Cape Town  - Route 27

Route 27
Cape Town's West Coast
South Africa

Ysterfontein beach

The main beach at Yzerfontein

Its time to explore the West Coast and we will be using the west coast road or the R27 to do so.

Basing ourselves at Yzerfontein which is a coastal village about 90 kilometres north of Cape Town we took a day trip northwards to see what we could find.

Following Route 27 we can reach the Namibian border or the far Northern Cape.

On this trip we did not go so far but visited Langebaan with its beautiful blue lagoon. Its good for fishing so I spent a couple of hours angling and managed to catch a couple of White stumpnose we were small so I let them go.

After fishing we had an enjoyable lunch at the " Farmhouse restaurant" overlooking the lagoon before we drove north to Saldanha Bay which is the second town that has grown up on the banks of the lagoon. Both the town and the lagoon are called Saldanha Bay. It has a fishing harbour for small boats on its western bank and then across the bay to the east is the iron ore terminal from where ire is exported to all parts of the world.

Ore from Sishen in the Northern Cape is railed to Saldanha Bay where it is loaded aboard large ore carriers. The loading jetty extends for about a kilometre out into the bay. Trains of up to two kilometres long deliver the ore to the terminal where it is offloaded and transported on conveyer belts to the ships. The dust created by the ore is a pinkish maroon colour and with the strong winds that blow in the area it is transported inland where the fields surrounding the harbour have been turned maroon.

Saldanha Bay

Saldanha Bay Village with the Iron and Steel factory in the background

Saldanha Bay is quite a large town by west coat standards and boasts a large steel factory just outside of town. There was much discussion over this factory when it was built as it was thought that it would pollute the water in the area. To date there does not seem to be a problem.

North of Saldanha is Vredenburg another small west coast town. It is built on a hill which boasts some large granite rocks. Close by is a largish township which has sprung up since the iron and steel factory was built.

The landscape in the area is very dry and brown and looks much like the pictures we are seeing of the desert areas in Iraq. There are large areas which stretch for miles with absolutely nothing on them, not even a blade of grass.

Some fields have the hardy Karoo type bush on them.

The west coast has taken a long while to be developed and the main reason for the slow development is that there was always a scarcity of drinking water. With the building of some larger dams in and around Cape Town and the installation of pipelines to bring water to these areas it is now possible to open up the west coast.

Leaving Vredenberg we headed for the village of St Helena which is built along the shores of St Helena Bay. Fishing is the industry which keeps the west coast alive and in this village you will find a number of fish factories. Of course the smell from the fish factories pollutes the air but I suppose if you are a resident in the area you will soon get used to that especially if your livelihood comes from the sea.

The bay is spotted with large granite boulders and they enhance the beauty of the bay.

Some of the newer areas being opened up are Brittania Bay and Shelley Point to the south of St Helena Bay. These are are upmarket estates where the houses are large with many of them the size of small hotels.

Why people must build such large houses which are only used as holiday houses I don't know. I suppose that it is for investment purposes as inflation erodes the rand so quickly.

Property in SA always seems to be a good investment. Of course the taxman has cottoned onto this and he now levies a capital gains tax on second houses and properties valued at over a million rand.

I can see a problem developing when it comes to selling some of these palaces as nobody will be able to afford to buy them. Today the interest rates in SA are climbing and many houses are becoming to expensive to keep and are being repossesed by the banks.

Further up the Route 27 is the small town of Velddrif. Its claim to fame is that the Berg river enters the sea there.

Every year the Berg River Canoe marathon which starts in Paarl and ends in Velddrif brings in a whole lot of visitors for a week or so and boosts the local economy. The town is also rather small although a housing development has been built at Port Owen on the Berg River. The development went insolvent a while back and the properties are now being used as a time share development.

Port Owen has its own marina and small boat harbour.

At Velddrif we turned back and drove back along the R27 which is a dead straight road back towards Cape Town. Most of the way there is nothing but dry fields on either side of the road, although after the Langebaan turnoff we once again reach the bush which makes up most of the hardy veld seen along the R27.

Near to Langebaan at a place called Langebaanweg is a fossil park. It is a working dig where remains of a previously unknown species of frog, lizard, rat and mouse have been found. The dig known as the West Coast Fossil park is open to the public and is worth while visiting.

The types of discoveries being made in the park are an important indicator of major environmental changes in the area. A number of larger animals which once roamed the area have become extinct and some of their remains have been found here as well. They are the long horned short neck giraffe and also a bear species named ogritherium africanum. This species has also been found in Uganda and Ethiopia.

Other large animals such as the ancestors of the elephant, white rhino and hippo apparently also roamed this area in years gone by.

In this dig there are also specimens of sea animals such as whales, seals and dolphin. This is quite amazing as the dig is at least 20 kilometres inland from where the sea is today. The whole area is under scrutiny as many other fossils of long dead animals may be hidden under the dead brown fields found in the area.

A wonderful fact about this area is that during early spring these ugly brown and apparently lifeless fields are transformed into floral wonderlands with carpets of beautiful flowers for as far as the eye can see. When this happens the West Coast is inundated with visitors who come to marvel at the beauty of nature. This is the best time to visit the area and special tours are arranged to see the flowers.

Niewoudtville in the Northern Cape is another part of the Cape that puts on a flower show in Spring. Find out more at the Nieuwoudtville flower show

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Route 27 Western Cape
Page updated 14.6.2015

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