Seven underrated dorpies

2013-05-22 08:31
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Since we've covered South Africa's most underrated cities and coastal towns, we thought it would only be fair to take a look at some of the delightful ‘dorpies' that don't get the attention they deserve.

Groot Marico, North West

Where: On the N4 between the towns of Swartruggens and Zeerust, en-route to Botswana.

Attractions: Groot Marico is perhaps best known for being the setting of late South African novelist, Herman Charles Bosman's well-loved Oom Schalk Lourens stories. Quite suitably the town is also home to a literary society and a museum honouring him and the annual Herman Charles Bosman weekend celebrates the writer's classic works. Apart from this, the quaint hamlet is also renowned for its mampoer production, bushveld surroundings, charming old buildings and massive blue gum trees lining the streets (all five of them).

Activities: Go for a sundowner cruise on the Marico Bosveld dam, have potjiekos at Lekkerbreek Boereklub, rafting in the Molopo River and go on a hike in search of San rock paintings.

Accommodation: Angela's Guest House

Pella, Northern Cape

Where: 37km north east of Pofadder, just off the N14.

Attractions: Well, the most interesting thing about Pella is the fact that it is actually an oasis, originally inhabited by San people. It's located only a few kilometers south of the Orange River, and is surrounded by lush vegetation. The greater Pella area is also home to the largest date plantation in the Southern Hemisphere, lending it a distinct middle-eastern flavour.

Activities: With South Africa's longest river located so close by, it would be a shame not to make use of it - go rafting, rowing or enjoy sundowners on its banks. Go on a hike in the surrounding desert terrain, keeping your eyes peeled for the incredible plant diversity under your feet as well as semi-precious stones, like various styles ofquartz.

Accommodation: Klein Pella guest farm

Villiersdorp, Western Cape

Where: On the R43 between Worcester and Franschhoek

Attractions: Overshadowed by its more famous and important neighbours like Worcester, Franschhoek and Greyton, Villiersdorp has managed to remain under the tourist radar. However, if you take the time to explore it, you'll discover a wealth of fantastic things to do, people to meet and places to meet. Be sure to pop in at the tractor museum, which will also soon be home to the Alwyn Vintcent steam tugboat that was brought to the Overberg town rather laboriously from Cape Town. Enjoy a pizza at Ou Meul restaurant and visit Kelkiewyn to sample a few of the local wines. They also host a slow market one Saturday a month.

Activities: Head to Helderstroom farm just outside town to pet a few ridiculously cute and soft alpacas (if you have a bit of money saved up, you could also invest in a clothing item hand-crafted from their wool), have a picnic at the Aphrodisiac Shack on the banks of the Theewaterskloof dam. Speaking of which, the dam is a huge attraction for lovers of watersports and fishing, so remember to pack your cozzie!

Accommodation: De Villiers Country Lodge

Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape

Where: 45 km south-east of Zastron, 80 km north-east of Aliwal North, and 24 km from the Lesotho border.

Attractions: Sterkspruit has been home to a number of iconic South Africans, including struggle hero Mapetla Mohapi and writers Olive Schreiner and Zakes Mda. If you're passionate about South Africa's history, you may want to visit the memorial site dedicated to Mohapi in the very heart of town. Known to locals as the ‘City of Peace,' Sterkspruit's tranquility could perhaps be the most attractive aspect to aspiring writers.

Activities: Witness artistic pottery in the making at Ma Thabo's place and visit the Holo Hlahatsi Dam in Jozana's Hoek, cruise on a boat and enjoy the harmony Sterkspruit can offer you. The area is also a favourite among outdoor adventurers for its endless variety of hiking trails, fly fishing spots and mountain bike routes. Visit the Holo Hlahatsi Dam in Jozana's Hoek, cruise on a boat and enjoy the harmony Sterkspruit can offer you.

Accommodation: Book accommodation at Ekhaya Lodge in the heart of Sterkspruit or enjoy the village feel in Belle gardens B&B in one of the town's biggest villages, Esilindini

Memel, Free State

Where: About 250km from Johannesburg, just off the N3.

Attractions: Free State towns have a reputation for being somewhat dull and boring, however, if you give it a go, Memel may provide you with a pleasant surprise. Located on the provincial border with KZN, the picturesque little town is practically part of the Drakensberg escarpent. While the area's natural beauty and tranquility is undoubtedly Memel's greatest drawcard, the town itself also offers visitors a choice selection of quaint restaurants and accommodation.

Activities: Birding is a big in Memel, which is not surprising as no less than 350 bird species have been recorded here, including 15 Red Data Listed species. The Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve, about 2km outside of town is also worth a visit, as it surrounds one of the largest wetlands in South Africa.

Accommodation: Ronderus Guest Farm

Stutterheim, Eastern Cape

Where: On the N6 to East London.

Attractions: Located in the heart of a thriving forest, Stutterheim has about it the charm of a forgotten fantasy world. The best thing to keep yourself busy with here is just soaking up the amazing views and exploring the surrounding nature.

Activities: The town is home to a huge variety of hiking trails, mountain bike routes and also has a few neighouring dams well-stocked with trout and bass.

Accommodation: The Shire Eco Lodge

Hopefield, Western Cape

Where: 110km from Cape Town on the R45 West Coast Road

Attractions: Despite being constantly outshone by bigger and brighter destinations like Langebaan and Paternoster, Hopefield is actually the oldest town on the West Coast. Come Springtime, it's probably one of the best locations for a good dose of flower-spotting, as it doesn't get too crowded and provides a display that could compete with the best of Namaqualand. Apart from this, it's also home to an archeological site on the farm Elandsfontein where fossil bones and human artifacts date back to the early Stone Age and the beautiful Hopefield Dutch Reformed Church which was built in 1879.

Activities: While by no means a shopping mecca, Hopefield does boast a few fascinating little stores - take your time exploring and browsing. Don your hiking shoes and head to the Langrietvlei farm just outside of town. There are a number of trails to try out and it's an excellent spot for birding!

Accommodation: Kersefontein Farm


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