Gateway to Meiringspoort - a hamlet in the district of Prince Albert
Klaarstroom is a picturesque, peaceful, authentic Victorian, working farm village situated at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. The village is positioned at the Great Karoo entrance to Meiringspoort, a spectacular gorge through the Swartberg mountain range which links the Great Karoo and the Little Karoo (Klein Karoo).
The old inner village is conveniently and quietly situated behind sheltering koppies, just 500m off the N12. This makes Klaarstroom a convenient stopover en route from the north of the country to the Garden Route and Southern Cape coast. It is also halfway between Cape Town and the malaria-free game-farms and reserves that have the Big Five in the Eastern Cape, offering guests the ideal opportunity to enjoy the traditional charms and big skies of a Karoo stopover on their way to a safari adventure.
Klaarstroom also serves as a stopover for cyclists, hikers, adventurers and 4×4 enthusiasts from the Cape Town area who wish to get a close and early start before exploring Baviaanskloof (just 90km from Klaarstroom along a good gravel road, and 110km on tar).
Klaarstroom is a hub from which to explore the tourist heartland of the Klein Karoo: Oudtshoorn, with its annual bustling Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, is 60km to the South-West. To the North and the East of Klaarstroom you can explore the tranquility of the vast plains of the Great Karoo. Prince Albert is 50km to the East, Beaufort West and the Karoo National Park, 120km to the North. All are convenient day-trip outings from the central, safe base of Klaarstroom.
Next time you are driving along the road towards Meiringspoort, turn into Klaarstroom and soak up its unique “platteland” (rural) charm.
Klaarstroom, meaning “clear stream”, was established in the mid-19th century. It presented the first opportunity to farmers from deep in the Great Karoo, en route to the small port of Mossel Bay, to wash their precious cargo of wool in the clear mountain streams. A wool-washing facility was soon established. Time, technology, the railroad and modern highways passed Klaarstroom by with the wool-washing facility having long since disappeared.
Today the tiny inner village is hidden away from the nearby highway. It remains an historical snapshot of a Southern African Victorian village: there are three church buildings (the Anglican one still in regular use with a standing congregation), a Victorian police station, a General Dealer Store, a hotel/bar/restaurant, an authentic old world guest house and excellent examples of restored Victorian homesteads. The Anglican Church cemetery has two South African War/Anglo-Boer War graves – each with its own story.
In Deneys Reitz’s Anglo-Boer War memoir, ‘Commando’, the author relates how, having been informed that General Smuts had crossed the Swartberg into the district of Oudtshoorn, his commando makes its way towards the mountain range. Klaarstroom’s connections to the South African War seem very vivid on a crisp night under moonlight and stars when you can almost still hear the hooves of Denys Reitz’s commando clattering down the road into town: “After this we went more carefully, and sunrise found us leading our horses up the street of a tiny village standing at the bottom of the pass. Dogs began to bark, and windows to open, and we saw soldiers running to a large building, so we mounted and rode hastily out.” This “tiny village” is Klaarstroom and the large building is the police station which still stands today.
Since the start of the settlement of Klaarstroom at the entrance to Meiringspoort, its history and development have been inextricably linked with Meiringspoort itself. This meandering route takes you through a stupendous gorge of massive twisted rock formations. The exceptionally good tarred road winds for 21kms through the Swartberg mountain range, past towering rock faces, taking you on a journey through an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Geologically, the poort exhibits superb examples of the Cape Fold Belt, so much so that some geologists refer to this area, at the core of the fold belt, as the Cape Thrust Belt. In Geological Journeys, authors, Nick Norman and Gavin Whitfield advise: “Try to pass through Meiringspoort in the middle of the day when the sunlight best reveals the magnificent folding, truly one of the most impressive and accessible sights of South African geology.”
As a result of the different soil types on the various rock-faces, the visitor passes through four identified veld types: Karoo-veld, renosterveld, mountain fynbos and spekboom veld with numerous geophyte species. The wild geranium, Pelargonium Zonale, the biological ‘grandmother’ of subsequent Geranium hybrids throughout the world, was first sourced here in 1689 and is commonplace in the gorge.
Meiringspoort is home to a variety of wild animals including the Klipspringer (small buck), the rarely seen Cape Mountain Leopard, the Baboon and Jackal as well as multiple species of birds. 10km into the poort is the Great Waterfall, which is accessible from a viewing site. Throughout the poort you will find attractive and well-maintained, safe picnic sites with braaing (barbecuing) and ablution facilities.
The road crosses the river 25 times by way of drifts (causeways across the river). Each drift has a name and its own story, revealing the rich history of the roadway.
