‘THE HELL’ (Die Stalletjie)
April & May 2021
After our hectic drive down Elands Pass the previous day (you can read about it here), we have now settled in our house for the weekend.
Our little house, called ‘Stalletjie’ (translated, it would be a small horse stable) is very comfortable and just too cute for words! As we’ve switched off our lights last night, it was so dark we could barely see our hands in front of us … that took some time to get used to 👀👀.
DAY 4 & 5:
We have now two glorious rest days in paradise (while ironically, it’s called ‘The Hell’). After driving hair-raising mountain passes, we were now in the mood for some peace and lazy days.
We woke up with birds chirping outside and other nature noises we were not used to … time to get our hiking shoes on and take a walk in this beautiful place.
I’ve read in history journals that residents in ‘The Hell’ used donkeys and travelled by foot across the Swartberg Mountains … the very same mountains we have just drive with our car for hours! Before the road was completed in 1962, children attended school in ‘The Hell’. Ironically, this led to depopulation of the community and the local children attended schools in the nearby villages.
We’ve had a wonderful caretaker, Pieter (and his dog Witvoet – ‘White foot’) that made sure everything was in order at our accommodation. He came by every morning and afternoon to see whether we’ve needed something and we had wonderful chats with him about living in this secluded area.
(I can’t believe we have not taken a photo of him and his dog, but I presume we were just so intrigued by all of his stories that we did not even think about it … such a pity.)
It was Pieter who told us about the road that leads over the hill to the furthest mountains and that we could walk there if we would like to go for a hike.
We could have walked much further, but it was quite hot and we did not intend to take a strenuous walk. So, we’ve turned around after about an hour and enjoyed more beautiful roads on our way back.
The Gamkaskloof valley (‘The Hell’) was declared a national monument in 1997 and is now part of the Swartberg Nature Reserve. All the cottages in the valley (ours included) have been renovated and equipped with solar power and bathrooms.
We’ve made a late breakfast and spent some time at the back of our house where we’ve relaxed with our books.
Before we’ve embarked on our trip, we’ve read about a family that is staying here and are running a shop for tourists visiting this area … it was time to pay them a visit … but it did take as about 40 minutes of rough driving to get there!
The shop is privately owned by Annetjie Joubert – the only remaining, born and bred ‘Gamkaskloofer’. She was unfortunately not here, but we’ve met her son and daughter-in-law. Besides the shop, they also offer overnight facilities in two historic farmhouses, as well as meals prepared in the kitchen of the shop.
Inside the shop is Gamkaskloof curios, cold drinks and beer (we definitely bought a few of those 😊). And we were surprised to find a wide variety of jams and preserves (made with the fruit growing on their farm) … we’ve also bought a few of those to take back home.
We’ve spent more than an hour at the shop, chatting to the Gamkaskloof family about living in this deserted, yet beautiful place. They love living here and I’m sure they don’t feel they are missing out too much on what is going on around the world!
Back at the ‘Stalletjie’ we’ve enjoyed the rest of the afternoon reading and enjoying the last bit of sunshine before the huge mountains made the sun disappear early.
There is not much we can say about our last day in ‘The Hell’ … we’ve done nothing more than just relaxing and enjoying nature and each other’s company.
We did however had some visitors … for the entire day! A big family of guinea fowls arrived early morning and spent the day under the tree in front of our house and later moved to the back where we were sitting.
It was such a beautiful day – so hot, that we’ve had to sit under the trees’ shade in shorts and enjoyed our cold beers we’ve bought at the shop earlier.
I remember telling Berto that this was easily one of the best days of my life … nothing spectacular happened, but I was just so content and happy at that very moment.
And I had a surprise up my sleeve to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary … a bottle of Amarula! Amarula is a cream liqueur from South Africa, made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. This tree is locally called the Elephant tree, but also the Marriage Tree … perfect for our weekend in a beautiful far-away place!
We had such a wonderful time here in ‘The Hell’ and in our cottage, the ‘Stalletjie’. Living off the grid and in simplicity … for us, this is the best way of appreciating and celebrating life.
It was time to make one last fire and enjoy the silence … except for the occasional bark of a baboon, croaking sounds of the frogs and the crickets’ chirping. And of course, to enjoy the sight of thousands of brilliant stars above us.
Our next post will be the last one of this series … for the last time on this trip, you will see more beautiful roads on our way back home.
You can read about our last day here 👍🏻