Calitzdorp lies in the lee of the Swartberg range. I am always curious to know how the names of towns come about and so am interested to know that Calitzdorp is situated on the site of the original farm, Buffelsvlei (Buffalo Valley), granted to J.J. and M.C. Calitz in 1831. Our visit was fleeting as the next stage of our journey awaited. We nonetheless had a good look at Queens Street, well-known for its Edwardian, Victorian, and Karoo-style buildings. The wooden shutters, casement windows, sash windows, loft staircases and bullnose porch awnings reflect a time when architecture took into account the weather – cool verandas meant a cool interior during the heat of summer and the shutters block out the warm air. It is such a pity that most modern houses in this country no longer have verandas – they are regarded as expensive ‘add-ons’. Apart from the delightful architecture, I was struck by this open invitation to browse relics of bygone days – alas, there was no time to indulge on this visit!
The beautifully constructed sandstone Dutch Reformed Church is impressive. Originally built in 1857, it was declared a national monument in 1991.
Its clock keeps accurate time too – not a common expectation anymore!
Bougainvilleas abound. This multi-coloured hedge …
Almost matched a load of grapes …
Piled on a trailer.
Vineyards are so close that they seem to form an integral part of the town.
We didn’t even scratch the surface of the attractions this small town has to offer – which means a return visit is a must.
It is significant that the first governor of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck, noted in his diary on the 4th August 1652 that he had sent men out to make a road “for the wagon to transport wood” for it reminds us that there were no roads at the time, nor would there be any for the next 150 years. Dr. Malcolm Mitchell points out in an article published in the January/February 2014 issue of Civil Engineering that “the ox wagons of the time merely follow[ed] the footpaths and game trails over the mountains.” The two passes I have already highlighted, Uniondale Poort and Meirings Poort, are examples of this.
Wagon transport has been integral to the early development of South Africa. Not only did the early settlers move their families as well as their goods into the untamed country by ox-wagon, but wagons were the most effective means of conducting trade for many years until the system of railways and roads was opened up. It is thus not surprising to find remnants of old wagons dotted about the country.
Several examples are still preserved in museums.
The part of wagons found most commonly are the wheels – they are symbolic of adventure, overcoming apparently insurmountable obstacles, and are visual reminders of our past history. Wagon wheels – and the stylised form of them – formed the theme of our self-catering accommodation in Calitzdorp.
De Wawielhuis (The wagon wheel house) lived up to its name, with the specially designed gates:
Wagon wheels in the garden:
There is something ‘romantic’ in the sense of having an idealised view of the past wrapped up in wagon wheels. Given that De Wawielhuis offered comfortable accommodation after a long journey – and the hospitality we received there was delightful – the name is an apt one!
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.
It was a breath-taking experience to drive through the impressive rock formations visible on both sides of the Uniondale Poort [a steep narrow mountain pass] along the R339. First built in 1925, the road through the poort was tarred in 1960 – which ensures a pleasant driving experience.
The scenery is spectacular – especially the patterns created by the folding of the rocks. The sheer mountain slopes rise way above the road, not only making it difficult to see them all at once, but serving to make one marvel at the forces of nature.
It must be a combination of today’s 37°C heat and the recent view of the coastline during my return flight from Cape Town that has got me thinking about youthful holidays spent on the beach at Southbroom, along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. I retain the landlubber’s delight at watching waves crashing over rocks – a particularly wonderful spectacle at Tsitsikamma.
The feel of beach sand underfoot and between my toes draws me back unerringly to days of making sandcastles and digging deep moats around them.
The senses of smell and taste embed certain memories that can be drawn to the fore at the merest whiff of a familiar fragrance or the tiniest morsel of a flavour from long ago. These memories return in a flash: the lime green ice-creams in a cone we could buy for a tickey – sixpence if you wanted a double scoop – and the bright green crème soda my Granny would mix up in a large bottle for us to drink on the beach. The strongest memory of all though relates to the tin of freshly baked biscuits in the bottom of the wicker picnic basket she always put ready for us.
After an energetic morning of having been dunked by waves; building sandcastles; or running up and down sand dunes, we would approach that biscuit tin with wet, sandy fingers and a gnawing hunger.
I can clearly recall the delicious aroma as one of us lifted the lid; the light crunchiness of the plain biscuits; and the delight that there was always more than we needed – my Granny knew all about keeping little active bodies happy on the beach!
Cannon Rocks is one of several coastal villages between Port Elizabeth and East London.
The name is said to derive from cannons retrieved from the wrecks of Portuguese sailing ships that sank in the area – some of the many ships that have come to grief along the shore over the centuries.
After a short walk below the mounted cannons, one is met by water gushing out of this pipe – the origin or purpose of which I cannot tell, although the water looks clean.
The beach is a haven for peace.
Humans have probably always felt the need to shorten their routes by crossing rivers and ravines. What may have begun as a sturdy log stretching across the obstacle has grown into the science of pontitecture, using materials ranging from wood, vines, stone, iron, and wire to concrete and steel.
Here are a few examples – all of which bring home to me the need to stop more on our travels to take much better pictures of bridges!
A simple wooden bridge over a stream at the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg.
The railways require bridges to cross rivers and this well-known one over the Sabie River at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park dates from 1912 and probably features in the photographic collections of visitors from all over the world.
This lattice girder bridge over the Great Kei River was completed in 1879.
For road users, low-level bridges such as this one crossing the Fish River in the Great Fish Reserve can be found all over South Africa.
The iconic metal Alice Bridge crossing the Bushman’s River at Estcourt is one of several built to this design.
Crossing the Kat River at Fort Beaufort is the beautiful Victoria Bridge, the first multiple-arch stone bridge built in South Africa.
Lastly, is a small section of the Paul Sauer suspension bridge that crosses the Storms River.