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South Africa Holiday: Namaqualand flowers adorn the countryside beneath the Hantam mountains in Springtime

South Africa Holiday: Calvinia

Time seems to stand still in the rural town of Calvinia at the the foot of the Hantam mountains in the Northern Cape. There are various 4x4 routes - a must during spring when thick carpets of Namaqualand flowers adorn the countryside.

Calvinia was originally called Hantam after the mountain range. In 1847 the settlement was founded on the banks of the Oorlogskloof River, at the foot of the Hantam Mountains on the northern most border of the Cape Colony.
Click to see a detailed map of Calvinia and the Northern CapeIn 1853 after the building of the first Dutch-Reformed church, the minister insisted in changing the name to Calvinia in honour of the Swiss reformer Johannes Calvin.
Situated 1,000m above sea level, the average summer temperature in Calvinia is 22°C, but often soars above 40°C. During winter the average temperature is 10°C, but may plummet to -8°C at night. Snow frequently falls on the Hantam mountains during the winter, and is the main source of primary drinking water.
This part of the Northern Cape is regarded as the finest area in Africa for stargazing. It is no coincidence that the internationally funded Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) - the largest and most powerful telescope in the southern hemisphere - is located nearby at Sutherland.
The Hantam Mountains were named by the Khoi people, meaning "the mountain where the red bulbs grow." The word comes from the name for the edible roots of the Heyntame plants (Pelargonium bifolium), which grow here.
The Tankwa Karoo National Park is close by. The Akkerendam Nature Reserve 3km north of Calvinia provides beautiful hiking trails, picnic spots and unique flowers.
The "sterboom" (star tree), which blossoms in September, is found only around Calvinia & SutherlandThe rare sterboom (star tree), which blossoms in September, is unique to this area.
There are various 4x4 routes, some steeped in Anglo-Boer War history, along the escarpment with picturesque views and huge Namaqua fig trees clinging to the rock surfaces. These are a must during spring when thick carpets of Namaqualand flowers adorn the countryside.
South Africa Holiday: The donkey cart is one of the main forms of transport locally
The museum is in the art deco Old Synagogue built in 1920. It portrays life of the early European settlers. As well as many old photographs, farming activities are depicted by the bucket pump, flour mill, cobbling workshop as well as soap and candle-making utensils. Visitors are often amused by the mousetrap, moustache cup, four-legged ostrich and merino sheep with a 38cm long fleece.
The Hantam House is built in Cape Dutch style with a concave-convex gable. Retaining its original cedarwood woodwork, traditional delicacies are served in an exclusive coffee house built in the original kraal.
If you are looking for somewhere off the beaten tracks this is a great place to go. Time seems to stand still in this little rural town, making nostalgic Calvinia well worth a visit.
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