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De Kelders, Baardskeerdersbos, Elim and environs

(About 100km Return) - Leave Stanford by going up Queen Victoria road towards the R43. Turn right towards Gansbaai. About half a kilometre down the road you pass Stanford's industrial area on your left and a bit further down the road on the right are the houses constructed by the government for the disadvantaged people of the area. This is an ongoing process.

On cresting the rise, the road to Gansbaai lies like an undulating rollercoaster before you. To your right is one of the chicken farms operating around Stanford.

The road to Gansbaai

Here the R43 passes through vegetation known as Renosterbos/fynbos. Renosterbos are the blackish knee high bushes in dispersed with mainly Proteas and Erica's fynbos. Further down the road a beautiful view of Walker Bay appears to your right.

Fynbos or renosterbos

Take the first turn off right to "De Kelders". Go straight down the road and park overlooking Walker Bay. If you are here in the whale season, July to October, you are sure to see these large mammals floating in the sea. They come here to calve and mate so you are sure to see some calves as well. Just around the corner you will find "Coffee on the Rocks" where you can enjoy some refreshments and maybe see some more whales breaching or loptailing. The theory is that a whale will breach (jump out of the water) three times so watch where it breached and you will see it again.

Whale with albino calf

Now that you are refreshed and replenished go along the one way road to the first stop sign. Turn right to the next stop sign. If you are looking for a small sheltered beach to spend the day on, turn left and continue down the road until you arrive at Cape Nature's boom across the road. You will need to pay a required entrance fee to get to the beach. Be warned. Going down the steps to the beach is relatively easy but coming up after a day in the sun can be tiring.

If you feel you would rather do some sightseeing, then turn right and not left at the above mentioned stop sign. At the next stop sign turn left to the R43. Take the road back to Stanford. (Leave Gansbaai for another day).

Back along the R43 you get the turnoff right to Grootbos. The largest remaining indigenous Milkwood Tree forest (below left) is to be found here. Day or half day tours of the forest, fynbos or other tours should be arranged beforehand.

Milkwood forest
Grootbos forest

Further along the dirt road, quite usable by normal passage cars, down into the valley you find a small turnoff to your right to "Platbos" Forest (above right). This forest is worth a visit. As you wander beneath the forest canopy amongst the old twisted tree trunks and branches, a sense of calm and peace prevails. If you look intently at the old tree trunks you may see a forest fairy.

On leaving Platbos turn right and at the "T" junction turn left to Baardskeerderbos (difficult to pronounce, we call it B'bos). The dam you eventually pass on your left is the Kraaibos Dam (bush of crows) and the water is used by the local farmers, as you can see from the surrounding vineyards' who contributed towards the dam's construction for irrigation and the municipality at Gansbaai for potable water.

The road continues through farms. Baardskeerderbos derived its Afrikaans name from the spider like insect that uses hair, even human hair if as the story goes you happen to be sleeping on the ground, to make its nest. Turn left into the village. This quaint little village has become a haven for artists of all sorts. On occasions, when advertised, there is an open day when you can visit the various artists in their studios. (www.baardskeerdersbosartroute.com). Some very good art forms are represented here. In the village itself, it is told that the bell in front of the church tolls by its self. Hope you hear it.

Continue along the road that came into B'bos and follow the Elim signage. For bird watches look out for blue cranes (South Africa's national bird), spur wing geese, small raptors, Denham's bustard (photo) etc. You pass a turnoff to Stanford but continue straight on to Elim.

On entering Elim with its colourful thatched roofed cottages you are struck by the imposing church (below right) at the end of the road. This village was established by German Moravian missionaries in 1824 and is one of several in the Cape. The ground still belongs to and is managed by the Moravian Church.

Denham's Bustard
The colourful cottages of Elim
Elim church

Behind the church is a restored water wheel reputed to be the largest wooden water wheel in South Africa which was used to grind corn. The old bakery and a general dealer are also in this area. The "Elim Tehuis" found up the road to the right of the church, is a home for 50 children and adolescents with spastic paralysis and other disabilities. A short distance outside of Elim is the "Geelkop Nature Reserve" where several endangered dwarf-species of proteas amongst others can be found. Contact the tourism bureau in Elim for directions and a possible guide.

Cape sugarbird

Take the road back towards Baardskeerderbos where you maybe lucky to see the endemic Cape Sugarbird and when you see the Stanford turnoff to the right (you passed it on the way to Elim) take it. The road winds through the hills of the Overberg past Papiesvlei, a farm school, and eventually joins the R326 outside Stanford.

After a day of driving a good meal with a glass of excellent wine is called for. Visit one of the restaurants in Stanford.

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