The Langkloof fruit region is located between Port Elizabeth and George. After the Western Cape Province, Langkloof is the second largest deciduous fruit-producing area in South Africa. Its fertility is visible as most of the valley is lined with fruit orchards, with beautiful mountains and perennial streams as a backdrop. The road down the Kloof passes through various rural fruit growing and dispatch centers like Avontuur, Haarlem, Misgund, Louterwater, Krakeel, Joubertina, Kareedouw and Assegaaibos. After Assegaaibos the road links up with the N2 to Port Elizabeth. The ‘Apple Express’ runs through the Long Kloof, linking all these villages and towns.
Kareedouw is the operational centre for the municipality, and Joubertina is the business centre for the agricultural industry.
Avontuur is the first town on the R62 in the Long Kloof. The town was originally a loan farm called Avontuur, which was awarded to a Matthys Zondagh.
On one section of the farm the buildings for Langkloof Corporation (Lanko) were built and it is here that a great number of apples are packaged and then sent to Port Elizabeth (PE) for export.
Avontuur is known as the western end of the 283km narrow-gauge (610mm) railway line which used to serve as the transport line for export apples, carried through the Langkloof (Long Kloof) by the famous 'Apple Express' steam train.
*Source: Erasmus, B.P.J. 2004. Op Pad in SA. Second Edition. Johnathan Pall Distributors, Cape Town.
Haarlem is located 16km from Avontuur. This town has its origins in a missionary. In 1856 it was laid out as a town on the banks of the Groot River (Big River), after which the property was handed over to the Berlin Missionary Group. The new station was originally called the Anhalt-Schmidt, in honour of the first missionary Friedrich Prietsch, who came from Anhalt in Germany.
The local community struggled with this name and rather gave the first name to the town, namely Haarlem (like the one close to Amsterdam).
The church was built in a Neo-Gothic style in 1880, through the initiative of Heinrich Howe and Cristoph Markotter.
*Source: Erasmus, B.P.J. 2004. Op Pad in SA. Second Edition. Johnathan Pall Distributors, Cape Town.
The Krakeel River originates on the northern slopes of Formosa Peak (1 675m), which is the highest point of the Tsitsikamma Mountains, and flows into the Kouga River at Krakeel.
The name is a Dutch word for fighting, and is an onomatopoeic description of the noise that the water makes at this place where the two rivers meet and flow strongly.
Almost all the houses are situated on the banks of the Krakeel River. Most of the fruit farmers in this area are descendents of Matthijs Strijdom, who was originally awarded the loan farm in 1770. The father of J.G. Strijdom, the first minister of the Union of South Africa (1954-1958) was from this lineage.
The Formosa Nature Reserve is situated between Haarlem and Krakeel River, and includes most of the mountains of the Long Kloof.
*Source: Erasmus, B.P.J. 2004. Op Pad in SA. Second Edition. Johnathan Ball Distributors, Cape Town.
History and background of The Long Kloof:
Each town along the Long Kloof consists of a cluster of houses and commercial buildings, with a central railway station, a church and a school.
The majestic mountains surround the valley from the north and the south, flowing up and down, with farms and homesteads in between. The road and narrow-gauge railway (known as the 'Apple Express') run down the centre of the valley.
The valley was inhabited by Bushmen in a previous era. Traces of their presence are reflected in rock art paintings on the walls of many of the rock shelters. 'Hottentot' pastoralists came into the area after the Bushmen, and contributed to many of the place names in the valley, like Gwarina or Querina ('the ravine of the eland'), Kouga ('place of the blue wildebeest'); Traka ('place of the women') and Humtata ('plain where the Hottentot figs grow'). These and other names are reminders of a vanished people, whose absence is largely a result of smallpox epidemics.
Izaak Schryver’s expedition was the first European exploration of the area in 1689. Subsequently, hunters, botanists and explorers followed. The first European settlers came into the area in 1740. These settlers aggrieved the Cape Town authorities as they were pioneers of sorts and were constantly expanding the frontiers in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the tax collectors. The tax gatherers invariably followed them.
