Cape Town - Garies

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Garies as seen from the N7

The above title was seen on a T shirt in a shop in Garies and shows the optimism of the people of Garies.

Who out there in the big wide world has ever heard of Garies.

I am sure that travellers who have visited South Africa and travelled to the Northern Cape have been into Garies and stared in awe at its one dusty street dotted with houses, a hotel, church and a number of shops and an old ossewa (ox wagon). The empty space is what is so mind boggling .

Garies Main road

Garies is a small town on the N7 highway which runs between Cape Town and Namibia.

As is usually the case with country towns in South Africa they are built around a Dutch Reformed Church and Garies is no different.

The town is built on land granted to the Dutch Reformed Church by the owner of the farm Goedeverwagting. The town was laid out in 1845 and today has a population of around 1500 souls.

Rock formations on the hill behind the village

The town was originally named Goedeverwagting but as country towns go the given names don't always stick. The name Garies which is a Khoisan name and is spelt either as Th'aries or Xharis has however lasted the distance. The name is the Nama version of a local word which means crawling grass.

Garies can be found 470 kilometres along the N7 highway, the first part of which runs through the beautiful green farmlands of Malmesbury, Moorreesburg and Piketberg. After crossing the beautiful Piekernierskloof pass one reaches Citrusdal and Clanwilliam which is the heart of the citrus growing area of the Western Cape. These towns are built on the banks of the Olifants River.

Once out of the Olifants river valley you reach the dry arid regions of the Northern Cape and come across a number of small towns such as Nuwerus, Bitterfontein before arriving in the larger town of Garies. The town is so small that if you blinked you most probably would be past it.

Ox wagon next to the main road in Garies

Some of the houses in the village

So what has Garies got that puts it on the map?

If the Northern Cape has had good winter rains the Namaqualand daisies pop up during July and August and you have this fantastic display of wild flowers. Unfortunately the gods must have known I was about to visit the area and withheld the rain, so much so, that there was not even one Namaqualand daisy on show. What a shame as on the trip I made to the Northern Cape I expected to find carpets of them. Even Niewoudtsville which is known as the bulb capital of the world had no flowers when I passed through there in early October.

The Western Cape however has had a good showing of flowers this year (2010) and in many areas there are carpets of white and yellow daisies as well as other spring flowers blooming. Those people who came to Cape Town for the world cup should have stayed a month or two longer to see the splendor of the Cape Floral Kingdom in spring.

Getting back to Garies, another place of interest is the monument to a British officer who was killed in the area during the Anglo Boer War. The monument has been erected to the south of the town.

There are a number of towns towards the west of Garies and one of them is Hondeklipbaai. (translated this means Dogstone Bay) This little town became a harbour from which copper ore was exported during the 1800's . Today however the rock in the bay which looked like a dog and from which the town got its name has been vandalised and the dog has lost an ear. Copper mining is also no longer happening in the Northern Cape so the harbour is now primarily used for fishing.

The landscape has no trees so birds have to make a plan when they make their nests. They cannot use the ground as the nests would not be safe from predators so they use the only other option open to them and that is miles and miles of telephone poles planted along the road for communication.

Two different bird species use the poles and they are the black and white necked crows as well as the weaver birds who build what can only be described as an apartment nest. The nest is large measuring about one to two metres in diameter with hundreds of entrances situated at the bottom of the nest. How they get these large nests to stay on the pole is a mystery to me.

Unfortunately communications suffer as lightning often strikes the nests and sets fire to them causing damage to the telephone wires.

Even without the flowers, the Northern Cape is really worth visiting. Its quite an experience for someone coming out of Europe or a big city to suddenly find themselves in a place where space has no limits and distances between towns and farms can be measured in hundreds of kilometres.

Want to enjoy space like this?

Visit the Northern Cape.

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Page updated 15.5.2015

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