Fred Poynton (Richard’s grandfather) bought Cleopatra in the 1940s. He was a pioneer sugar farmer in Empangeni in the heart of Zululand – clearing the virgin tropical bush with the help of a few farm labourers in the early 1900s.
Fred’s need for a break from the intense heat of the Zululand summers drove him to look for a cool mountain retreat which offered well deserved recreation in the form of trout fishing.
The original tiny mountain cottage was built around the turn of the century.Carved out of the local stone, hewn by the local African stonemasons, it originally had only two rooms – a lounge and a kitchen with a verandah where everyone slept. Later a bedroom was added which doubled up as a dining room. There was no running water and no inside loo.
Life at Cleopatra became a little easier as the cottage was extended by Ralph and Marj (Fred’s son and Richard’s parents) who spent many happy holidays fishing and relaxing on the large verandah with many of their Zululand friends.
Even in the 1970s when we spent time here the lamps had to be lit, the wood-fired geyser next to the bath had to be stoked before you could have a warm bath and the loo was reached by going through a gate in the fence. The dam was later put in by Ralph and Marj in the 1980’s.
Following Fred’s example we used this as our getaway while running Granny Mouse’s Country House in Balgowan. Once we had sold that, we moved up here permanently in 1993 and the happy memories continue to this day.
We began work on building Cleopatra in 1997, and we opened our doors in September 1998…