(an SA Blog Beta post from Your Correspondent)
Part 3/3 – Greyton as a Launch Pad
Nestled up against the Riviersonderend (“River Without End”) Mountains, Greyton gives the feeling of being in a rather pretty Overberg cul-de-sac. But it’s actually a small hub: you can easily switch from lazing in country bliss to launching a regional adventure.
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The best day trip, in Your Correspondent’s opinion, is to Genadendal, an extremely important site in SA’s history. It was the first mission station established in this part of Africa – in the early 1700s, by the Moravian church. Whereas in Greyton they have horses, in Gendadenal they have donkeys, which munch the grass around the beautiful mission-era buildings, including a massive 19th century church. The church dominates Church Square, appropriately enough, which also features a museum, a restaurant, a fascinating paper-making demonstration center, and – best of all – a mill house, with a working water wheel, which is fed by a lovely, ancient mill race. Your Correspondent loves working water wheels and ancient mill races. (Note that the steps which lead up to the mill house are fashioned out of old, worn-down grindstones – wonderful.) Genadendal was officially segregated from Greyton during apartheid, and the two communities, though only about 5 min apart by car, seem to have little interaction. If you’re staying in Greyton, start a trend – visit Genadendal.
Greyton Nature Reserve Walks and Hikes
At the end of Greyton’s main road, where the tar runs out and the gravel begins, no less than a dozen walks and hikes branch up into the foothills, leading to places as far away as McGregor. The Greyton birdlife alone makes spending a few hours on a trail worthwhile. Don’t forget your hats, sunscreen and water. Look out for sugar birds, weavers, sun birds, the black-shouldered kite, and – if you’re lucky – the Blue Crane, SA’s state bird. (On our last trip, we saw a flock of about 30 of the big, graceful aviators.) The Greyton Tourism website has an excellent list of short walks and long hikes: check them out at Greyton.net.
Caledon is one of the Overberg’s biggest towns, a major milling and beer brewing center 30 min from Greyton. It gets a mention here because of its curiosity value: it’s the region’s own slice of Nevada, home of the Caledon Casino and Spa. There didn’t use to be a casino, and the spa then was an unspoilt retreat, a series of natural jacuzzis in the hills fed by a hot spring. Today, thanks to the casino, the jacuzzis are full of men wearing gold medallions. Like many rural casinos, Caledon’s is inappropriately ostentatious; its novelty wears out in about 1/2 hour, during which time, you can lose R20 at the one-armed bandits. On the plus side, it is well air-conditioned, and open long after Greyton’s restaurants have closed, for a late-nite burger and chips.
Of course, there’s also Hermanus, about an hour’s drive away, which you won’t want to miss if you’re visiting SA in September – October, when the Southern Right Whale visits the coast in great numbers. Hermanus sees hundreds of whales come and go each year – and tens of thousands of tourists with them. Come to think of it, Greyton may be the perfect headquarters for a whale-watching mission. You can navigate the crowds, see the whales (which are magnificent), then retreat to your peaceful country haven for a quiet supper, and get a good night’s rest.