From De Rust we headed towards the spectacular Meirings Poort that cuts through the Swartberg mountain range towards Klaarstroom.
The poort follows the natural gorge eroded by the Groot River connecting the Great- and Little Karoo. It was named after a De Rust farmer, Petrus Johannes Meiring, who campaigned for a road through the gorge, having already pushed through a bridle path. This tarred road twists and turns, crossing twenty-five drifts, each with its own story and name commemorating an aspect of the environment or an event. Some examples of these include Skansdrif – where stone ramparts were built in the river to prevent flooding; Boesmansdrif – a place where Bushmen used to live; Witperddrif – where a rabbi is said to have been washed away together with his horse and cart; and Peerboom se drif – where, it is said – a large saffron pear tree used to grow.
These curves, together with the wonderful scenery, require a high level of concentration from the driver!
The road was opened to the public in 1858. Among the many interesting stopping places is Herrie Klip (Herrie’s Stone), where CJ Langenhoven (1873 – 1932) – a beloved South African poet who played a major role in the development of Afrikaans literature and cultural history – enjoyed relaxing. It was here that he chiselled the name of the imaginary elephant from his story Herrie op die Tremspoor (Harry on the Tram Line), written in 1925. We saw a group of people collecting water from the crystal clear water trickling down the cliffs nearby.
This stone was declared a National Monument in 1973. Meirings Poort itself is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What is incredible about the drive along Meirings Poort are the high cliffs which provide views of the phenomenal geological processes that have taken place over more than 200 million years. Layers of rock have been twisted, pleated, folded and lifted up to form the scenery we can witness today.
One cannot help feeling insignificant when looking up at the towering cliffs and the evidence of more turbulent times in our geological history.