The Gamtoos Valley Route includes the towns of Loerie, Hankey and Patensie and stretches up to Komdomo, where the Heritage Route begins. The word Gamtoos comes from the Khoi language and means ‘the roaring lion’, referring to the sound of the river when it comes down in flood.
The Gamtoos River Valley, a patchwork of cultivated fields and orchards, has an interesting blend of natural, agricultural and cultural attractions. Citrus farming is the main form of agriculture in the region, and all along the route the striking green citrus trees can be seen. Other crops in the area include potatoes, vegetables, tobacco and avocados.
Reasons to visit
The area was home to South Africa’s first inhabitants, the Khoi and Mfengu people and Hankey is also the oldest town in the Gamtoos Valley, offering commanding views over the valley below. The region has a number of interesting attractions including the largest sundial in Africa, with a diameter of 36,4m. The community surrounding Hankey welcomes travellers and visitors have an opportunity to experience local shebeens and modern-day life.
Visitors to the region have an opportunity to visit the grave of Sarah (Saartjie) Baartman, who was a Khoekhoe woman born along the Gamtoos River in about 1789. While still young she moved to Cape Town, and from there she was taken to London and put on public display because of her “exotic origin” and by showing what were thought of at the time as unusual body features.
She was later taken to Paris where she was again exhibited and later died alone at the age of 26. After many years of negotiations with the French government, her remains were finally brought back to her burial site at Hankey which was recently declared a national heritage site.
Patensie, the last town before entering the Heritage Route is surrounded by the Cockscomb Mountains which features unique rock formations, the most well-known being the profile of Queen Victoria. The nearby Kouga Dam was built in 1967and was the first double-arched dam engineered in South Africa, while the thriving citrus industry is the main activity in town.