A HISTORY OF THE GAMKASKLOOF

This historical valley clouded in mysticism lies in the embracing folds of the Swartberg Mountains. It is where in the 1830’s a group of trek Boers settled and lived in almost total isolation from the outside world.

The Boer commando leader Deneys Reitz entered the valley in 1901 during the Anglo-Boer War attempting to evade British forces who had blocked all the passes through and across the Swartberg mountains. This is what he wrote: “As we approached the huts, a shaggy giant in goatskins appeared and spoke to us in strange outlandish Dutch. He was a white man named Cordier, who lived in this valley with his wife and a brood of half-wild children in complete isolation of the outside world… We were received with uncouth, but sincere hospitality and applied ourselves to the goats’ meat, milk and wild honey that was placed before us….He told us that no British forces had ever penetrated the valley and that we were the first Boers to do so.

The Kloovers were quite content in their total isolation from the outside world at least until a road was bulldozed from the Swartberg pass by Koos van Zyl and his 12 helpers in 1962. The damming of the Gamka River at the northern entrance to the valley caused the then administrator of the Cape, Dr Otto du Plessis to order the provision of an alternative route. In the company of several journalists he scrambled down Gamka gorge on horseback. Some weeks later, the district Roads engineer, Louis Terblanche and road inspector Van Rensburg hiked from the forestry road to Die Hel and investigated a possible route. Provincial Treasury made the sum of R30 000.00 available to build the road. The 37km pass was built using an HD11 Allis Chalmers bulldozer. The work started in March 1960 and was completed in August 1962 linking the kloof with the Swartberg pass in the east.

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With the road completed, the little community crumbled. The youngsters now attending schools outside and having been exposed to the bright lights of neighbouring towns soon departed for pastures greener. The others followed due to old age and drought. In 1992 all but one small farm had been sold the remainder later to become the property of Cape Nature.

 

The present owners of Boplaas and Kleinberg purchased the properties in 1985 from the widow of Hannes Mostert and his brother Piet. Today on the privately owned property, Boplaas, these are two of the restored cottages available for self-catering rental. Early visitors were enchanted with the wild sounding name of Die Hel, and soon began calling the entire valley by that name, much to the chagrin of the Kloovers.

“Die Hel - despite its name - perhaps one of the most heavenly places on the planet”

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