14 May 2012 by Chris Marais

The endless road to Wupperthal

The Cederberg has winding mountain roads. At the end of one particularly trying route, you drop down into the remarkable little village of Wupperthal, a Rhenish mission settlement begun in 1830.

The magical Nguni on the descent to Wupperthal.

So we’re leaving the marvellous mountains of the Cederberg and heading east back to the Karoo, and a couple of klicks up the pike I notice my right back bakkie tyre has gone a tad flat.

No worries. I consult a map. Being Old School means no GPS anywhere in the cab. It says we should reach the settlement of Wupperthal in 17 km. That should be no problem, I reckon. A mere 34 km return trip back to this spot where I am. Even with photo stops, we should make it back here in an hour.

Ha. That’s what happens when you look at a line on a map and nothing else. The drive down to Wupperthal village, which straddles the Tra-Tra River (have you ever heard of a sweeter name for a flowing piece of water?) is interesting, to say the least.

The long and winding road down to Wupperthal.

My bakkie is a long-time veteran of back roads. It definitely rates the Wupperthal Descent as a major challenge. And when you hear of how they come down here in winter slush and snows, it’s pure white-knuckle stuff.

But we make it down the pass, just taking things slowly. En route, the Universe gifts me for choosing this less-trodden path to the tiny village in the Cederberg with the sight of a handsome Nguni beast in lovely light, craggy mountains in background.

The Nguni patiently waits for me to emerge, yank out a camera from piles of stuff on the back seat and get the focus thingy going. After a dozen frames or so, he seems to wink and me and moves off into the distance.

It’s a public holiday, and the village slumbers. But the white-washed houses look inviting, so I knock on a door and ask about air in the tyres.

Refuelling schedule at the local petrol station.

“We don’t have that facility in the village,” I am told. “The men around here fix their own tyres.” I sigh and make for the mountain heights, doing the round trip in more than two hours. But I’ll go back one day...


Wupperthal is a Rhenish mission village established in 1830 and subsequently famous for its rooibos farming and its hand-made velskoens – fine leather footwear.

Wupperthal - a village lost in time.

Category: Culture & History


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