Eastern Cape DestinationsTarkastad, Karoo Heartland
Set against the dramatic Winterberg Mountains, between Cradock and Queenstown, only three hours from Port Elizabeth, Tarkastad is a typical Karoo town on the banks of the Tarka River, its streets lined with quaint historical buildings.
Just outside the town of Tarkastad rest two distinct flat-topped hills, aptly named Martha and Mary - they sit like two heavy women on a stoep, weary from a day’s hard work awaiting the return of men from the fields and indeed, the first farmers settled here in 1795, hence the existence of old watermills, inns and both a Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Church. The Winterberg Mountains beckon and hiking trails abound, particularly the Toorberg, a 3-day 45 kilometre circular hike that is graded as difficult and includes having to take your own tent, and the Great Winterberg hiking trail.
The Tarkastad rock engravings, on a farm called Grootvlei just north of Tarkastad, have received quite a bit of attention and are an example of the San rock paintings that draw people to the area. Other activities in and around the little Karoo town include trout fishing, the Mountain Zebra National Park and the Tsolwana Game Reserve, which lies between Queenstown and Tarkastad with some good game viewing.