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Calitzdorp municipality had its own Coat-of-Arms which was registered to it in perpetuity. Calitzdorp Municipality no longer exists but legally no one else may use the Arms.
When electricity was installed in Calitzdorp in 1937, it was the smallest electricity supply setup in the country, the least costly installation and Calitzdorp’s supply price was the cheapest per unit in South Africa.
When built between 1943 -1954, the concrete road from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn - known locally as the \'sementpad\' - was the longest concrete road in South Africa. It was NOT the country\'s first concrete road, as is frequently claimed.
The last ever steam train on the Oudtshoorn-Calitzdorp line was a special Union Line day trip for steam train enthusiasts on 13 August 1997, four years after the official closing of the line. The loco was a class 19D No 2753
The Little Karoo was once an inland sea of approximately 14,500 square kilometers. It would have been a quarter the size of Lake Victoria, half the size of lake Malawi, 24 times the size of the Dead Sea and 87 times the size of the Sea of Galilee!
Huge Fossil bones found in the Calitzdorp district were thought by Hoffman in 1966 to possibly be those of the Giant Plesiosaur – the same as Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, ‘Nessie’. However they were later identified as those of the sauropod Algoasaurus related to the Brontosaurus.
In the 1800s and early 1900s there was a thriving Jewish community in the Little Karoo. Many of their shops had no doors for customers - who climbed in through the windows!
Calitzdorp has South Africa’s largest Pale Chanting Goshawk bird population – the only polyandrous raptor in South Africa.
The Calitzdorp Nel’s river dam was the first mass-concrete agricultural irrigation dam wall built in the country.
The dam was built in 1913-1918, before modern equipment was available, and work was done with picks and shovels. Donkeys and mules did the hauling. There was one 36 BHP suction gas engine which ran all the major plant.
The Nel’s river which flows through Groenfontein valley and fills Calitzdorp dam was previously known as the Kango river and is shown as such on the original subdivision map of the Buffelsvlei farm, dated April 1834.
The word Kango comes from the Khoisan language – The Khoisan called the Swartberg mountains the Kango and the word means ‘place rich in water’.
A Surveyor General’s Map dated 25 Jan 1847 shows that Daniel Nel owned large sections of the Kango river / valley farmland, Probably why the river became known as ‘Nel’s river’.
Cape leopards still roam freely in the mountains around Calitzdorp. Extremely shy, and ranging over enormous territories, these rare, beautiful animals are seldom seen.
Calitzdorp sits on a geological fault line that runs for 300 kilometers along the southern edge of the Cape Fold mountains – proof being our local hot spring at the Calitzdorp Spa.
In the 1850s the town of George was a 50 hour trek by ox-wagon from Calitzdorp! This time did not include overnight stops and time for the oxen to rest and graze.
After their discovery, the Cango caves were known as \'die Druipkelder’. and only became known as Cango Caves many years later.
When Electricity was first provided in Bergsig, each of the smaller houses had one connection to a street light, and electricity was only available at night when the street lights were switched on.
Lucerne – a major fodder crop around Calitzdorp, came to South Africa from South America in 1861. Its introduction into the Little Karoo dramatically changed the ostrich industry
There are 34 internationally recognised biodiversity Hotspots in the entire world - and Calitzdorp is surrounded by four.
The plant biomes – areas of a certain type of plant growth - are identified as World Hot Spots because of the unique - and threatened vegetation, found nowhere else in the world.
Each of the four World Hot Spots around Calitzdorp –fynbos, thicket, remnant forest and succulent Karoo – has at least 1500 endemic plant species – each Hot Spot biome having more plant variety than the whole of Europe
Calitzdorp’s first cemetery is said to have been in the area of “The Queen of Calitzdorp” Lodge - but maybe this old cemetery was under the \'spookhuis\' - giving reason for its name? Long demolished, the police station now stands where the \'spookhuis\' once was.
During the world-wide ‘flu epidemic of 1918, Calitzdorp was not spared and the beautiful double-storey home at 1 Queen street was used as a make-shift hospital for the duration of the epidemic
More than eleven thousand hand-cut stones were used to build the Dutch Reformed Church. The raw stone was transported by ox-wagon from Swartkop at Vlei Rivier and dressed on the building site.
Because of its enormous size, the Dutch Reformed Church vestry table (5,2m) had to be made on site.
On 22 February 1991 the imposing sandstone Dutch Reformed Church and its surrounding fence was declared a National monument - now known as a Provincial Heritage Site.
The cast-iron fencing, erected around the perimeter of the Dutch Reformed Church grounds in 1899, is eleven years older than the church itself.
The five massive Dutch Reformed Church bells - three huge and two slightly smaller ones, cost £425 and were cast in Germany. They were donated by J J Grundling and his wife in memory of their grandson Jacobus Johannes Grundling Meyer
