Bokkeveld and Beyond | 325km

Bokkeveld Mountains.

VANRHYNSDORP

...lies against the backdrop of the Gifberg (poison mountain), with its sheer cliffs, on the banks of the Troe-Troe River. Founded in 1887, the town was named after Petrus van Rhyn, the owner of the farm on which it was laid out. A fascinating collection of vintage radios can be viewed in the Latsky Radio Museum, while the Van Rhyn Museum focuses on the history of the area.

Visitors on a South African holiday should also see the Kern Nursery, the largest nursery of indigenous succulents in the country. The nearby Gifberg, which owes its name to the hyaena poison-bush (Hyaenanche globosa), contains numerous rock painting sites and a magnificent waterfall.

BOKKEVELD MOUNTAINS

From the plains northeast of Vanrhynsdorp, the road ascends to the Bokkeveld range in a series of sweeps and bends along Van Rhyn's Pass. Completed in 1962, the pass follows virtually the same route as the original road built by the famed 19th-century road engineer, Thomas Bain. The Bokkeveld range separates the coastal strip from the inland plateau, which is divided into the Koue-Bokkeveld (Cold Bokkeveld), Warm-Bokkeveld and the Onder-Bokkeveld (Lower Bokkeveld).

Originally known in Dutch as the Bockland, the region was named after the vast herds of springbok, blue wildebeest and zebra that used to migrate into the area in spring and early summer.

OORLOGSKLOOF NATURE RESERVE

Visit the Oorlogskloof Nature reserve on a South African holiday. The scenery of this 4 477-ha reserve on the Bokkeveld escarpment is dominated by the Oorlogskloof, a spectacular gorge about 500 m wide and up to 200 m deep. Its Afrikaans name, which means 'war ravine', is a reminder of a skirmish which took place in the folds of this wild tract of land in 1739 when a commando attacked a Khoisan kraal to retrieve stolen livestock.

Situated in a transition zone between the fynbos and the Karoo biomes, the reserve protects a unique mixture of fynbos and succulent plants. Among the conspicuous species found here are the botterboom (Tylecodon paniculatus), the sprawling Aloe mitriformis, geelmelkbos (Euphorbia mauritanica) and several protea species. A variety of red-hot pokers, gladioli, watsonias and moreas provide a blaze of colour between July and September.

Other attractions of the reserve are the large number of rock arches and rock paintings. Day visitors can explore the reserve along two full-day walks, while those with more time have a choice of three overnight routes, ranging between four and seven days' duration.

NIEUWOUDTVILLE

Situated on the Bokkeveld Plateau, Nieuwoudtville was established in 1897 when the Dutch Reformed Church bought land from the Nieuwoudt brothers on which to build a church. The Nieuwoudtville Wild Flower Reserve is home to over 300 plant species, and its spectacular spring flower display attracts large numbers of visitors on as South African holiday each year.

In addition to its stunning display of spring annuals, the Nieuwoudtville area is celebrated for its rich diversity of geophytes (plants with bulbs, corms or tubers), among them eight of the 17 Bulbinella species occurring in South Africa, romuleas and lachenalias. Another major attraction near the town is the spectacular Nieuwoudtville Falls, which plunge 90 m over a sheer cliff into a large pool.

The falls are at their best during the winter months when the Doring River flows strongly. Pleasant picnic facilities are provided near the falls. Nieuwoudtville also has a number of fine old sandstone buildings and rock paintings.

GLACIAL PAVEMENTS

About 300 million years ago, in a period known as the Dwyka Glaciation, the southern part of the Gondwana supercontinent was submerged in a shallow basin. Snow-covered highlands surrounded the basin, and, as the weather became warmer, sheets of ice began sliding down the slopes into the basin. As they moved, pebbles and boulders were dragged along, scouring the rock surfaces and in some places cutting deep grooves. A closer look at the pavement clearly shows that the ice sheets moved in a southerly and southwesterly direction.

