THE COMMUNITY OF OLIVIERSHOEK
One of the most picturesque day trips that a visitor to the Drakensberg can undertake is to travel up the Oliviershoek Pass or the R74 into the Free State. This road is also the recommended route to follow if you are travelling into the Northern or Central Drakensberg from Gauteng or the Free State. Furthermore, it provides easy access to the towns of Bergville and Winterton. This refurbished route is a pleasure to use.
However, what makes this pass so special are its magnificent views of the Sterkfontein Dam, the historical sites of this area and famous eateries and accommodation establishment of the like of the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, which is in close vicinity, Little Switzerland and Frontier Lodge. There are also the many other B&Bs and self-catering establishments along this 17 km stretch of road.
The Sterkfontein Dam is an element of the significant Thukela-Vaal Water Project. It supplies an essential proportion of Gauteng’s water. Furthermore, it is filled through the Drakensberg Pumped Storage System. Additionally, this dam has the second highest dam wall in the country and is its tallest earth-fill dam. The view of this dam is magnificent; it is over three kilometres long and stores some 19,800,000 m3 of water!
Several significant historical sites are located around the Oliviershoek Pass. Perhaps the two most important being Retief’s Rock and the statue to the “Kaalvoet vrou (barefoot woman”). Piet Retief was the famous Voortrekker leader that brought the trek Boers or Afrikaans speaking farmers into the KwaZulu-Natal region in the late 1830s. This rock is a symbol of the route that he followed in descending into this region.
The statue of the “Kaalvoet Vrou” is an eerie sight. It commemorates the strength and raw determination of the “Voortrekkers” to resist the arrogance of British Imperialism of the late 1800s and their desire to have their own independent states. This statue represents a woman walking away from the colony of Natal. It was constructed in memory of Susanna Smit, sister of Gert Maritz, who declared that she would rather “trek” or hike barefoot back over the Drakensberg than living in Natal under British rule.