Take a ride in our time-machine – the story of the Namaqua West Coast begins millions of years ago.
The landscape looked very different then. For one, the Knersvlakte – now a wide open and arid region north of Vanrhynsdorp – was covered in water, a vast delta created by the prehistoric Gariep River. A multitude of small quartz pebbles and tiny marine fossils are all that remain of this once ancient riverbed.
Archaeologists have found Stone Age tools and rock shelters near the Varsche River north of Vanrhynsdorp, and a large number shell middens built by early inhabitants along the coast. Some of the middens are at least 5 000 years old.
The area around Vanrhynsdorp and Vredendal was once the traditional grazing ground of nomadic Khoi pastoralists called the Grigriqua, or Griqua as their descendants are known today.
Many towns in the southern Namaqualand were originally founded as mission stations. The oldest, the Troe-Troe Zending in Vanrhynsdorp was established by the Moravian Missionary Society in 1751. The Rhenish Missionary Society founded a mission station at Ebenhaezer in 1834. Two Catholic mission stations were established during the early 20th century: Vergenoeg in Vredendal and the recently restored Catholic Mission of the Little Flower in Vanrhynsdorp, which gets its name from a painting of angels scattering flowers from the top of the nearby Maskam Mountain.
The hardy kanniedood (Aloe variegata) is the official symbol of the Griqua people, and symbolizes their endurance as a nation.
The origin of the rieldans, or khapara in the locally indigenous Nama language, can be traced back to pre-colonial Khoi culture. In some dance variations the participants mimic the movements of animals like the meerkat or ostrich. Dance movements often have very descriptive names like sekel-nek-loop and the bobbejaan-twist.
San rock art can be found in the Gifberg, Koebee and Matzikama Mountains. These cultural heritage sites are protected by law and the drawings may not be touched or vandalised.
During the South African War (1899-1902) A famous battle in February 1902 on the farm Windhoek, 15 km south of Vanrhynsdorp, saw British forces ambush Cape rebels. Despite suffering heavy losses, the out-numbered Boer forces won claiming a prize of horses and provisions. The victors were however defeated in the same area only a few months later at a fort on the farm Aties, which has survived and is today a national monument. It is one of five forts British built in southern Namaqualand.
The delicacies of the Namaqua West Coast are a window to its heritage. Try bokkoms and crayfish, but also liver-in-caul fat skilpaadjies and its sausage-equivalent, the pofadder; famously succulent lamb; farm-style preserves; and, nuggets of sweet skuinskoek fried bread.