Small towns might seem boring in comparison to the fast pace living of city folk, but once you see it through the eyes of the locals, you will find that there is so much more to discover than meets the eye. This is definitely the case for this beautiful South African town Porterville.
THE HISTORY OF PORTERVILLE:
The town has a rich history and was originally established in 1863 after Frederick Owen, one of the original 1820 Settlers subdivided his farm Pomona into plots. He named the town after the popular William Porter, the Attorney General of the then Cape Colony between 1839 and 1866. Porterville was also previously known as William’s Valley. It was only in 1903, just 113 years ago, that Porterville became a Municipality, now known as Bergriver Municipality.
ABOUT WILLIAM PORTER:
William Porter was a liberal statesman, born in Derry, Northern Ireland. He had strong liberal convictions and after the political scheming in Britain in the 1830’s which lead to the liberal control of London, Porter and his family moved to the Cape. Porter was also the writer of the Cape Constitution and a proponent of the Cape Qualified Franchise. (The Cape Qualified Franchise was the system of non-racial franchise in the early years of the Union of South Africa. Qualifications for the right to vote at parliamentary elections were applied equally to all men, regardless of race.)
South Africa’s colourful history has come a long way since the oppression of woman’s right and the later Apartheid/Race issues.
HOW TO GET THERE:
At the foot of Voorberg, the town is nestled between the Olifant’s River Mountains, in the shade of the Winterhoek Mountains. Located about 150 km North East of Mother City of Cape Town on the R44 road, this farming community has truly blossomed into so much more than just Agriculture that use to be the dominant source of income.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are various options in the town itself as well as on the outskirts of town and on the farms in and around Porterville. You can choose between Guest Houses, B&B’s and Self Catering and there is something for every budget. Porterville boasts some of the most extraordinary camping sites in the country which includes the 22 waterfall campsite that is definitely a must visit. It’s very popular so do book in advance, but walking up the trail is an experience that will leave any nature lover with memories to last a lifetime.
Porterville is also a world renowned spot for para and hang gliding. The annual Western Cape open Paragliding event takes place here during early December and is a show stopping (maybe even heart stopping) event to watch. If you are visiting during the scorching hot South African summer, be sure to pop into the very popular Flyers Lodge B&B smack bang in the middle of town. Get a cold local beer at their rustic bar which is also a great way to meet the locals. The owners, Paragliders themselves, will tell you all about this interesting sport and what happens when things go seriously wrong. Been there got the tshirt sort of thing.
For more about accommodation, visit the local Tourism website on www.capewestcoastorg.co.za
WHAT TO DO:
TASTE CRAFT BEER:
Well let’s first talk about the local beer which is available at the local pub. Indie Ale is produced right here in Porterville. On route to Gouda on the farm Kleine Liefde (meaning small love) beer brewer & musician Bernard Kruger, his wife Susan and their daughter now runs the show of Susan’s father’s farm.
It all started in 2011 when the family decided to diversify the farm. The Kruger’s attended a few courses on beer brewing, had to do an MBA thesis on the subject and after a lot of red tape, they have started their unconventional brewing company. Try their 24 River Blonde speciality Ale, Cochoqua Red Ale or the Porter’ville Porter craft beer. The stylishly decorated tasting room now serves great food on Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 8pm and they have recently started their Mid Month Market. The market has live music, kids play activities, local produce, wood fired pizza’s and farm animals. www.ibsco.co.za
Porterville has so much local produce, they recently started the Freshly Porterville Produce Food Route. This route includes the award winning Andante Extra Virgin Olive Oil made from olives grown locally at Wereldsgeluk Olive Estate (World’s Happiness Olive Estate). This great tasting olive oil has earned both National and International accolades. They are the proud winner of the South African Olive awards among others locally and then the big one being the New York International Extra Virgin olive oil Competition.
South Africa is renowned for their top notch wines and the Porterville area does not have to stand back for any wine region, they are once of the largest cellars in the Country. A visit to the Tulbagh Wine Cellar in Porterville will have you spoiled for choice. They offer great wines from local farms as well as other wines from in and around the area. Porterville is rated one of the Top 27 out of 388 wine farms producing just about 12 million litres of wine per year. Be sure to try their organic wines and the Porter Mill Station range of export wines. They are just 2km outside of the town central.