The magnificent Dutch Reformed Church organ - considered the best in the country at the time and said to have then had 942 pipes, was imported from Hamburg, Germany.
The Huisrivier Pass underwent major upgrading in 2012 and 2013. To the astonishment of workers at a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them - in broad daylight!
The very rare, unusual, yellow Protea - Mimetes chrysanthus – was discovered in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve by game guard Mr Willie Julies in September 1987.
Calitzdorp is on Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world.
Voortrekker road – or Route 62 – was firstly known as Bloekomlaan (Bluegum avenue) due to the number of gum trees which lined the road.
A number of original little houses were demolished on Voortrekker Road and the bluegum street-trees were removed to widen the road when Route 62 was built.
The house which reputedly stood on the land where the police station and magistrates\' court now stand, was known as ‘die Spookhuis’. Could the reason be - that just maybe - this might have been the site of Calitzdorp\'s first unmarked, unidentified cemetery?
Axe Hill winery was named after stone-age hand tools, from some 250 thousand years ago, found on the property when the farm was being established by the late Tony Mossop and his wife Lyn.
It is rumoured that Cecil John Rhodes gave a speech to Calitzdorp residents from the steps of the beautiful residence at 1 Queen Street, but so far we have found no proof of him visiting the town.
Old timers have suggested that the beautiful home at 1 Queen street was ransacked or torched by Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers and his men during the second Anglo-Boer War. We have found no proof - but we do know that Scheepers was active in the Calitzdorp area at the time.
In 1922 when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, one of the first things he found was a perfect, 3,000 year old, ivory-handled ostrich feather fan.
In 1918 there were outlying schools in Groenfontein, Buffelskloof, Buffelsjagsfontein, Gamka-Oos, Gamka-Wes, Huisrivier, Janfourieskraal, Kruisrivier-Wes, Uitvlug, Warmbad en Warmwater, along with the Juta and Reenen school.
Spekboom - Portulacaria afra - takes in and uses huge volumes of atmospheric carbon – part of the global warming problem – and converts it into oxygen. How great is that? Plant some and help save the world!
DID YOU KNOW ?
\'Kougoed\' - the Kanna plant, Sceletium tortuosum of the Mesembryanthemoideae family - is a local ancient herb with mood enhancing properties said to rival Prozac! – but it is non addictive and has no side effects.
In 1869 Arthur Douglass invented an ostrich incubator , causing a stir in the Little Karoo where farmers now started fencing their lands to farm ostriches more intensively
In 1872 Mr Burdett opened Calitzdorp’s first shop
On the 3rd of July 2015, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), at a meeting held in Bonn in Germany, approved the elevation of the existing Rooiberg, Gamkaberg and Groenefontein Protected Areas, to the status of World Heritage Sites
Each return journey of the steam train between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, burned up four tons of coal!
The first regular train from Oudtshoorn ran into Calitzdorp on Friday 14th November 1924 and the official opening took place a few days later on the 20th November.
Seweweekspoort peak at 2,352m is not only the highest peak in the Klein Swartberg range, it is also the highest in the Western Cape. Classified as an ultra prominent peak it is also the 8th highest peak in South Africa.
Endemic to Seweweekspoort, the first specimens of an unknown, rare Protea were collected by botanists T P Stoekoe and R Primos in 1928. Later thought to be extinct – this Protea Aristata was ‘re-discovered’ in 1953.
The survey for the new Huisrivier Pass was started in 1951. It took almost ten years to find a suitable route over the difficult, treacherous mountains to Ladismith, before construction of the Pass could start.
Seweweekspoort’s rare endemic red Aristata protea was proudly displayed on the 10 cent postage stamp of the South African 1977 Protea Series.
Calitzdorp became the Port capital of South Africa by accident. Years ago, Shiraz vines ordered and planted by the Nel family of de Krans, later turned out to be Touriga Nacional – the main port grape! What a happy mistake!
On 25 December, 2015 there was a full moon. Younger than 38 years old at the time? Then this would have been your first Christmas full moon. The last one was in 1977 and the next one will only be on 25 December 2034!
DID YOU KNOW?
Everyone knows South Africa’s symbols – the flower symbol is the King Protea, the animal is the springbok, the tree is the Real Yellowwood and the bird is the Blue Crane. But did you know that we have a national fish? Believe it or not, we do! the Galjoen
DID YOU KNOW?
Western Cape’s provincial symbols : The provincial flower is the Red Disa, the provincial tree is the Silver Tree. Our animal is the Bontebok and our provincial bird is the Cape Sugarbird
DID YOU KNOW?
The ostrich is the world\'s largest flightless bird, followed in size by Australia\'s Emu and Cassowary.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Cape Leopard is a small animal - probably the size of a large dog – and is half the size and weight of its Kruger Park cousins. The average weight of a male Cape Leopard is about 35 kilograms.
No longer viable, the Oudtshoorn - Calitzdorp train service was officially stopped and the line closed to regular traffic on 31 May 1993.
 