Using Klaarstroom as a base gives you the opportunity to truly soak up the majesty and beauty of Meiringspoort as its personality changes through the shifting light of the day and the seasons.
Klaarstroom in the movies
Klaarstroom has featured in many films. The town and surrounds have a magical light appreciated by both still photographers and movie makers alike. The authenticity of the built environments lends itself to a nostalgic, vintage setting. The exceptional beauty of the natural surroundings is truly breathtaking. The town is the central setting in the filming of “Kootjie Emmer” and “Faan se Trein” and has featured in “Pappalap”, “Paljas” and “Die Hoener met die Rooi Skoene” to name a few.
Things to do
In Klaarstroom you can …
…relax – very intensively
…enjoy time away from the realities of the modern world
…experience old-fashioned hospitality
…find out about the history of this special little place (walking tour map available free of charge at the Klaarstroom Guest House)
…capture great photo-memories in evocative vintage surroundings surrounded by natural beauty
… cycle, walk and run quiet gravel roads and informal routes
… enjoy motoring and motor-biking drives – a circular route from Klaarstroom, through Meiringspoort to De Rust, along the Oude Muragie Road and on to the Cango Caves, the Swartberg Pass, Prince Albert and back to Klaarstroom along the Prince Albert and Klaarstroom valleys, makes an excellent day trip
… explore the gravel roads deeper into the Karoo
… run the annual Meiringspoort Half Marathon, held in Spring
… and the Fernskloof Trail Run in Winter
… indulge in wine tasting and purchases at Domein Doornkraal and Mons Ruber towards Oudtshoorn and at Fernskloof, Reiersvlei and Bergwater wine estates and visit Kredouw Olives in the direction of Prince Albert.
The Klaarstroom Guest House lends itself to family gatherings – imagine celebrating a special birthday or anniversary here, away from it all, with close friends and family.
The Klaarstroom Valley
The Kredouw Pass separates the Prince Albert Valley (also known as “Die Gang”) and the Klaarstroom Valley. As you meander your way East along the R407 towards Klaarstroom, you see the countryside unfold as a series of hills. To your left the “Droëklowe”, the dry gullies leading to the great plains of the Great Karoo, are ranged inland; to your right the mighty Swartberg mountains and the foothills undulate.
If you are lucky you will see the herd of wild horses or the springbuck at the top of the Kredouw but all along the route there are scenes of interest if you know to look out for them. These farms are small riparian (river-based) tracts of land, many of which were originally twinned with a much larger Karoo plains farm in order to supply lucerne as feed for the flocks. This means that there are many picturesque, historic and interesting homesteads along the route.
The Vrisch Gewagd farm offers upmarket accommodation in either of two farmhouses. On the Bloemendal-Aswater farm you can enjoy a guided or solitary walk along an inspirational route that has been laid out by calligraphy artist Heleen de Haas where she melds nature and art into what she describes as a series of “God-whispers”. Accommodation is also offered in the stylish, creative “Letterhuis” cottage. Just further along, on the next Bloemendal farm, Frans and Marie Gerber have put together a delightfully intriguing collection of historic everyday farm and household items in their quirky farm museum which the public are welcome to visit.
On the neighbouring farm, Scheepersrus, you can stay in the charming self-catering accommodation offered by the Vorster family. Here you also hear echoes of the South African/Boer War as you can see the old hollow pear tree in which eight captured British soldiers’ Martini Henry rifle barrels were bent by the Boers. Just next door at Remhoogte lies the lonely, unmarked grave of Johannes Klue, the Boer Rebel, who died in February 1901.
The beautiful Tortoiseback Vegan Haven is guarded by an arresting row of ancient cypress sentinels. Here you can experience a working permaculture garden and stay on as a guest or even to work and learn under the guidance of owner, Brett Bard. A little further on you can see the breeding ostriches of Avondrust farms, one of the largest ostrich farms in the wider Oudtshoorn district, in their natural veld environment. If you are lucky, you might even see one of the males doing his flamboyant mating dance as you motor past.
At the T-junction where the R407 meets the N12, you can continue on along the valley by turning right towards the charming village of Klaarstroom and Meiringspoort. On your right just before the junction you will see one of the oldest houses in the district at Avondrust, affectionately known to the locals as Kluesplaas, named for the Klue family who have farmed the land here for generations. This is a working ostrich, lucerne and seed farm which stretches all the way to Klaarstroom village. Accommodation is offered in two charming self-catering guest cottages offered by Michelle Klue at Avondrust Farmstays.
From here it is a short distance to the village of Klaarstroom.
As you leave the valley through Meiringspoort, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, like any magical destination, you are leaving the valley through a secret and mystical passage.