WORDS: GILLIAN MCAINSH | IMAGES: GILLIAN MCAINSH, BAVIAANS TOURISM, SHUTTERSTOCK & GOOGLE MAPS
Along with another little town, Loerie, Hankey and Patensie are at the heart of the Gamtoos Valley and at the edge of the Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site, in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality.
Long-time resident Renee Scheepers, whose husband Steph was born and bred in the valley and who wears several caps, among them guesthouse owner, gives the inside track on living in the valley.
Renee says the residential suburbs are not large but over the last couple of years the massive expansion of the citrus industry has seen the demand for housing completely outstrippng supply.
There are various properties on sale, ranging from smaller beginner ﬁx-me-uppers to large, comfortable established homes. “They’re mostly small-town type suburban homes with quiet streets and friendly neighbours,” says Renee. “Any extra farmhouses available are typically used by the farmer for his own staff but there are a few ﬂats and ﬂatlets available.”
Both towns have junior schools and there’s a large high school in the former township area of Hankey. Renee says many families opt to send high school pupils to board in Nico Malan in Humansdorp or the Uitenhage high schools. “There’s also a daily bus for Woodridge learners to and from the valley.”
Patensie resident Sandra Stoat also loves living here. “One of the good things about Patensie is that 45 minutes on either side there’s something do – you can be at the sea in Jeffreys Bay or in the mountains of the Baviaanskloof,” says Sandra. The region is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with up to 15 campsites to choose from of which three are tented.
On a lighter note, she jokes, “For a small town we have three bottle stores – and they all sell ice which is very important!” as temperatures hit the mid-40s in the valley over summer. Game farming is growing into a lucrative business and the area is fast becoming a big tourist attraction.
Dating back to 1826, Hankey is the Gamtoos Valley’s oldest and main administrative town. Before this, however, the region also was home to South Africa’s ﬁrst inhabitants, the Khoi and Mfengu people, centuries ago.
The area takes its name from Sarah Baartman, a Khoisan woman who was exploited and abused in colonial Europe at the start of the 19th century. Her remains were repatriated and buried on National Women’s Day (9 August 2002) in Hankey and the grave is a national heritage site.
“I don’t think I will ever leave here, it’s incredibly beautiful and the people are very friendly” SANDRA STOAT, PATENSIE RESIDENT
- Tolbos bistro, cafe and deli proclaims itself “the best shop in Patensie” serving , “old school quality, plain and simple”. The eatery is licenced and occasionally also hosts live shows.
- Ripple Hill Hotel dates back to 1946 and also has old school charm and character. Relax on the stoep and listen to the tractor traffic humming past while enjoying a steak or a sundowner.
- Padlangs is a licensed restaurant 7km out of Patensie with both a cosy indoor venue and an outdoor spot suitable for children and families to enjoy the views. There is a kids’ menu, as well as a small playground and sandpit.
- Die Handelsmark in Patensie is a newer arts and crafts shop which serves “vrek lekker” food and, says Sandra, delicious iced coffee.
- There is a SPAR supermarket in both towns but Fountains Mall in Jeffreys Bay is the closest large shopping centre. Baywest Mall on the outskirts of Nelson Mandela Bay is within striking distance.
- For fresh local produce such as herbs and salad vegetables, residents head to Waterwiel farm (week days only).
- Visit the grave of Sarah Baartman.
- If you are a fairly fit cyclist you can take your mountain bike on the Longmore Forest Three Rivers MTB route, a combination of gravel and forest tracks.
- Hankey has a charming 9-hole golf course.
- 4 x4 trails abound in the Baviaanskloof: Try the Gonjah routes, of 16km and 20km which take three and five hours to complete, respectively. A number of fauna and flora species can be seen along the way, including plenty of antelope and birds.
- Pick strawberries at Mooihoek farm, where you pay for what you have picked. It’s a popular summer activity for families from Port Elizabeth and holidaymakers.
- Go star gazing or take a hike at the InniKloof Campsite near Hankey, in the secluded Honey Clough valley.
- Stay over at Pabala Private Nature Reserve which offers game drives, photo safaris, adventure packages with MTB and kayaking (and an on site Local Is Lekker eatery).
- Hankey also boasts the quirky tourist attraction of the largest sundial 34.5m in diameter in the southern hemisphere.