Thursday, January 27, 2011

Die Saaie

If you hate the Laingsburg-Beaufort West stretch of the N1 like any normal person, there's an utterly delightful way of getting to Prince Albert "off the tar". Turn off the Ladismith road from Laingsburg at the Floriskraal Dam turn-off and head eastwards. You need a vehicle with a reasonably high clearance, but 4x4 isn't strictly necessary. You also need a willing co-driver to open the gates; there are 22 of them on the 150km to PA. If your passenger complains, tell them to think about how fit all that hopping in and out of the car is making them.

Don't be put off by the game farm gates that are plastered with "Private" notices - it's every inch a public road. Just shut the gates behind you, that's all.

The road runs up a long valley north of the Witteberg, the foothills-range that marches with the Swartberg from west to east. Before the Dwyka River the valley is known as the Agtersaai. There are two "saaie" - the Voorsaai and the Agtersaai, so named because the Karoo geology has caused the vegetation to grow in long rows, resembling seed-sown farmlands. The Doekberg separates the two Saaie - "doek" literally meaning "screen", because the hills screen the view of one Saai from the other.

Lekker names, hey?

Top left: Floriskraal; Top right: Gate 11
Bottom left: Witteberg from the Doekberg; Bottom right: Agtersaai

About 43 km from PA you have to cross the Dwyka River, but the drift is usually dry or very shallow. We watched a brace of spoonbills gaggling about in the mud there; odd birds with very odd beaks. "Dwyka" means salty or "brak" river; it's a Khoi name, probably ancient, and it's a tributary of the Gamka or "lion river".

When we told an acquaintance that we were mapping the Swartberg he was furious. He'd just bought a retirement cottage in Prince Albert and was looking forward to quiet times. "Your *** map will bring hundreds of noisy tourists, you ***", he said.

He should have counted the places to stay in PA before he bought his cottage. There are nearly fifty of 'em with hundreds of beds, all opened long before we thought of a map ...

Shame, hey.

Does anyone know the name of the RDP township at Prince Albert? We couldn't find it anywhere ... the PA Tourism Bureau's website ignores the former "coloured" township entirely - even the PA Primary School is not listed as a local school! Seems a bit Old-RSA, but there it is.


  1. My laanie, die townsip by Prins Albert staan bekend as die Noord End. Die nuwe RDP seksie , die word Rondomskrik genoem.

    And no, why would a white liberal tourism initiative mention the township;)

    Die ou dorpie drentel nogsteeds in die 80-ige jare, moet net nie vra of dit 1980's of 1880's is nie.

  2. Ag, Mr G, all places everywhere het 'n scheme. These days it usually has its own b&b where Nederlander backpackers can go be in Afrika, instead of staying at the Royal Hotel in Kerkstraat ... maar nogtans baie dankie vir die info, we'll use it.
    - Kaartman