Cape Town – The West Coast – or Weskus, as the locals call it – is one of the few places in Africa where the ancient heritage of Africa’s original people can still be found. And more than that... it is where that heritage is still lived and celebrated.
Here, ancient rock paintings, dating back as far (or even further) as the Egyptian pyramids, tell the tales of travellers long before us - of people who understood and respected the land. Apart from what is set in stone, the people living and sharing their life experiences on SA's West Coast can also tell you about southern African heritage, culture and history themselves.
The stories of the San people, some of the very first inhabitants of Africa, are told at the !Kwa Ttu San centre, for example. But don't go expecting a museum tour or video presentation of what life 'used to be like'.
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Here’s the beginner’s guide to having a real, local-like adventure in the West Coast interior...
Go back to your roots at !Kwa Ttu San
The team at !Khwa Ttu San is doing tremendously significant work to make a difference to the lives of the San people, and the environment they’re in. The centre’s mission is reflected in the experience they offer guests – a genuine insight into the lives of the people who first lived and survived on South African soil.
Every visit to the heritage centre is different. When Traveller24 visited in April this year, one of the San women who work and live at the !Khwa Ttu San centre explained the courting rituals of young San men and women.
Scroll through the collection to see the San story-telling...
Apart from learning about old San traditions, the space is an interactive one to learn about the complex languages of the San groups, as well as the peoples' relationships to their surroundings - both today and in times past.
The tea tasting done at !Kwa Ttu San, with herbs grown in their endemic garden, for example, gives visitors a (very bitter, but very healthy) taste of San heritage.
If you choose to stay over, you can sleep in the tented camp and enjoy a cup of rooibos tea around a bonfire under the stars before going to bed.
Swim in the Olifants River
The Olifants River rises in the Winterhoek Mountains north of Ceres and flows to its estuary near Papendorp in the north-west through a deep, narrow valley that widens and flattens into a broad floodplain below Clanwilliam.
The river also passes Highlanders Campsite, a guest farm for overlanding trucks and campers, and the perfect playground if you’re looking to escape the unforgiving Northern Cape West Coast heat.
Sparky, the owner of the Highlanders Campsite, will happily take campers on the property down to the river on the back of his old ‘bakkie’.
Swimming in the Olifants River is like a remedy to the soul – the squish of the greenish mud between your toes as you dive into the murky water is something we only get to saviour as kids… but who said age should determine when to stop having good, clean fun?
Hike the Cederberg to see ancient rock drawings
You cannot visit the interior West Coast and not view the ancient art on the Sevilla Rock Art Trail.
This self-guided 4km walk in the Cederberg is between 800 and 8 000 years old. Although there is still some controversy over the age of rock art, the latest dating methods show that the oldest specimens of this San bushman legacy are more than three times older than the Egyptian pyramids!
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The hike is a beautiful one, and there are rock art around every corner – literally. Nine official sites with clear ancient drawings are pointed out to hikers through signposts and a guide booklet – but see if you can find some other, smaller rock artworks that aren’t listed in the book...
You can get information about the self-guided walk at the Traveller's Rest farm stall. It’s also the official start of the Sevilla Rock Art Trail.
Sandboard the dunes of Atlantis
Who knew that there are stretches of white sand dunes as far as the eye can see just outside of Atlantis, just a stone throw from the Cape!?
If you’re in the mood to get a mouth, head and face full of sand and have the best time doing it, you should definitely check out Sandboarding in Atlantis.
If you’re not into sandboarding, you can also hire 4-wheelers and ramp over the dunes, but the local’s prefer sandboarding.
There are a few sandboarding operators that take out group to the dunes, but one in particular, is of immense benefit to the local youngsters. Mamba Sandboarding encourages boys from the troubled Atlantis settlement nearby to spend their time and energy on the dunes, rather than in becoming gangsters and criminals. Read more about it here: WATCH: Atlantis sandboarders masters of the dunes
Eat and Drink local
This may not sound too adventurous – until you sit down and actually eat and drink with the locals. These guys know good food and drink, and they welcome a good party when it comes their way. The West Coast offers one of the best craft food and drink scenes in SA.
If you’re after craft beer, Darling Breweries will pour you a cold one on the double. For wine, Riebeek Valley, Groote Post and even Trawal offer a taste of the season. And if hunger strikes, you can indulge in some handmade fare including charcuterie from The Flying Pig and olives from Riebeek Kasteel.
The best part about eating and drinking local is that you get to spend time with the locals doing so – and boy, that is an adventure in itself!
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