BIEDOUW VALLEY

Hemmed in by the Biedouw Mountains to the north and the Tra-Tra Mountains to the south, the valley carved by the Biedouw River is transformed into a carpet of blooms during the spring flower season. Conspicuous among the annuals are the yellow-and-white nemesias, blue heliophilas, gazanias and mauve senecios, while a variety of succulents (generally referred to as vygies) also occur.

WUPPERTHAL

...lies in a deep valley dominated to the north by the Tra-Tra mountains, Singkop to the south and the Cedarberg to the west. It was in this fertile valley in 1830 that the Rhenish Mission Society established its first mission station in the country. It was named by the first missionaries, Johann Gottlieb Leipoldt (grandfather ofá Louis Leipoldt) and Theobald von Wurmb, after the Wupper Valley in Germany, where the society was founded in the town of Elberfeld.

Tucked away in a secluded valley, with neat rows of thatched whitewashed cottages, Wupperthal has retained the charm of a bygone era. The thatched church, with its beautiful Cape Dutch fašade, is still the focal point of village life, as it was when it was completed in 1835.

Also of interest for guests on a South African holiday is the Leipoldt House, the first mission house at Wupperthal, and the cemetery where Leipoldt and other missionaries were buried. In 1836, the missionaries introduced the craft of shoe-making to the locals, and the village is still famous today for its 'Wupperthaller' leather shoes.

ENGLISHMAN'S GRAVE

A roadside memorial marks the site where Lieutenant Graham Clowes of the 6th Mounted Infantry was killed during the South African War. On 30 January 1901, Clowes was riding well ahead of his scouting party when he came under fire from a Boer commando. He was shot and killed when he courageously charged the Boers with his sword drawn, and was buried near the spot where he fell.

SEVILLA TRAIL

The Pakhuis Pass area is famous for its large concentration of rock art. The Sevilla Trail, on the farm Traveller's Rest, covers 4 km and offers visitors an opportunity to view nine rock art sites. Among the paintings to be seen are elephants, handprints (including those of a child), human figures with elongated necks and zebra, or quagga.

PAKHUIS PASS

...was built in the 1870s by Thomas Bain to link Clanwilliam to Calvinia in the interior. The scenery along the pass is dominated by spectacular sandstone formations, rugged mountain peaks and magnificent fynbos vegetation. Visitors may choose to stop and visit the overhang where the ashes of the celebrated Afrikaans poet, author and physician, Louis Leipoldt, were interred.

In addition to his many outstanding qualities, Leipoldt was also a keen naturalist, and a member of the protea family which grows naturally here, Serruria leipoldtii, was named in his honour. A few faded rock paintings in the cave are a reminder of the early inhabitants of the area.

CLANWILLIAM

...is synonymous with rooibos tea, the Cedarberg Wilderness Area and velskoene (handmade leather shoes). The town is the centre of a region where farmers cultivate the indigenous rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), the leaves of which are used to make a healthy, caffeine-free tea. Set against the backdrop of the rugged crags and buttresses of the Cedarberg's Krakadouw peaks, Clanwilliam lies between the Olifants and Jan Dissels rivers.

Initially named Jan Dissels Valley, it was renamed in 1814 after the Earl of Clanwilliam, the father-in-law of Governor Sir John Cradock. The town's annual wild flower show is held towards the end of winter in the old Dutch Reformed Church (1864). About 360 species of flora are displayed and there are also concerts and a street carnival.

Other historical attractions include the St John's Anglican Church, a beautiful dressed-stone building dating back to 1866, and the old gaol, with its simple Georgian fašade. Built in 1808 as detention barracks for the British garrison stationed here, the building was later converted into a civilian gaol and now serves as the town's museum and information centre.

At Clanwilliam Dam, the water backs up as much as 22 km behind the dam wall. The dam is popular with watersport enthusiasts and is rated as one of the best spots for water-skiing in the Western Cape.

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