Calitzdorp, Western Cape
BY CHRIS MARAIS
The sweet port wines and brandies are what lure thousands of visitors to Calitzdorp each holiday season. And then they fall in love with the surrounding red hills, the Georgian-style Karoo architecture, the easy banter of the locals and the fresh mountain mornings on Route 62.
The tourist-friendly little town of Calitzdorp lies in the lee of the Swartberg range, is flanked by rolling vineyards and fruit farms, surprisingly lush for the Little Karoo. In the old days when buffalo herds roamed thick in these parts, an oxwagon journey to Cape Town took five weeks on the trot. Now you’re looking at Table Mountain in under four hours.
The trick with really savouring the delights of Calitzdorp lies in an extended early morning walk through town. The first bit of eye candy that hits your senses is the riot of bougainvillea in the local gardens.
Then the tour is all about these great little ‘Karoostyle’ houses that were built so long ago and, thankfully, never torn down in the name of progress.
Wooden shutters, casement windows, sash windows, loft staircases and bullnose porch awnings are just some of the architectural features that make most Calitzdorp homes so special. Once you go inside, you’ll find that a typical Karoo house has a high ceiling – which has little to do with tall occupants, and lots to do with trapping cool air in summer.
On an historical walk through Calitzdorp you will hear about wagon-makers, dominees, adventurers, farmers, lawyers and architects of yesterday, all who brought something to the heritage of this Little Karoo town.
And when you’ve found your overnight lodgings, open a bottle of Calitzdorp port wine, slice up some of the gorgeous fruit from the area, throw in a loaf of bread and a hunk of local cheese – and savour another day in the Little Karoo.
Other towns along Route 62: