The Road Less Travelled - Hoekplaas, Warmbad, Barandas

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This little road is a favourite for photographers! It really is beautiful. Go along the R339 towards de Rust and turn left at the Hoekplaas Road.

At the R341 turn right, and at Toorwaterpoort road take a left. Follow the circular road and back onto the R341, or ride until you meet the N9.

The dirt section goes through 3 distinct biomes. There are 3 river crossings which will be either dry or impassableand some places look like the surface of Venus with weird trees seen nowhere else.


Paljas the Movie

The Toorwater Station was the scene of "Paljas" the Afrikaans film by Katinka Heyns. The title of this South African submission for the foreign language Oscar translates as "magic," or the ability to set things right.

The name Toorwater (literally translated, means enchanted or bewitched water) originated from a phenomenon witnessed at the nearby hot water springs. Apparently natural gas escapes from the spring from time to time. In favourable circumstances these gasses can spontaneously ignite resulting in ghostly-looking flames flickering like will-o’-the-wisps, allegedly causing many an unsuspecting traveller to have the fright of his life!

The story takes place outside rural Toorwater, where railroad depot manager Hendrik MacDonald (Marius Weyers) lives some distance from the town with his unhappy family - wife Katrina (Aletta Bezuidenhout), who finds her Hendrik inattentive; their son Willem (Larry Leyden), shocked into silence two years earlier; and sensitive teen daughter Emma (Liezel van der Merwe).

The Paljas Film Crew

The Paljas Film Crew

Then one morning they awaken to find wild animals in an abandoned circus train which has been shunted off to the wrong station.

Trainers and performers soon arrive and the circus brings paljas to the remote railroad family.

After the circus troupers leave, clown-mime Manuel (Ellis Pearson) stays on, moving into a nearby shack, befriending Willem and teaching him magic and clown arts. Although these events have a positive effect on the family, the local townspeople are threatened by the changes they see.


Toorwater Poort (Gap)

(as you will enter private farmland when visiting the Poort please obtain permision from the farmer)

The eastern end of the Swartberg mountains and a small mountain range known as the "Slypsteenberge" (whetstone mountains) form a deep and narrow gorge known as "Toorwaterpoort" where the Traka River, over millions of years, gouged this spectacular gap through the 1000 metre high Swartberg mountains thereby linking the Great Karoo and the Little Karoo.

The slopes of the gorge have a reddish colour due to the presence of iron oxide in the water. Here the mountains form the official border between the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces. Just south of the gorge the Traka River joins the Olifants River.

Unlike Meiringspoort there is no road through Toorwaterpoort and this spectacular gorge is therefore popular with hikers.

The main railway line from the Southern Cape to the interior and Port Elizabeth via Klipplaat, opened on March 1, 1904 passes through this gap. On the southern side is Toorwater station and on the northern side Vondeling siding. The station buildings are sadly in a dilapidated condition. Passing trains are nowadays a scarce occasion.

Toorwater Station

When the railway line was constructed early in the 20th century, the engineers did not follow the gentle gradient of the nearby road to Willowmore. Instead, the track was routed along one side of the steep and winding Toorwaterpoort gorge.

Unfortunately, while it provides some breathtaking scenery for the train passenger, the river is prone to occasional flash-floods; over the years these have wreaked havoc with the railway line, which is no more than five metres above the floor of the gorge.

Washed Away!

In 1996 severe flooding in the gorge wrecked the tracks and the line was closed for two years while costly repairs were undertaken.

You can clearly see where sections of track have been raised and protected with concrete bulwarks and stone gabions. A more recent flash-flood in 2004 luckily did not cause any damage to the railway so these repairs appear to have been effective. It is about 10 km from one end of Toorwaterpoort to the other, the tiny halt of Vondeling marking the northern entrance to the gorge.

During the Anglo Boer War there was a small fort in the Toorwaterpoort to restrict the movement of Boer Commandos.

British soldiers - Anglo Boer War

The Toorwaterpoort Gorge is an ideal picnic, mountain biking or hiking outing.


The Warm Springs

Three kilometers from Toorwaterpoort is the Roman Catholic Church, Marienhof, Warmbaths. James F. Coughlin of Canada was the benefactor making the building of the church possible. The adjoining monastery was closed years later.

 About a kilometer from the abovementioned church are the hot springs known as Toorwater. This spring was previously under control of the then Divisional Council of Uniondale and open to the public.

Today it is privately owned but it is worth a stop and look. The water is very clear and has a temperature of about 40 degrees Celsius.

Rocks in the gorge from which the water flows are a striking brown colour.

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