Discovering Piketberg

The historic Western Cape town of Piketberg looks half-asleep as we arrived on a Tuesday afternoon but with its rigged mountains and settled beauty, it’s no wonder people prefer admiring the town in stillness instead of making it a sort after tourist attraction.

The streets were really quiet.

Piketberg is not crammed with restaurants or fancy activities like Langebaan. Rather, it’s a town rich in history, wheat farms and fruit fields mixed with friendly and wide-smiled people.

Some smiled. Others stared.

In History

Man, there was a lot of history to take in.

Looking back over a century’s worth of history, Dutch settlers were farming close to the area surrounding the mountain during the 1700s and by late 1835, joined a movement to form a separate congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church you can visibly see from the N7. It was only in 1839 that the first home was built for the ‘Koster’ family and in 1841, plots were sold and the settlement of Piquetberg was formed.

Notice the spelling of the town name? It was later changed to Piketberg in 1930 due to the Afrikaans language that began to emerge in the area.

Driving up and down the entrance of the main street which very much annoyed Courtney, we struggled to find the museum which clearly shows on my GPS that it’s on my left yet there’s nothing but a municipality. A little further up is a fishery where we stopped and asked for directions. We approached the woman standing behind the counter to ask for some clue as to where this building is and she had no idea; asking her colleagues in the back to assist.

10 minutes have gone with still no real idea as to where the museum is. Did this museum just up and disappear?

An older man stepped through the doors, standing in the line to place his order when one of the workers signaled us to ask him instead. Hesitated to disturb the man, we asked in a solid voice where to find it. Alas, it was two streets away.

Driving into Kerk Street, you’re welcomed by a pretty pink building with a sign saying, “Piketberg Tourism and Museum”. No, the pink looking church is not the museum but a Synagogue built in 1922; a building used by the Jewish community for development during the 20th century.

On our right-hand side, where both buildings share a plot is the museum; all white with a green tinned roof. A woman standing on the stoep chatting away to a young man cleaning the property was too delighted to have visitors come by. She ushered us in, I asked how much to view the old artifacts and, she merely replied, “We only accept donations”.

The building was erected in the 1920s and it’s hard to believe that it’s still standing today. However, it’s a replica of a homestead built in the 20th century where old artifacts from families living in Piketberg donated; sharing memories of the time they lived in this town.

Rooms were filled with old-fashioned dining room sets, worn out photographs of scenes of the Anglo Boer War and collections of dusty books and rustic food tins.

We asked the young lady what more of Piketberg there was to see and do. Mind you, both Courtney and I were taken aback by her response.

“There’s nothing to do here. It’s a boring town”.

After chatting to her as to why we were even in the town she called “boring”, we asked if there are any coffee shops nearby we could dine at, directing us to a cafe in Voortrekker Road. But before filling our bellies, we drove up Kerk Street to admire the architectural beauty of the Dutch Reformed church.

This sight of beauty was designed by Carl Otto Hager in April 1880. Due to the years of existence, the roof had to be replaced. Unfortunately, the church was closed but we heard that the interior boasts a beautifully handcrafted pulpit curved from wood imported from India as well as Yellowwood and Oregon pine.

Making a sharp u-turn to get to Voortrekker road is a quaint little cafe nestled on in blue building called Corner Stone Cafe. By this time, the sun was baking so it was obvious that we’re ordering dessert to cool down. Greeted by a sweet lady, we opted to sit outside on the deck while she served us the menu.

Browsing through the selection, Courtney and I both agreed to try their chocolate pancake with ice-cream and golden syrup as a treat and really, it was the best treatment I received! While sitting outside on a hot winters day, we forgot that there was school as school kids walked by, greeting us in much delight.

Once we said our goodbyes and paid the bill, we drove down Voortrekker road and discovered the first cinemas in the area; the Old Bio (Ou Bioskoop) built in the 1920s.

I love old buildings.

The structure is of course run down. Taking a closer look, it seems as though the lower part of the building is being transformed into a coffee shop called Bio Cafe – wish it was open though!

Since it was lunchtime, our stomachs were beginning to eat itself. The Piketberg Fisheries we stopped at the beginning of the tour seemed so popular amongst the locals, it was a no brainer to pop in and have a local eatery with fish and chips. Standing in a line filled with local residents, we ordered a hake and chip parcel for two. Mind you, we were shocked by the price. It cost R48.00 whereas, in Cape Town, it’s around R80.00 and more.

With a bit of time to kill before the long journey home, it made perfect sense to sit on one of their benches placed outside under the trees and chow our food while it was hot. I can’t describe it to you but it was one of the best fish and chips I had ever tasted!

Piketberg is a beautiful little town with a lot of history behind its existence hence why we felt the need to at least explore the charming town. If you’re passing by or wanting to stay over, please visit the Piketberg website for more.

Until the next adventure.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog