Exploring Calitzdorp in South Africa’s Klein Karoo
I never imagined that I would spend any longer than a few hours in a one-horse town like Calitzdorp. I’d only heard the name a few times before my parents took my brother and I there for a few days. Being a lover of the sea, I didn’t quite understand the allure of the Karoo. But that was until I got to experience it for myself.
We stayed at the Calitzdorp hot springs just off Route 62 and spent rainy evenings bathing in hot water, hiking up into the mountains during the warmth of the Winter days and spotting springbok almost totally camouflaged against the stony hues of the mountains rocks. Ostriches seemed to be in abundance, despite bird flu killing off a large portion of them and setting back this big part of the tourism industry.
This little dorp first became a town around 1845 and just walking down Queen street will open up your eyes to the lives that people once lived. The Edwardian and Victorian style architecture still stands strong in the guesthouses, art galleries and the first postal agency now named ‘Die Langhuis’. A Bed and Breakfast on Queen Street was once home to the town’s blacksmith and wagon builder. This road is also home to one of the smallest stone churches in South Africa and I wondered who could have ever fit inside besides the priest and his family.
Calitzdorp’s dry climate is perfect for the growing port wine and thus an industry has bloomed and brings many a port connoisseur to its streets. There are many wine farms which will welcome you in for a wine tasting alongside with cheese and chocolate. But for the true port lovers, the Port Festival is said to be a must and sets this town ablaze with activities, entertainment and of course the chance to learn how it’s made from the masters.
Somewhere between the full blue-grey rain clouds of the Karoo and the vast open farmlands, I grew to love this little place. Finding n old coffee shop that proved to be a collector’s item in itself, convinced me even more. Coca cola memorabilia lined the walls and shelves alongside handmade jams and cakes. Original street signs coloured this corner store which once houses the general dealer.
Do yourself a favour and take a trip into the heart of South Africa’s Karoo. If the mountain passes, vineyards and farmlands don’t wow you, and then the warm hospitality and home-cooked meals and treats will steal your heart and make you promise to return.