There are so many reasons to visit. Rugged crags and mountain passes, waterfalls and river pools, gravel back roads where you pass no more than a farmer in a bakkie or a family in a donkey cart in the space of an hour or two, colour-saturated sunsets and night skies dense with stars.
This so-called ‘valley of baboons’ lies between the Kouga mountains to the south and the Bavaiaanskloof to the north. It has been the site of human habitation for something like 20 000 years so caves, rock paintings and food storage pits of KhoiSan hunter-gatherers are on the menu too, if that’s where your interest lies. The road itself forms part of a more recent history, being the last built by master pass-builder Thomas Bain (of Swartberg Pass fame) before he died in 1893.
And, as the Verimark ads would say, that’s not all. The Baviaanskloof is also part of the Cape Floristic Region, which is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. In other words, it’s an area with lots of plants that occur nowhere else in the world but which are threatened by human activities. As a result, the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004. One of the largest conservation areas in the country, this reserve contains seven of South Africa’s eight biomes and something like 1300 plant species. If plants turn you on, this stunning wilderness should definitely be on your ‘bucket list’.
We were completely seduced by the peace, the wilderness atmosphere and the general helpfulness of the locals. I mentioned Boetie and Henriette Terblanche’s welcoming info centre at Rietrivier in my last post, but they weren’t unique. When we overshot a turnoff and pulled over before reversing, a woman in a bakkie stopped to find out if we were alright; drivers of passing cars waved; even the men fixing the roads after heavy rains earlier in the year took time to wave and smile. Stop at a shop and you’ll find yourself chatting with the shopkeeper about this and that.
It’s life at a slower pace, with time to be ‘naais’. Our most negative interaction – if you can really call it that – was when we tried to pay one shopkeeper with a R200 note. ‘We’re not allowed to accept those,’ he told us sadly. Clearly, the drama surrounding the recall of the old note some six months earlier had only just penetrated into the kloof …
More about the Baviaanskloof
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