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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!
\'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!
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
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
The ostrich is the world\'s largest flightless bird, followed in size by Australia\'s Emu and Cassowary.
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.


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seweweeks 4+wmIMG_0072Seweweekspoort is a spectacular gash cut through the Swartberg mountains from north to south, dividing the range into the Klein Swartberg to the west and the Great Swartberg to the east.

Towering over the poort to the west at GPS  -33.398 / 21.368 is the Seweweekspoort peak.  At a height of 2,352m it is not only the highest peak in the Klein Swartberg range, it is also the highest in the Western Cape. Classed as an Ultra Prominent Peak (peaks of 1,500 meters or more above the saddle that separates that summit from any other one), it is South Africa’s 8th highest mountain peak.

The craggy, convoluted rock layers of the Cape fold mountains are fully exposed on both sides of the narrow poort – which in some places barely has space for both road and river – with twisted rock faces towering straight upwards to heights up to 914 meters (3000 feet).

The poort starts at S33.43923 E 21.40762 at an altitude of 650m, 6.6 kilometers from the Route 62 turn off opposite Amalienstein. It ends at S33.36201 E21.41096 at an altitude of 1018m.

Seweweekspoort 1+wmIMG_0057The poort is within the Towerkop Nature reserve and forms the bed of the Huisrivier – sometimes called the Seweweekspoort river – and the road in the poort crosses the river some thirty times.  The river rises in the Klein Swartberg, flows through the Seweweekspoort and joins the Gamka river at the Huisrivier Pass.

There are a number of rock art sites in the poort and surrounding gorges.

Long used as a route through the Swartberg, going wasn’t easy as it was nothing more than a track following the bed of the river.  With frequent seasonal flooding the bed was rocky and it is said to have taken about six days to complete the 15 kilometers through the Poort proper, or 22 kilometers from Amalienstein to the Laingsburg-Bosluiskloof Pass road at the other end. Whether this was on foot or horseback – or even ox wagon is not clarified anywhere.

Work started on the Seweweekspoort road only after the completion in 1859 of the road through Meiringspoort further to the east. Survey for the Seweweekspoort project was done by Mr Woodfield and the building of a convict station was overseen by the head supervisor, Mr Apsey. Although hoping for 300 convicts for the construction work, it would appear that only 108 actually worked under Mr Apsey.


seweweekspoort 3 +wmIMG_0063In 1860 Adam G de Smidt, brother-in-law of famous pass-builder Thomas Bain, took over the construction.

Drill furrows for gunpowder blasting can be seen on boulders along the side of the road – one on the eastern side of the road 9,7 kilometers from the R62 turn off, has clearly visible grooves.

Although not quite complete, the new Seweweekspoort road was opened to traffic in June 1862. On completion in November 1862, de Smidt and his team continued with the Bosluiskloof pass. They had been working concurrently on this pass during the latter parts of the Seweweekspoort construction. These two major projects opened the route to Prince Albert.

Thomas Bain repaired the road after major flood damage in 1875.

There are several ruins in the poort, although only two are possibly identified – one thought to be the toll house, the other the convict station. One of the ruins near the northern end was not visible until a fierce fire burned through the poort in 2014. This one, although cleared of surrounding vegetation, is easily missed as its beautiful stonework walls are exactly the same colour as the rocky mountain against which it sits and from which its material was obtained. There is no signage to indicate what any of the ruins are.


Seweweekspoort - all but invisible ruin

Seweweekspoort – all but invisible ruin

Sadly, picnickers leave litter behind and choose to use the ruins as toilets.

This road was not economically successful and the toll station had to be manned by a government agent.

Author T V Bulpin, in one of his tales in 1981, wrote of the ghost of the Seweweekspoort toll keeper who still haunts the pass, appearing with his lantern to demand payment of his toll from night time travellers.

It is believed that there was a little inn on the farm Aristata in the poort. This could be where the Aristata cottages in the middle of the poort, offer accommodation today.

A rare, beautiful red protea was discovered in the Seweweekspoort, and first specimens were collected by botanists Thomas Pearson Stoekoe and Richard Primos in 1928.  Endemic to the Seweweekspoort the protea was named ‘aristata’ which means ‘sharp tipped leaves or pine foliage’.

Protea Aristata photographer Grant Hearn

Protea Aristata      photo Grant Hearn

Not seen for many years after this, this protea was believed to be extinct – until its ‘re-discovery’ in 1953. The aristata was proudly displayed on the South African 10 cent postage stamp of the 1977 Protea Series. Slow growing, the Aristata lives for up to 50 years. It is fairly drought and frost resistant and blooms from October to December.

You will also see rock hyrax (dassies) basking on the rocks in the sun and fequently little klipspringer buck. But they blend so well with their surroundings that they are hard to spot. Shy Cape Leopard also roam these mountaions.  Birds are many and varied – see our Bird page for downloadable lists.

What of the unusual name Seweweekspoort?  Seven weeks poort.

There are many suggestions and theories, involving travelling time through the poort, people being lost or criminals hiding out there for that period of time. But perhaps the most likely explanation is that a young missionary from the Berlin Mission Society, based at Zoar/Amslienstein, was named Zerwick; that the poort became known as Zerwick’s poort and with time the name became corrupted to Seweweekspoort.

The Berlin Mission Society did have a young missionary named Johan August Ludwig Zerwick who was born in Berlin in 1809,  in the country at the time. He would have been the right age to fit in with this story.

The only references we have found show him based at Bethany in the Free State where he married, and at Pniel in later years.

But perhaps this was his first post?  He would have been 24 years old when the very first six Berlin Mission Society   rdinary places in our district – and should definitely be on everyone’s ‘must see’  list.