A Road Less Traveled

True gems of experience await the traveller who ventures into this arid, sparsely populated hinterland where donkey carts are the means of transport for many families. The Hardeveld lies north of the Knersvlakte; it comprises Bitterfontein as its commercial centre and the settlements of Molsvlei, Stofkraal, Nuwerus, Rietpoort and Putsekloof.

Bitterfontein’s name is derived from a brackish fountain near the town. Today the town’s 1200 inhabitants get their filtered borehole water from a desalination plant that can be visited by appointment.

In 1927 the railway line from Cape Town was extended as far as Bitterfontein to transport the green granite that is quarried in the area. A famous diamond heist took place in Bitterfontein in 1931 when Kleinzee’s monthly production diamonds were stolen out of the postmaster’s office before they could be railed to Cape Town. The diamonds were valued at over £80 000. The case was never solved.

Rietpoort, Molsvlei, Putsekloof and Stofkraal are isolated settlements on a gravel road west of Bitterfontein. Rietpoort is the largest with a population of about 800, and Stofkraal is the smallest with a population of less than 300.

Kliprand is situated in the Boesmanland with it spacious grassy plains surrounded by mountains. Quiver trees stud the rocky hills that are frequented by Klipspringers that can be seen from the road. Several species of reptiles are found around Kliprand, two of them red data species, the rare armadillo lizard and the padloper tortoise.

Situated half way between Loeriesfontein and Bitterfontein, Kliprand boasts to be the halfway mark of the longest gravel road in South Africa. The Pofadder R358 route to Kliprand to Loeriesfontein R355.

Farming is mostly limited to raising goats and sheep.

Rietpoort was founded as a Roman Catholic mission station in 1913. According to legend, Father Van’t Westeinde lived in a nearby cave while the church was under construction. Its clock originally hung in a Dutch town called Roosendal in Holland and was donated after the church was bombed in WW1.

Nuwerus was once an important outspan called Erdvarkgat and before motorised transport, a halfway station between Vanrhynsdorp and Garies. The hamlet has a population of fewer than 600 people. Boreholes in the area are brackish and residents get their drinking water from a desalination plant here too.

Where the Hardeveld meets the ocean is an expansive, wild and desolate coastline. The raw beauty of the landscapes attracts a particular kind of traveller who enjoys camping in the rough and the solitude of going off-road. It’s here that you’ll find soul-replenishing hideaways like Brand-se-Baai and Skaapvlei among the many remote bays and inlets.

Here’s a fun fact:  The word Knersvlakte literally means “Grinding Plain” and pertains to the grinding of the quartz gravel when walked upon.


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