Wind your way through these Dorpies of the Eastern Cape: Cradock

From rolling hills and mountain peaks, elephant-filled national parks and picturesque coastlines and unspoilt beaches to Afromontane forests - the Eastern Cape offers travellers a virtually endless variety of experiences to enjoy.

The cities and towns of the Eastern Cape are also replete with amazing opportunity and experiences to be enjoyed.

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It can be said with certainty that the Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s most beautiful, adventure-filled and history-rich provinces. The average, relatively well-informed traveller is likely familiar with Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Port Alfred and other locations that see a fair amount of visitors, however, this is a guide to some of the places you’re likely not too familiar with.

So read on, start planning and get ready to wind your way through the dorpies of the Eastern Cape.

Cradock

 (Photo: iStock)

Situated on the banks of the Great Fish River, the Karoo town of Cradock brings to mind the biblical metaphor of a flourishing tree planted by streams of water. Life in town, and on the many farms around Cradock, orbits around the river. The river creates a stream of life through the heart of the usually barren Karoo, allowing farmers to grow massive irrigation crops with high annual yields.

The terrain higher up from the Fish River is more mountainous and creates the perfect farming conditions for small livestock like angora goats and the now iconic Karoo lamb of the area. The mountains, with its many valleys, also make the area excellent for game farming and hunting - a business which has earned the area plenty of credit.

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Apart from Cradock and the surrounds being an ideal farming location for all sorts of agriculture and animal husbandry, the townspeople and the town in itself also reflect the liveliness of the Great Fish River that flows through it.

Established farming ‘dynasties’ have been living in Cradock since its formation in 1814. These ‘famous’ families include the Michaus, the Jordaans, the Calatas and the Goniwes. The latter heroes’ family names are held in extremely high regard by the entire town, as Fort Calata and Matthew Goniwe were Struggle heroes who fought and achieved plenty for equality in South Africa. Their families are still actively involved in charities in Cradock and the wife of the late Goniwe is still a prominent and respected leader in the Cradock community. Situated right in the heart of the Midlands Karoo, Cradock is a halfway stop for travellers from Johannesburg driving to the Sunshine Coast, as well as the Tsitsikamma, Garden Route and Cape Town via the scenic N2.

Top things to do in Cradock:

Schreiner Grave & Bookshop

(Photo: www.thegreatkaroo.com)

Olive Schreiner is Cradock's own literary icon, and every year a writers festival is held in her honour. Her grave is situated atop a mountain on a farm just outside of town, and the hike there is truly breathtaking. If you're after a slightly less active approach in exploring Cradock's history, you can rather opt to browse the well-stocked Scheiner bookshop, where you'll find plenty of canonical pieces and writing related to the Karoo.

For more information, follow this link

Cradock Four Memorial Sculpture

See a tangible memoir of the beginning of the end of Apartheid. The sculpture commemorates Cradock teachers Matthew Goniwe and Fort Calata, railway activist Sparrow Mkonto and activist Sicelo Mhlauli, who were murdered under the cruel regime.

Goniwe's death was a turning point in the struggle as President PW Botha declared a State of Emergency on the day of the funeral of the Cradock Four. It was the beginning of the end; within five years, Nelson Mandela would walk free and lead the country to liberty.

For more information, follow this link

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Mountain Zebra National Park

 (Photo: iStock)

This national park was originally proclaimed in 1937 to save the dwindling Cape mountain zebra population. Now, at over 28 000 hectares, the park boasts a conservation success story, protecting over 700 zebra as well as wildlife such as endangered black rhino and cheetah.

For the best views and animal sightings, opt for a late afternoon drive through the park, and this is the best time to see the cheetah hunt, and the animals drink at the water holes.

For more information, follow this link

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Jurie Lombard Water Mill

(Photo: www.thegreatkaroo.com)

Mr Jurie Lombaard of the farm 'Lombardsrus' donated this historical old watermill to be exhibited in town. His great-grandfather, Hendrik Petrus Lombard, bought the yellowood with which the old mill was built. The wood was bought when the old Dutch Reformed Church was demolished in 1863, and the wooden cross was left over.

The mill was originally driven by water from a weir in the river which was channelled to the mill. The strength of the flow governed the speed of the grinding. The wheat was ground to an unsifted texture which could then be hand-sifted to flour.

For more information, follow this link

National Monument trees of Dundas street

Dundas street is one of the most beautiful Karoo streets in South Africa. The trees growing here, in the first street from the Great Fish River, is a declared national monument. These Quercus Ilex Oak trees were planted in 1850 and are said to be some of the oldest in the world.

SEE: Cradock: a real South African dorpie

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