From Hermanus, the R43 runs between the mountain and the Klein River Vlei to Stanford, offering lovely vistas along the way. Stanford is named after Captain Robert Stanford (retired), who bought the farm Klein Riviers Valley in 1838 and supplied produce to Simon’s Town by boat from Stanford’s Cove, near Gansbaai. The village has a well-preserved core of historical buildings, a number of antique shops, art galleries and restaurants, and has become popular as a birding destination. Passing through the village, the Wortelgat gravel road takes one to Die Plaat, a white sandy beach in the Walker Bay Reserve that is popular amongst anglers (4x4 required).
From Stanford the R326 leads inland through the Akkedisberg Pass, to a junction from where one can choose between going to Caledon, Riviersonderend or Napier. For those who do not like gravel roads, this is the route to Cape Agulhas.
Or continue along the R43 to De Kelders, named for the “Drupkelder” cave at the shore which attracted early travellers and was a popular holiday destination before it was closed to the public (the water source is now used by the municipality). De Kelders borders on the Walker Bay Nature Reserve to the north, and here one finds Klipgat Cave, where evidence has been found of human habitation going back 2 000 years. A hiking trail overlooking Walker Bay stretches from Klipgat to Stanford’s Cove. This is a popular whale-watching area.
Gansbaai (“Goose Bay”), named after the Egyptian geese that frequented a freshwater spring at the beach, started in the 1880s as a few fishermen’s cottages on the dunes overlooking the harbour. A school was built in 1906, and in 1921 land above the beach was divided into 205 plots. Commercial fisheries followed, and by the 1950s Gansbaai was a bustling town. With the expansion of residential developments in the area, Gansbaai has grown as a commercial centre.
Danger Point lighthouse, at the tip of the nearby peninsula, was erected in 1895. This was too late for the troop ship Birkenhead, which floundered on a submerged rock in 1852, with only 193 of the 636 souls on board surviving.
Kleinbaai is the base for whale-watching and shark-cage diving boats, which often take the visitor to nearby Dyer Island. Guano was earlier harvested here, but the island is now a conservation area and home to penguins and the fur seals that attract the sharks.
At Franskraal one may visit the Strandveld Museum, where Jan and SD Fourie have many stories to tell. Beyond Franskraal the R43 brings one to the holiday resort at Uilenkraalsmond and then on to Pearly Beach, a holiday and retirement village. The farm Groot Hagelkraal that one passes is internationally regarded as a biodiversity hotspot, with the highest incidence in the world of species endemism. The farm belongs to the electricity supplier, Eskom, which has identified a site at the coast as a possibility for a future nuclear power plant. Such a plant would greatly affect the marine life, including migrating whales, and the resultant power lines will destroy the eco-tourism industry on the Agulhas Plain and further along their route.
Pass Buffeljagsbaai (“Buffalo Hunt Bay”) further on (it offers no tourism amenities). The R43 rather incongruously ends at a T-junction with a gravel road (in the 1970s it was planned to continue the R43 to Struisbaai and then to Arniston and beyond, mainly for military purposes, but these plans were never realized). The road to the right leads to Die Dam, a private holiday resort, and a left turn will take one to Struisbaai (this road can be very slippery after rain).
Now we have to backtrack to get onto the Fynbos Road. From Stanford, the first turn-off is at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. This gravel road goes over the hills and into a valley, where one finds the most southerly indigenous afro-montane forests, notably at Platbos. The road from Uilenkraalsmond to Baardskeerdersbos and the mission village of Elim, the designated connecting road across the Agulhas Plain, is being tarred; the section from Elim to Bredasdorp has already been completed, as well as the first section from Franskraal. Alternatively, from the R43, take the gravel turn-off at Pearly Beach.
Baardskeerdersbos (“Beard Shavers’ Bush”) was long a forgotten corner, enshrouded in stories about the inhabitants. In the past few years it has attracted “outsiders”, and now also hosts a popular Art Route featuring local artists and crafters. It is also home to one of the best Boeremusiek bands in the country, led by Oom Manie Groenewald.
Elim was founded by the Moravian Church in 1824. It became a haven for freed slaves after 1838, and a monument to them – the only one in South Africa – was erected here in 1938. The village still belongs to the church and has been declared a heritage site in its entirety. Geelkop Nature Reserve is located on a hill just outside the village.
Since 2000 several wineries have been established on the Agulhas Plain, cooled by sea breezes. As traditional wine-growing areas in South Africa become hotter due to global warming, the Agulhas region may become increasingly important for the industry.
From Elim the newly tarred road will take one to the R319 near Bredasdorp, or a gravel road may be taken to Struisbaai.