is a favourite amongst the kids, although adults will have to assist them as it gets pretty deep (although I could stand everywhere). There is a waterfall into the pool from the above jacuzzi pool, which cools the water down (it was about 28 degrees celsius). Water jets create a clockwise current around the island in the middle.
Babysitters are available and very reasonably priced.
Near the casino there's a children's play area where you are allowed to leave your kids for a maximum of 4 hours (I'm not sure whether you can take them out for 1 minute and then leave them for another 4 hours!).
At the bottom-right of this photo is a trampoline for the kids to jump on. There was a lady there (only on Saturday) who did face-painting for the kids.
Here's the children's playground, just below the restaurant:
Here's some footage of a short walk below the Caledon Hotel & Spa:
On this path you can see the black soil which gave name to this mountain (Zwarteberg) and one is reminded of the words Thurnberg wrote in 1772: "The hillock consists of an iron ore or a ferruginous lava; and is heavy, black, shining, of a very close texture, and strikes fire with steel. The very road is black, owing to the dust of the broken ore, which lies upon it like soot".
At the bottom of the valley one can see the town of Caledon, dominated by its huge grain silos, with mountains in the background sperating it from Hermanus, Stanford and Gansbaai.
And here are the grain fields. If you prefer the green look, then visit Caledon when the canola is growing.
Reviewed by Rob Baker
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