Gamtoos Valley, Baviaanskloof

The name Gamtoos catches in the back of the throat with a guttural stop so typical of the wonderfully descriptive Afrikaans language. The word probably originated from Dutch settlers, who called the Khoikhoi clan in the area ‘Gamtousch’, although others argue that it means ‘the roaring lion’ and refers to the sound of the Gamtoos in flood.

Lying adjacent to the Garden Route, just over an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, the Gamtoos Valley is home to the three little villages of Hankey, Loerie and Patensie, and is a vibrant mix of citrus, potato and tobacco farming that forms a collage of cultivated fields and orchards.

Regarded as the gateway to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area, the valley is a treasure trove of beautiful scenery and interesting landmarks that stretch all the way up to Komdomo, where the Baviaanskloof route begins.

The little town of Loerie hosts the Naartjie Festival in September and Hankey is not only the oldest town in the valley but also claims to have the largest Sun Dial in the southern hemisphere - 36.4 metres across.

Here too lie the remains of Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Bartman, a Khoi-San woman, also known as the Hottentot Venus, who was ‘persuaded’ to leave the country for Europe where she was used as a circus attraction, dying finally in France. It was only in 2002 that her remains were finally returned to South Africa.

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