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RIVERSDALE – ALL ABOUT MOUNTAIN PASSES AND FYNBOS

Riversdale (Afrikaans Riversdal)  is an agricultural town on the N2 beneath the imposing Langeberg mountains to the North and rolling farm lands to the South.    What is the claim to fame for Riversdale and why do we write about Riversdale?  For us it is one of those towns that you just pass by very carefully as their traffic police is very active and we never really take time to explore.  So, recently we made a day trip to  Riversdale and to see what there is to do.

The town is surrounded with fynbos, ericas and buchu is growing wild.  Fynbos  is also one of the main export products of the area.  Buchu is that  very distinctive smell that you get when you approach Riversdale on the N2.  The  natural beauty of the area is also  very popular with hikers and boasts several hiking trails at Boosmansbos and Grootvaderbosch.

To the north the Garcia pass (R323) links Riversdale with Ladismith in the Klein Karoo.  It is also a Thomas Bain pass where he used convict labour.  After Bain completed the Tradouw pass 107 convicts were transferred to the Garcia pass.  However, things did not progress without problems.  Most of the convicts were either old or sick and progress was slow.  This surely put Bain to the test as he had his hands and mind full with Cogmagnskloof and Pakhuis pass.  The pass was named after Maurice Garcia, an 1820 settler of Jewish-Portuguese descent.    The pass is about 17 kilometres with several bends.  It is not a busy road so take the time to pull over at the viewpoints to drink in the scenery.   You will not be disappointed.

We also discovered a little stone church designed by the famous Sophy Gray.  From my previous post you would have noticed that I am on a mission to tick the boxes on her church list.  Read more about her other churches in the Garden Route @ Day-trip-from-George-Sophy-Grays-footsteps

For the train enthusiasts there is a Class 7 steam locomotive parked in the centre of town in front of the municipality.  I always wonder how they get it there as it ways tonnes. 

There were a couple of famous people who either were born or grew up here and put the town on the map.  Who are they?  Dalene Matthee, author of several books on the Knysna forest attended the local High School.  She was also laid to rest in the Knysna forest where you can visit her memorial.  Willem Botha a younger singer and actor.  Dr Cecil Moss who was a qualified medical doctor (anesthetist) who was part of the medical team who removed the heart from the first heart transplant donor.  He was also vice-captain of the Springboks in1949 and head coach for South Africa from 1982 to 1989.  CJ Langenhoven, another famous author and father of the Afrikaans language, also spent two years of his school life in Riversdale. 

We ended our exploring trip at the old jail, now turned into a cute little coffee shop, (S 34° 05.490 E 021° 15.788) that has an interesting story.   During 1860 the government bought the the premises from the Barry family and turned the trading store into a police station, court and jail all on one site.  The jail warden also lived on site.  The only execution ever in Riversdale also took place in this complex.  Gilbert Hay of Heidelberg, who murdered his  mother with a hammer for some drinking money, met the end of his life here.  Today the gallows are displayed at one of the backrooms.  Go and have a look and do not just pass by, you might be surprised at what you discover.

We would love to hear from you if there are some other interesting places to explore in Riversdale. 

oOo

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