After the breakfast concert with Sonja, and still humming some of the tunes we had heard, we were pleased to see that the previous day’s rain had not returned and that the skies were blue! Perfect weather for a drive to the Korentepoort Dam, a little to the north of Riversdale.
On our way out of town, we stopped briefly at the Old Jail, built in 1834 and housing a Farmers’ Market every Saturday. I regret not taking any photos inside (yes, can you imagine?! I didn’t take any photos?!). Luckily, other visitors have not been as shy as I have; you can find some nice pictures here and here.
From the main entrance, you are led out into a courtyard, where a number of tables and chairs had been set out under avocado and banana trees for patrons who were enjoying some refreshments at the coffee shop. The proprietor is Louise Malherbe, a farmer and former teacher. Her father, Mattheus Koen, a local vegetable farmer, bought the old prison in 1984, after it had been closed down in 1979. Originally used by him as a storeroom, she inherited the jail several years ago, and created a wonderful coffee shop there.
It may comfort you to know that, “According to the jail records, the only person hanged at the jail was Gilbert Hay of Heidelberg, for the murder of his mother.” (Cyberprop website) Nonetheless, those cells are really tiny and extremely claustrophobic, and they probably have some very sad and disturbing stories to tell!
Each of the numerous small cells (+/- 30), dotted around small courtyards, contains all kinds of art works, jewellery, clothing, lovingly hand-made items, and assorted bric-a-brac. The attention to detail, the love of making something unique and special, and the supreme skill that goes into fashioning many of these items always amazes me.
I’d been hoping to find a jar of homemade jam or two (they not only make handy ‘coming home from a trip’ and ‘thank you for looking after our cat’ presents, but you can even (ssshhhh, don’t tell) secretly stash them away in your pantry if you don’t want to give them away!) but I couldn’t find any.
We quickly got out of jail before we were arrested for loitering😉, and headed north along the R323, towards the Korentepoort Dam. Situated about 15-16 km north of Riversdale, at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, you’ll be driving on gravel almost all the way. Even though the road was in a fairly good condition, we took it fairly slowly, to avoid gravel spitting up against the chassis… Nonetheless, the fine red dust that swirled up around us, got in absolutely everywhere (I know, because I cleaned the car after our trip).
But it was worth it for the scenery alone.
We followed the road past the dam, and up on the other side, until we realised we must have entered someone’s private farm because there were definitely farm buildings up ahead. Oops. Fortunately, no one chased after us, so we just did a cautious u-turn on a particularly tricky, narrow, rocky and muddy section, and returned to the dam once more. The backdrop of the mountains against the green fields was simply awe-inspiring.
The dam is popular among watersport enthusiasts (you can go waterskiing, windsurfing, parasailing, canoeing) and fishermen (bassfishing). There are also some hiking trails, though – I think – you may need to ‘check in’ at the reception next to the overnight chalets, to purchase a permit.
“The chalets have a beautiful view over the dam and are fully equipped, just bring your own linen and towels. Come and enjoy the peace, safety and beauty of the country side.” (Travel South Africa)
The gentleman who welcomed us at the reception, was very friendly and helpful. He explained that the routes around the dam were all rather long, and primarily geared for day visitors or overnight guests; there were no short 2-4 hour options; but, he said, if we wanted to stroll through the forest on the other side for an hour or two, that would be fine with him. I thought that was very kind of him indeed, and we returned to the car to ponder our options.
In the end, we decided to go for a drive down to Stilbaai and Jongensfontein on the coast instead. But I do wonder what the hikes around the dam are like? There must be plenty of birdlife around here, and I think it could be quite pretty, and cool next to the water, and nice and shady in the forests. Another time, I hope? Those chalets sound very appealing…