Oudtshoorn: Land of Wine, Feathers and Caves

Being surrounded by snow capped mountains in the middle of a South African winter is an awe inspiring experience. Oudtshoorn is a special place, dwarfed by the Swartberg Mountains which are home to the world famous Cango Caves.

These mountains have not always inspired admiration within me. Spending a year at the Infantry School army base in Oudtshoorn and having walked over the Swartberg during a 5 day excursion aptly named the “Vasbyt” (Literal translation = Bite tight), these mountains felt like an enemy that had to be wrestled with and conquered. Fully kitted with Staaldak, Webbing and Geweer, the Vasbyt (and the Swartberg) sorted out the men from the boys.

Oudtshoorn is nestled under the Swartberg Mountain range and is home to the world famous Cango Caves

Returning to Oudtshoorn and taking a more sedate method of using a motor car to traverse the Swartberg Mountain took nothing away from the splendour of the pass and the engineering skill it took to build it in 1888.

For a weekend away from the bustle of Jeffreys Bay, the R62 holds much promise and allure for a traveler with Oudtshoorn waiting like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

The R62 is accessed by taking the Kareedouw turn off from the N2 and a few 100 m down the road, the Southern Cape Mountain Range becomes visible and remains a constant companion for the rest of the journey.

The aloes are in full flame during the cold winter months

There is so much to do in Oudtshoorn that one really needs to make a long weekend of it. Over the next two weeks www.jeffreysbaynews.com will be publishing a series of articles about all Oudtshoorn has to offer as well as revealing the town’s best kept secret.

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We will journey though the Cango Caves, which simply have to be visited at least once in a lifetime as well as go wine tasting in Calitzdorp, the Port capital of South Africa. Watching the Bengal tiger, the biggest of the cat family being fed like a baby kitten and cage diving with crocodiles are just some of the activities on offer in this area.

The Cango Caves are a must do for everyone at least once in a life time

Oudtshoorn is a curious blend of Victorian architecture and Cape Dutch. The excesses of the Feather Boom in the early 1900’s are still evident in some of the mansions that exist. The Feather Barons had style and lived the opulent life before the market collapsed in 1914.

Accommodation is plentiful in Oudtshoorn and visitors are spoilt for choice with options ranging from self catering and camping to up market hotels.

The town is certainly geared towards tourism and a friendly vibe prevails and unlike other parts of South Africa, it is refreshing not to see security companies and electric fences all over the place. Oudtshoorn has a handle on crime and one feels safe in the streets and at night when going to sleep without burglar bars and alarms.

The many mountain passes around Oudtshoorn are a testament to the engineering skills of the early South African pioneers

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