By 1773, about eight homesteads had been built in the Long Kloof. The pioneers of the area include men like R. Kamfer (at Kamfer); M. Zondagh (farm Avontuur or Adventure); John Kritzinger on Onzer; Tjaart van der Walt on Warmbad and Jan de Buys on De Ezeljacht. Jan de Buys was the father of a notorious South African frontiersman, namely, Coenraad de Buys. Coenraad was born on the farm Wagenboomrivier. He had his own farm, de Opkomst near Kareedouw, and enjoyed a very wild lifestyle. He also practiced polygamy on a large scale, and he ended up wandering off as an outlaw, heading into the northern wilderness. At Mara, on the southern slopes of the Soutpansberg in Limpopo, he eventually founded a tribe of his own descendants, the Buys people.
The Long Kloof was invaded by Xhosa warriors and many stories tell of wild fights, escapes and adventures. The valley was very remote and inaccessible for wagons or horses. Still today many valleys attached to the Long Kloof are difficult to reach.
The Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve can be reached from the Long Kloof via different routes, but a 4x4 is required. Ask the locals for the best route and advice on how to get there.
Features of the area:
- Over 2 000 species of fynbos;
- Abundant birdlife; and
- Perfect area for hiking and mountaineering.
The Formosa Nature Reserve
- 50 000ha in extent;
- Pristine nature;
- Situated between Kareedouw and Misgund;
- Includes the Tsitsikamma mountains;
- Primarily wet fynbos and mountain forest;
- Abundant birdlife;
- No formal hikes.
Source: Bulpin, TV 1980. Discovering Southern Africa. Second Edition. T.V. Bulpin Publications, Cape Town.
The Apple Express:
The Apple Express is a narrow-gauge railway line originally built to transport fruit from the Langkloof Valley to the docks of Port Elizabeth, hence its name. The track has carried tourists from Port Elizabeth to as far as the Gedult River since 1903.
The railway is special not only due to its beautiful setting, but also because it is the longest narrow-gauge railway in the in the world (283km) and it crosses the highest narrow-gauge bridge at Van Stadens (72m).
Spoornet decided to close the railway, but the public wanted it to stay open. Consequently it is still used for the odd diesel freight train (especially with quarried materials) and also the Apple Express Society took over the responsibility for running steam trains on a voluntary basis. Unfortunately, the Apple Express is still threatened and there is a constant battle to keep it going financially
*For more information visit:
Joubertina and Twee Riviere (Two Rivers):
The history of Joubertina:
Farmers came to this fruitful region in the Long Kloof in the late 18th Century. The town of Joubertina is situated near the Nabooms River, which is a branch of the Kouga River. It was established as an NG (Dutch Reformed) Church in 1907. Its name originates from the Reverend W.A. Joubert, who was Reverend of Uniondale from 1879 to 1892.
The owner of the farm that was sold for the development of this town, Daniel Kritzinger, was a teetotaller. He therefore made the condition that if he sold his farm for the development of Joubertina, it should not be allowed to sell any alcohol. As a consequence, the hotel was built outside of municipal boundaries, so as to avoid this law.
Joubertina and its surrounds are best known for their apples, but are also famous for quality pears, peaches, apricots and youngberries.
On another subject, an historical event took place near Joubertina, on the banks of the Nabooms River. It was here that a Xhosa army wanted to move westwards in 1802, and the Boere Commandoes stopped them from doing so.
*Source: Bulpin, T.V. 1980. Discovering Southern Africa. Second Edition. T.V. Bulpin Publications, Cape Town.
History of Twee Riviere:
Twee Riviere (Two Rivers) is situated 3km from Joubertina. Twee Riviere looks like a town, but is in fact only a group of houses that were built close to each other at the point where two rivers from the Tsitsikamma Mountains flow together.
The original loan farm was given to Jac Scheepers in 1765, but was later handed over to the family Oliviers, which is still a surname in this region (Erasmus, 2004).
Things to do in Joubertina and Twee Riviere
Langkloof is one of the most scenic sections of Route 62, with a backdrop of mountains, valleys and waterfalls (when rivers are full). The peacefulness and rural qualities of the area makes it a wonderful place to just relax in and breathe in the fresh country air.
If visitors would like to do more than just relax, there are plenty of activities to choose from.
The nearby Prince Alfred’s Pass to Knysna offers a scenic daytime drive. Prince Alfred’s Pass was constructed under the management of Thomas Bain, who was responsible for many passes in South Africa. Thomas Bain started the construction of the pass in 1860 with a team of 250 convict builders. It took them seven years to finish the whole stretch of road. The road stretches from Die Kruin (1 050m above sea level), and runs against the mountainside with many sharp bends. It is best to drive slowly on this pass (Coetzer, 2007:30).
