Sterkstroom, Karoo Heartland

Not many people can claim they've visited Sterkstroom. That it occupies a space close to the towns of Molteno, Dordrecht and Queenstown - quite far inland of East London - is about the best description you can give anyone asking where it is.

On closer inspection it lies in the Stormberg region of the Eastern Cape not far from the Gariep Dam, just over the border with the Free State.

Not on the main road to anywhere (even the N6 bypasses it, although not by much) Sterkstroom is overlooked. In this case rather obviously by the Dorper Wind Farm, midway between Sterkstroom and Molteno.

Named after a sheep commonly farmed in the area, the 100 megawatt wind farm is one of the biggest in South Africa with 40 wind turbines (the Stormberg is well known for its wind, particularly during winter).

The wind farm lies at the top of Boesmanshoek Pass spread across five windswept sheep and cattle farms; a powerful icon for the independent energy producers working with the Department of Energy's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme.

Dorper is a symbol of hope for Sterkstroom. There is a 60% unemployment rate in the local municipality but a community development trust has a 10.2% stake in the wind farm, the money hopefully used for education, infrastructure and health structures, according to the local mayor, and taking into account that the mayor and his councillors were sent packing in late 2014.

Sterkstroom, like many of the little Eastern Cape towns in its interior, is full of character. The Reformed church (Sterkstroom is one of few towns where the Reformed Church, built in 1887, was established well before the NG Kerk), with its elegant steeple, is both beautiful and well maintained. Some of the Victorian and Karoo style cottages have been lovingly preserved.

But there is also a vacancy to town – those who live here either work elsewhere (like Cradock) or not at all. Litter is a problem, there is little to no industry, and very few tourists. Visit it nonetheless, and stay overnight in one of town's historical houses at Ambience B&B.

Travellers' Reviews

1 Review from travellers. All reviews are verified.

Verified reviewgood

Sterkstroom is definitely an underestimated place. I only drove through en route to East London but was impressed by the quaint (though "delapidated" buildings). The town has an atmosphere of its own. It can be developed if someone decides to do so. I was also impressed by the excellent condition of the steam locomotive that's displayed on the Queenstown side of Sterkstroom. If the road from Molteno can be upgraded it would also attract visitors to the town. On that route one would also pass the Dorper Wind farm. There is definitely some potential here.

Anthony JP Louw (Douglas)

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