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Cross Country Drive


“Oh, the places you’ll go…..” Dr Seuss

Our little stone cottage… All Photo Credits: © Jacqui Ikin

Papkuilsfontein. Doesn’t that sound so delightfully South African? This farm was established in 1742, and in those days all farms needed to be created around a spring – or “fontein” in Afrikaans. Papkuil means reeds / bulrushes. So, the literal translation is “Fountain of the Bulrushes / Reeds”. I had the pleasure of visiting this little spot a year or two ago, and it was simply delightful.

Travelling up from Cape Town, at Vanrhynsdorp you take the R27 and head up Vanrhyns Pass. This pass, originally designed and built by Thomas Bain, is considered one of the top ten passes of the Northern Cape because of its breath-taking views, tight corners and good condition. Stop at one of the designated spots and admire the view – you can see for miles over the Knersvlakte. You climb 595m up the Bokkeveld Mountains, and the pass takes you from the Namaqua coastal terrace and the arid Knersveld Valley, up onto the escarpment and the Koue Bokkeveld Plateau.

On reaching the top, there is a distinct difference in the vegetation and the air itself, and the first town you come across is Nieuwoudtville, an area is known as ”the Bulb Capital of the World” (it has the highest speciation of indigenous bulbous flowers on Earth). 

Don’t be fooled into simply driving through the town. As you enter the town, you pass a Caltex Service Station – “Protea Motors”. If you’re a petrolhead of any level, take the time to stop and pop in. Behind the unassuming exterior lies an incredible collection of antique motorbikes (apparently over 400, although not all are on show). 

Also worth a view, if you’re into architecture, is the Neo-Gothic towers of the sandstone Dutch Reformed Church completed in 1907.

Through Nieuwoudtville and out the other side, you will eventually reach the farm Papkuilsfontein. You’ll get directions from the owners to whichever accommodation you have booked – ours was a lovely old stone house about two kilometres from the main the main house. There was a traditional farm dam nearby where we took a dip, a welcome relief from the December heat, and then explored the surrounding ruins. There are hiking trails on the farm, and by the end of August 2020 they will have created a variety of mountain bike trails too. 

Our three-course dinner was delivered to our accommodation just as the sun was going down, to be eaten by candlelight as there is no electricity. The dinner was sublime, and we opened a bottle of red to celebrate the end of a wonderful day. The stars hung low in the sky. As we finished our dinner, a huge full moon rose, tinged with copper. The night was still hot – the rock on which the cottage stands holds the heat of the day. The nearby ruins were etched silver in the moonlight, and I remembered a paragraph out of “Story of an African Farm” that describes a similar scene. As the night cooled down, I slowly drifted off to sleep. 

In the morning, after a quick outdoor shower, we took a drive to the canyon. It is spectacular, and we enjoyed a walk along the edge, clambering over rocks, and climbing higher to get better views. One needs to be careful – there are no railings, and the canyon is 180m deep. The words of Oriah Mountain Dreamer came to mind: “I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again” – there is a wild beauty here that restores one’s soul. After returning to the main house for a delicious breakfast, we were once again on our way. 

One last spot to explore before leaving the area is the Oorlogskloof Glacial Pavement – a set of grooves created by ice flow (yes – in the Northern Cape!) over 300 million years ago when southern Africa (as part of Gondwana) migrated over the South Pole.

Just over 70kms away (which in this part of the world is considered a mere stone’s throw away), along the R537, is Loeriesfontein. Roads out here are long and lonely, and whilst they may not be 4×4 roads, many don’t see much traffic and often don’t have signal. There is often quite literally nothing to see for miles and miles. 25km north of Nieuwoudtville you will find the southernmost and second largest quiver tree forest in the world. Only blossoming after 15-25 years, these trees can take 100 years to mature fully. The estimated age of the trees in this forest is between 150 – 250 years.  The San used their hollow branches as ‘quivers’ for their arrows. This forest is easy to access, but pleaseremember that as the quiver tree forest is situated on the Gannabos Farm itself, it still remains private property. 

The reason you would make this journey to Louriesfontien would be to visit the quirky “Windmill Museum” – one of only a handful in the world. There are around 27 windmills on display, many with enchanting names like Hercules, Star Zephyr and Gypsy Wonder, and some dating back as far as 1880! During the flower season, the adjacent Fred Turner museum is open, depicting the way of life of the early Trek Boers of Namaqualand. With more than 1000 items on display, including a trek wagon, an equipped tent and some lovely old maps, it is a worthwhile stop.

The reality is that, wherever you find yourself in this beautiful country of ours, there is a story. Fascinating things to see. Delicious local food. Photographic opportunities whichever way you glance. And the coolest part of it all? By travelling local, beyond saving thousands of Rands, you are enabling local tourism, keeping your money in your country, and making it count….

#TravelLocal #StaySafe #SouthAfricaWillTravelAgain

Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team

Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm
Mariëtte van Wyk
Cell: +27 (0)72 555 1416
Tel: +27 (0)27 218 1246
Email: info@papkuilsfontein.com

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