A lot of farmers in the region had to diversify over the years. Farming is like gambling with the elements every year all over again and you do it for the love of the game or you will never make it. All it takes is a few bad harvests in a row due to droughts or too much rain too late into the harvest and it can really play havoc on your cash flow.
And what do you do when you as a farmer only have daughters and no son’s to continue your legacy? Well, you make a plan. That might just be where the saying ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan (A farmer makes a plan) comes from.
The owners of Fig Fun is the brain child of a daughter and mother-in-law combination. On the Farm Eikenhof this in-law combination started using their figs that are not destined for the export market in some really interesting and may I add, unbelievably tasteful ways. No preservatives added either! Just good clean fig fun produce like jams, preserves, chutney, dried fruit and dried fruit roles, but my absolute favourite must be the salad dressing. Yes, fig infused Salad Dressing!! It’s as amazing and out of the ordinary as it sounds.
The farm is not always open for tastings but luckily for you, the products are readily available in the town at the local Pharmacy and along with other local produce at the a beautiful shop called Delicious. Delicious is the central point in town where most of the products in and around town is available for those in a hurry to get a taste of all things local like art, artisan bread, handcrafts, soap, souvenirs and so much more, all in one place for your convenience.
POMEGRANATES, DRAGON FRUIT, GRAPES, CITRUS, VEGETABLES:
On the farm Houtconstant a variety of fruits and vegetables are grown, harvested and turned into export quality products. Pomegranates has recently been pointed out as one of the best power fruits around. The pips and juice is extracted and exported to the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
They have recently branched out some more and lemon grass is the latest addition to the family.
Various other products from the area is also processed on the farm. This is season bound, so it is not always possible to see this magic in action but during harvesting season in February, is the best time for a visit to this beautiful farm.
MAGIC MICRO GREENS:
One of my favourite places in Porterville must be the friendly folk growing their micro vegetables for the upmarket Restaurant trade in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands. About 10 years ago the fun started as a backyard garden. The space became too small for the demand of these beautiful micro greens such as multi-coloured carrots, edible flowers , baby salads etc. The owner rented the vacant plot next to his house from the owner but these days the demand is so enormously big and serving more than 120 Restaurants pushed them to rent a 1.2ha farm outside the town to keep up. For me it was an eye opener, I did not even know what micro greens meant before this.
No visit to Porterville is really done until you ventured up the mountain.
The views from up there over the green farm lands and yellow canola fields below, will truly take your breath away. The Dasklip pass leads to a protea farm at the top of the mountains with self catering units to rent, which is also the route to the Beaverlac Camping Resort.
Beaverlac is one of the few animal friendly campsites around and with rock pools and walking trails, the quietness of this region will help you and your beloved pooch find some much needed peace and quite in this crazy busy world we live in.
The flower season at Berghoff is at it’s best from June to December so best you try to make it up there during that time.
WEST COAST FLOWER SEASON:
The West Coast Flower season peaks in August, so if you can, make sure you book your trip around this time. Everywhere you look, carpets of flowers blossom after the winter rains.
During late December/January, pack your backpack and head up the Groot Winterhoek Mountains. You might just be lucky and find the sulphur yellow disa in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area. This is one of the endemic vegetation species you will find in the 30 000+ ha reserve. Porterville is also the only place in the whole of South Africa where you will find the yellow disa and fields of DisaUniflora, which is the red disa. The yellow one is so scarce, but well worth the search and boy what an amazing view from up there.
You will also find places like De Hel (The Hell) and De Tronk (The Jail) with it’s extraordinary rock formations.
To find out more about the latest buzz in the town, from the best restaurants, accommodation, angling, hikes, golf, tennis, bowls, squash, para or hang gliding, contact the local Tourism office. www.portervilletourism.co.za
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST:
Jan Danckaert Museum on local history
Naval Gun that was used to alert locals of incoming ships in Table Bay Harbour