Now, not many people choose The Hell as a favourite Holiday destination – not the real one, anyway. But nestled in the Swartberg (Black Mountain range) a deep valley used to be the refuge of those who wanted an isolated life. These included a few farmers, rebels, criminals and deserters.
Named The Hell because of its utter isolation, everything had to be taken in (or out) on foot; that is, until 1963 when the road to The Hell was finally paved with good intentions by the government.
Although it is nowadays called Gamkaskloof, getting there is still not easy. In contrast to its namesake, driving there isn’t necessarily a pleasure
Down in the valley, one family has established a shop, a small and rather exquisite restaurant, and a camping ground
Named after Grandma Sannie, the shop offers locally baked bread and jam, as well as other essentials. One can only guess what life must have been like here in the 1800’s
But it is the camping here that draws me. A babbling brook, towering cliffs in the background, and shady trees invite you to spend the days around the glowing embers of the camp fire. It is here you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity that has lured people over the centuries. The abundant birds provide the background music and an occasional antelope will peek at the intruders from behind the dense screen of leaves. This is where you realise the place is much more like Heaven.
When – sadly – you leave the valley to its memories and ghosts, a little of its peace accompanies you back to the hectic life of modern-day living. Even before you start unpacking, you realise how inappropriate the name of the valley is.
Hell…I’d like to go back!