In 1830 two Rhenish missionaries from Germany established a remote mission station in the heart of the rugged Cederberg on the banks of the Tra-Tra river. One of these missionaries was Johan Gottlieb Leipoldt – the grandfather of famous south afri
can poet Louis Leipoldt. The mission station was named Wuppertal after the Wupper River in Germany and initially ministered mainly to the local hottentot community. In 1834 when slavery was abolished in South Africa the freed slaves had a choice between serving a four year “apprenticeship” with their previous owners, or of being affiliated with a mission station. It is no surprise that many freed slaves chose the latter option and the number of inhabitants in the remote mission oasis of Wuppertal swelled.
Over time the mission station established satellite stations in the area. One of these was Heuningvlei, which literally translates as “Honey-wetland” but the translation doesn’t have the same lilt as the Afrikaans version. In my last post I described my walk on the historical road to Heuningvlei, however nothing prepares one for arrival in this forgotten village.
The village still only consists of about 25 households and aside from the telephone poles and satellite TV dishes it seems to have missed the passing of time. One reason for the slow growth in this idyllic valley is that although, as the crow flies, it is very close to the town of Clanwilliam the drive there is over a distance of almost 70 kilometres on dirt roads. So this beautiful village remains contentedly trapped in the 19th Century.
Below is a photograph taken from the main “street” in “downtown” at rush hour. Surely there cannot be many more beautifully situated villages in the world.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had an adventurous few months, traveling to special places. As you noticed in my previous blog, I was recently fortunate enough to be guiding in the Okavango Delta (my favourite place in the world). Next
week I’ll be in The Greater Kruger National Park and along the way I have been in The Cederberg, Francistown and The Succulent Karoo as well as up and down Table Mountain a few times. As the author of this blogspot I retain the prerogative of writing about whichever adventure inspires me at the time of writing. And when I am as busy adventuring as I am now, there may be no particular order. So tonight I feel like sharing (again) with you a special walk with historical significance as well as scenic splendour and ecological interest. This is the walk from The Pakhuis Pass to the wonderful village of Heuningvlei.
The historical road to Heuningvlei
This walk follows the historical road built in 1876 by Thomas Charles John Bain as an artery of his main project at the time – The Pakhuis Pass. This road branches off the Pakhuis Pass at it’s highest point below the three peaks of “Faith”, “Hope” & “Charity” and continues to the village of Heuningvlei (more about this magical place next week).
T C J Bain was the son of Andrew Geddes Bain, who had absolutely no formal training in road building but was responsible for the construction of eight mountain passes including such iconic roads as Bain’s Kloof Pass, Houwhoek Pass, Gydo Pass and the Ecca Pass. In contrast the younger Bain had a more formal introduction to road construction and was responsible for building 24 major mountain pass roads in the latter half of the 19th century. Many of the roads he constructed are, at least in part, still in existence and are beautiful to behold. Below you can see a section of the road that was built on a steep slope and features a hand-made stone retaining wall.
When this road was constructed, the major form of transport was by donkey-cart and in fact this road is now closed to all traffic except foot traffic, traditional donkey carts and leopards. We were extremely fortunate to see this traditional donkey cart come past us. It felt like we were being transported back to an era when time had a different rhythm. In fact, as we were to discover, this was the case but you’ll have to await the next installment to find out about that.
Traditional Donkey Cart