Amidst the tranquillity there is still room for adventure. From hiking trails to quad-biking, to 4x4 routes and abseiling in the Kouga Mountains. Hiking in Peak Formosa, the highest tip of the Tsitsikamma mountain range, is definitely a highlight.
Joubertina’s church building dates from 1911 and is said to be Joubertina’s first building. The church is made of sandstone and it has a beautiful yellowwood interior that complements the building style.
In Twee Riviere there is a beautiful Cape Dutch building that is 200 years old. This is where fruit farming started. The building on the farm of Skrijwershoek was originally used as a general dealer store, operated by Mr Schreiber, who was one of the only literate members of the community in that time. He kept precise records of his daily transactions in a journal, one copy of which still survives.
Also visit the museum in town.
The area also falls within the Cape Floral Region and unique fynbos occurs here. The Honeybush specifically occurs within the Long Kloof area. Honeybush products can include teas and other drinks, and can range from its roughest to a refined form. It is best known for its health benefits.
Very important is the opportunity to experience the everyday activities of farm life in the region.
South Africans (and perhaps foreigners) who are familiar with the book and movie Fiela se Kind or Fiela’s Child, written by the famous South African writer Daleen Mathee, would be interested to know that the movie (as referenced in the book), was shot at the farm Wolwekraal in the Long Kloof.
*Sources: Coetzer, T. 2007. Exit to Eden in Go Magazine. March, 28-34.
Erasmus, B.P.J. 2004. Op Pad in SA. Second Edition. Johnathan Pall Distributors, Cape Town.
The discovery of a mummy:
A mummy was discovered in the Kouga Mountains in the Long Kloof in April 1999, on Mr Fanie Gerber’s farm. It is estimated to be 2 000 years old. The shelter where the mummy was found also has rock art paintings on the walls, which seem to indicate that the person was very important. Anatomical studies indicate that the mummy was possibly was a man 1.45m tall.
The cause of his death is unknown and no traces of a chronic illness could be found. Archaeologists also found reason to believe that the person had a rural diet. Furthermore, studies of the plants that cover the body showed that they are most likely family of the wax berry and honeybush.
*Source: Classen, E. 2002. Mummie was 2000 jaar gelede dalk BBP in Die Burger. 8 July 2002, p 3.
The Baviaanskloof Route encompasses the broader Baviaanskloof area, which contains a newly proclaimed World Heritage Site, and offers a mix of sights and activities relating to nature and culture.
Renowned for its great beaches, malaria-free parks and reserves, wildlife and proud heritage and culture, the Eastern Cape offers tourists extreme action sports to gentle flower trails, heritage museums, game reserves and parks. The Coastal Route covers the entire length of the Eastern Cape Province stretching across a number of districts.
This area has so much to offer and many stories to tell. Stutterheim, at the heart of the area, has a very interesting political past which allowed people to think that there was a way to deal with inequalities of the past. We also have a range of adventure tourism and cultural attractions and large amounts of arts and crafts all waiting to be discovered.
These trails are situated along the famous Garden Route. The area offers warm-water sea paddling with its associated marine life, as well as many lakes and estuaries to explore.
Buffalo City boasts a variety of tourist attractions and is rich in cultural and natural resources. The 68km coastline includes 10 estuaries, conservancies, natural heritage sites, rocky shores and 14 sandy beaches. There is a long-standing tradition of beadwork in the area.
This route spans the borders between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, providing travellers with the opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures – Basotho, English, Xhosa and Afrikaans.
The Fish River (Nxuba) Valley is located adjacent to a thriving game-farming area of the Eastern Cape. The Mbodla Eco-heritage Route adds an original, Afro-centric, environmental, cultural and heritage dimension to the region’s offerings.
This route is surrounded by dramatic mountains in the heart of the great Karoo and falls within the Nama Karoo Biome. This region is recognised for its herbal plant life, an exceptional variety of scarce birdlife and rock art from the San Bushmen. It is also one of the few, and best, places in the world where fossils are found.
En-route from Durban to Buffalo City, Port St Johns has numerous estuaries, bays and headlands. Small sandy bays and long stretches of open beach are found here, often near the mouth of large rivers like Umzimvubu River and Umngazana.