Western Cape DestinationsAmalienstein and Zoar, Karoo
It is difficult to talk about Zoar or Amalienstein separately, so interwoven are these sister towns.
They lie adjacent to one another on Route 62 at the entrance to the Sewe Weeks Poort (Amalienstein is the one with the beautiful yellow church that you notice from the road), they are both on the Missionary Route (that includes Mamre, Genadendal, Wuppertal, Steinkopf and Elim) and both towns are under-explored and dependent on tourism for their survival.
Their immediate history goes something like this: Zoar was the first of the South African Missionary Society's (SAMS) 'projects', established in 1817. Interestingly the Berlin Mission Society ran the mission station on behalf of SAMS, only to fall out over something vital enough that one of the injured parties established Amalienstein, just next door.
Both missions received substantial funding from a Baroness Amalie von Stein.
But the towns' history goes deeper than this. The locals 'colonised' by the missionaries were from the Attequa tribe (you will also find their descendants in similar little towns like Suurbraak, just outside of Swellendam), descendants of the Korana (a Quena/Khoi tribe). Their culture and way of life is fast dying with the elders of the town, who are now trying to preserve and share what little they know as part of a Kannaland Storytelling Initiative to capture, share and showcase the history they remember.
These informal and off-the-cuff sessions are the best way to meet the people of Amalienstein and Zoar. As the actor, Alan Rickman, so aptly says - it is a human need to tell and listen to stories, so that we can remember who and what we are. Do a Google search for Kannaland Storytelling Initiative, or visit their very active Facebook page for more information.
To do in Zoar and Amalienstein:
Drive into Amalienstein and visit of the church and its yellowwood pews. The local coffee shop will also make you feel welcome.
Explore the Kanna Biodiversity Route, established by Open Africa as a way to introduce visitors to little unknowns, like Zoar, along the Gouritz River corridor.
Catch the Zoar Donkey Taxi (ask for Hendrik who provides rides through the village).
Go on a Land and Sand environmental excursion for children with Allicatt Tours (Alistair Reizenberg), based in Zoar.