Indwe, Karoo Heartland

Indwe is a little historical mining town. It lies between Dordrecht and Elliot, about 70 kilometres north-east of Queenstown, named for the Indwe (Xhosa for blue crane) River just east of it.

Today few travellers do anything but pass through the tiny commercial centre on Route 56 (as opposed to the N2) the alternative road through the Transkei. Considered the ‘shortest route’ between the Western Cape and Durban, Route 56 links the Eastern Cape town of Middleburg to Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal.

It is a meandering, more time-consuming, route than the N2, but explores a series of little towns, over mountain passes rich in scenery, and through byways and back routes less travelled. It also has a lot less traffic.

Indwe is rural and remote. It lies in what is considered ‘mountain country’, its backdrop the Stormberg Mountains. The weather in these parts is more often bleak and cold than it is inviting. Which does not mean that the scenery is not incredible, at times even breathtaking.

Apart from its historical church there is little to recommend it. Rural communities in the hinterland of South Africa are largely poverty stricken and the local municipalities clearly lack sufficient funding to maintain infrastructure.

However, back in the late nineteenth century the coal mines of Indwe made it a town to be reckoned with - the coal seams in the area were considered of the best in the Cape Colony in the 1870s. After Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kimberley (all mining towns), Indwe was the fourth with electricity.

A railway line connected Indwe with Sterkstroom and Maclear and Indwe’s station was one of the busiest passenger terminals in the Cape between 1880 and 1920.

The town played enough of a pivotal role in the Indwe Company’s pursuit of coal that it almost became the site of a Trappist Monastery, like the one at Mariannhill just outside Durban.

This is a scant outline of what was a far more convoluted history involving struggle over land surrounding the mine, clashes with local indigenous people, and a difficult mining procedure that made getting coal out of the mines laborious.

Travellers' Reviews

1 Review from travellers. All reviews are verified.

Verified reviewexcellent

I attended a funeral I was so impressed by the love and the care of the residents of this little town


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