Karoo Gariep Boer War Sites; easy day trip for South Africa travel fun; Gariep Route along Gariep Dam; where to go and how to get there.
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Exploring the Gariep Dam and the Bo Karoo is one of our very best ways to relax and have fun.
The Gariep Route has so many surprises - great photos opportunities, quaint coffee stops, stunning landscapes and the best people!
Our Gariep Boer War Sites tour will take one whole day and will have you coming back for more...
A good map... if you like doing things the old-fashioned way
Or a GPS...
always makes for an easier trip...
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There is something about revisiting history which helps you feel your present more keenly. And the Gariep Route never fails in this pursuit.
The quiet roads, gentle sheep, curious goats and placid cattle settle the soul as the route makes its way around and over the mighty Orange River - once called the Gariep River.
The drone of the tyres on the tarmac could almost be the sound of the decades slipping back as you make your way on the R58 from Venterstad to Bethulie.
4,4km out of Venterstad, on the left-hand side, is the boundary fence for the Oviston Nature Reserve. Keep an eye open for all sorts of buck, ostriches, black wildebeest and small cats.
On the right hand side are iconic stone koppies that let you know that this is definitely Karoo countryside.
After 33,4km, turn left and travel for another 10km to the Kamp Kerkhof sign which leads to the current Bethulie memorial site. Your first stop on the Karoo Gariep Boer War Sites trip...
During the Anglo-Boer War, (1899 to 1902) the largest concentration camp erected by the British was situated in Bethulie.
The original site was closer to the river, but was moved further up the hill prior to the construction of the dam as it was feared that flooding would take place. As it happened, the water did not quite reach the concentration camp site.
From the iconic bending trees to the ever-vigilant angel watching over the memories, from the view over the timeless landscape of veld to the feel and smell of the stones under your feet, you cannot but be drawn into a reverie of who these people were and what their lives meant.
The cemetery displays small sandstone grave stones of deceased concentration camp children and crosses marking soldiers' graves. This large memorial, built on the outskirts of town, with name walls will have you linking a trace to the many nationalities once engulfed in the duress of the Anglo Boer War.
If you are anything like I am, you will be looking for names that link your family with those who rest in these surrounds.
The next stop is Springfontein.
Leave Bethulie and follow the well-marked signs to Springfontein – 42,9km on the R715. The new road has just been completed and is a pleasure to drive.
Look out for the Louw Wepener (d. 1856) memorial on the right hand side of the road. He was a military leader (kommandant in Afrikaans) in the Orange Free State who was killed during the Second Orange Free State-Basuto War. According to the epitaph, was born in 1812. The monument is erected at his burial site on his farm at Bethulie in the Free State.
Make sure you plan for a stop at 38,9km from here. The Meerkat Valley Padstal is a treat! Run by local farmers, it offers really good food and a delightful atmosphere.
Springfontein has four memorial sites. We got lost and asked a gentleman who was weeding his verge, where to go. Half an hour later, with explicit instructions, we travelled the few blocks and found ourselves, once again, immersed in the space where memories and present time meet...
Look for the BKB building at the corner of Piet Retief and General Brand Strs – here you will see a stone mound with a metal arch over it. This is the ‘wasplek’ where the Boer women were brought to do their washing. It stands next to a stream of water which flows into the Orange River.
The next stop is a ‘huis alleen’ (house alone) just up the road from the ‘wasplek,’ (wash place) in Settlers Rd. A single white house, all boarded up, is the Children’s Hospital. Measles and dysentery were a scourge during this war, and the children were quarantined here.
Now go 0,7 km from the hospital to the Children’s Memorial. This is a new site dedicated to the children who were wrenched from their homes and prematurely ended their days in the concentration camp.
Follow the ‘Anglo Boer War’ signs over the bridge and take first turn right to the next stop on the Karoo Gariep Boer War Sites route.
The signs with the three crosses will take you to the Springfontein memorial. When we were there it seems as if some construction was underway.
Springfontein was right next to the railway line and this was a good dumping spot for prisoners of war. The camp grew quickly, and so did disease and death.
Boers and Brits lie side by side at this site.
Stand for a moment under the bending pine tree and listen to the wind whisper the names of those that rest here. You might just connect with a part of yourself that you had not known before. And, I can almost guarantee that you will want to come back to re-connect and re-visit. I know I do!
From Springfontein, follow the signs to Gariep Dam. The R701 will take you to the bridge over the Orange River and into the Northern Cape – I love it that you can travel through three provinces in one day!
Next stop is Norvalspont.
If you are thirsty, make a stop at the Glasgow Pont Hotel. Its interesting pub will have you reminiscing about days gone by.
Drive out of Norvalspont for, 9km and you will see the signs to theconcentration site cemetery on the right side of the road.
This is the last of our Karoo Gariep Boer War Sites.
This site is now on private property but access is open to all.
The feeling of the neglect that is bound to come with the passing of time adds to the feeling that our past needs to be remembered.
39km from Norvalspont is our town of Venterstad...
A comfortable self-catering and a nice stop over for the night...
And a great place to relax after your Karoo Gariep Boer War Sites trip.
If you enjoyed Karoo Gariep Boer War Sites and want to know where else to go on the Gariep Route, have a look at 10 Fun Things To Do On The Gariep Route.