huisrivier pass

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Caledon Kloof before the 1885 flood

Caledon Kloof before the 1885 flood

 

The Huisrivier Pass, just outside Calitzdorp on Route 62, must be one of the scenically most impressive passes in the country. Hanging on the side of the mountain, it looks out onto the faces of imposing, precipitous, fold-rock mountains, where Cape leopard still roam.

GPS Summit S33.4744 E21.5531

The name ‘huis’ is not the Afrikaans word for house as might be thought, but rather the Khoi word for ‘willow tree’. The Huis river rises in the Klein Swartberg range, flowing through the Seweweekspoort and into the pass where it joins the main Gamka river.

The convoluted mountains with deep, rocky, impassable ravines were a serious barrier to access between Calitzdorp and Ladismith for many years.

 

Section of old road visible center. New road on slope behind

Section of old road visible center. New road on slope behind

 

The development of the pass started rather tentatively in 1807 with the discovery of a way through the mountains via Rooielsboskloof. This dangerous path became known as Welgevonden (well found).

It was Gerrit Pretorius, the son of earliest settler Jacobus Pretorius who found his way through. This was said to be “Nothing but the roughest track following the bed of a stream through the mountains.

Despite its dangerous terrain along a stream in a frightening but strikingly beautiful cleft between unstable, sheer towering rock walls, the new route was used extensively. Soon it became the graveyard of broken wagon wheels and scattered bones of oxen that just couldn’t make it through with their loaded wagons.

In 1810 the pass was given a new name in honour of the then Governor Caledon – Caledon Kloof – probably with the forlorn hope that this might entice the Governor to grant funding for improvements

 

Huge floods in May 1885 washed away the fairly level river bed track and eliminated any chance of turning the Caledon Kloof into a suitable permanent pass.

It was probably at this time that the Caledon Kloof was given its next name of Verkeerdekloof! (Wrong kloof).

Huisrivier Pass photo Kanteys

Huisrivier Pass               photo Kanteys

 

The same flood also decimated Meiringspoort further to the east and many other roads in the Cape

In 1896-1897 The Divisional Councils of Calitzdorp and Ladismith combined to build the Huisrivier Pass which replaced the treacherous Caledon Kloof route and was opened to the public in 1896. Remnants of this early road can still be seen today.

In 1951 surveys to find a good permanent route through the mountains to Ladismith were started

The contract length was 16 kilometers in total, of which seven kilometers were the pass proper. The consulting engineers were Kantey & Templer, the contractor A. G. Burton and geologist Bruce King.

Kanteys, past road projects:
“It took Graham Ross and his team almost 10 years to finalise the routing through the mountains and there was a lot of blasting and bulldozing necessary. The specific rock type in the mountain composition is easily disturbed and subject to frequent rockfalls, resulting in any cuttings invariably ending up with rocks in the road after the next rains. The construction work was dangerous and there are some harrowing tales of rocks as big as cars rolling down the mountainside, sending the construcion team running for their lives. So extensive was the re-building of the new road, that an entire bypass had to be built allowing the flow of traffic to continue.”

Plaque 1966DSCF0136

 

 

Work on the reconstruction and surfacing of the Huisrivier Pass having been completed, the ‘new’ Huisrivier pass was opened on the sixth of May 1966 by Mr F A Loots, MEC.

 

 

 

 

Between 2012 and 2013 the Huisrivier Pass underwent major slope remediation and upgrading.

Kanteys, past road projects:
“HUIS RIVER PASS – SLOPE REMEDIATION
The project entailed the remediation of the existing rock cut slopes and concrete catch-walls in the Huis River Pass on Route 62 between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. The work included the barring down of potentially unstable material from the existing cut slopes and the removal of the rock build-up behind the catch-walls – some 23000m3 in total. In addition extensive use was made of draped mesh to mitigate against the danger of falling rocks to the road user as well as the introduction of restraining mesh and the selective installation of rock bolts. Ancillary Works included the repair of slacks in the road alignment (caused by long term settlement of the fills), the repair of damage to the road pavement, the structural repair of the reinforced concrete catch-walls where damage had been caused by falling rocks, the erection of road reserve fencing, the repair of the existing guardrails and the reinstatement of roadmarkings.”

Much to the excitement of locals and delight of conservationists, there was proof that leopards are still resident in the gorges and kloofs of these mountains. To the astonishment of the workers managing a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them – in broad daylight!.

Drive up the pass and stop at a viewpoint en route to enjoy one of our many spectacular sights.