In the Tokai Forest Plantation, popular with riders, joggers, dog walkers, hikers and mountain bikers, is Tokai Manor. It is at the end of Tokai Road, Upper Constantia Valley, Cape Town. The historic Tokai manor house is to become the headquarters of the Table Mountain National Park, and the area around it is to be transformed into a multipurpose “gateway” to the park. This follows the signing of a ten-year lease agreement, renewable for a period of 15 years, with the Table Mountain National Park Manager, Paddy Gordon. In terms of the lease agreement, SANParks will directly or indirectly invest approximately R12 million towards renovations and improvements to the premises and surrounding areas. These will include developing the property as a public amenity for the foreseeable future and the possible development of visitor facilities such as restaurants, accommodation facilities and parking areas. The public hand-over of Tokai Manor to SANParks concluded years of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a commitment from the national parks authority to invest no less than R11 million to upgrade the precinct. The funding has been secured from the National Department of Environmental Affairs’ Infrastructure Development Fund for this purpose.
Although grazing rights on the lands around the Tokai Manor House were originally held by Simon van der Stel, the estate was sold in 1792 to Johan Andreas Rauch, chief of the armory and head caretaker of the Groote Schuur Estate. Andreas Teubes bought the property. It soon became known as Tokay (named after a wine producing area in Hungary). Three years later the gifted architect Louis Michel Thibault designed the Manor House. It would soon be described as the most outstanding homestead in the Peninsula. The Homestead was raised well above the customary ground level, with a very unusually high front stoep, with massive round pillars, and two dramatic curving flights of stairs. The Manor House was completed in 1796, in time for the marriage of Alida Teubes, the daughter of Andreas. She was to wed Nicolaas Roussouw, from the neighboring farm Steenberg (now the fabulous hotel and golf estate). Ultimately, the cost of building this splendid house ruined Teubes financially, and he was forced into bankruptcy in 1799, and had to sell the estate. In the early 1800s the residence was owned by Petrus Michiel Eksteen. He was a gregarious spendthrift, who spared no cost in hosting the finest banquets for the elite of the Cape social scene. His parties were famous, his cellars was well stocked, and he had a thoroughbred Arabian stud, which was the envy of the Cape. Eventually in 1849, he too was declared insolvent, and had to put the estate up for auction.
During one of Eksteen’s New Year’s Eve parties, his son Frederick accepted a wager from his father to ride his horse up the staircase and into the dining room. The guests watched on as he mounted the precipitous steps of the Manor House on horseback. The horseman circled the dining room table, hooves clattering, spurred on by cheers and laughter from the revellers. Then, in full sight of the whole entourage of dinner guests, tragedy struck. The dinner guests rose to watch horse and mount depart. While descending the very steep steps, the horse tripped and both horse and rider fell to their deaths. The young man broke his neck in the fall and lay dead alongside his horse at the bottom of the staircase.
It is said that the Spectral horse and rider still canters through the forest and sometimes, especially on New Year’s Eves, still tries to repeat their foolhardy bet. Over the years since that tragic night, quite a few reports put this pair in the area around the Manor House. Without a logical explanation, sometimes exuberant laughter and neighing of horses can be heard from inside the Manor House at night. In the dark early hours of the morning forestry workers have heard a horse at full gallop along the road. The rider reportedly wears clothes from a bygone era and heads straight towards the old house and mounts the steps….