The area used to be home of the San and Koi – this could be evidenced by the numerous rock paintings and artifacts found in the caves and overhangs of the reserve.
The first farmers in the valley were traced back to the “Great Trek”. The theory is that trekkers came looking for their lost cattle and then discovered the wonderful valley and elected to stay. A thriving community got established and by the early 1900’s boasted two schools.
All produce from farming had to be carried out on pack donkeys via a few routes and even up the now famous ladder route. Life certainly carried on at a very leisurely pace during those years.
The only access to Gamkaskloof to this day is via the untarred Swartberg Pass, built by the brilliant road engineer Thomas Bain and officially opened in January 1888. Colonel F.X. Schermbrucker (Commissioner of Crown Lands and Public Works) was quoted in the Oudtshoorn Courant at the opening ceremony of the Swartberg pass, saying: “We stand here conquerors today; we have conquered nature, which at one time appeared insuperable.” Today you will still find remnants of the construction works in the Pass.
No road existed into Gamkaskloof itself until Mr. Otto du Plessis (Cape Provincial Administrator at the time) promised the inhabitants a road during the 1950’s. The building of the road was started by the Roads Department under supervision of oom Koos van Zyl and eventually was finished in 1962.
Unluckily the road that was made into the valley had a detrimental effect on the “klowers” as they started to slowly drift away to the outside world. By 1980 there only remained three actively farming families in Gamkaskloof, namely the brothers Mostert on Boplaas and Middellande and Oom Piet and Magriet Swanepoel at Ouplaas.
Drs. George Allwright, Henk Badenhorst, Andre Louw and Roelof van Huyssteen bought Kleinberg in 1984; and Boplaas in 1988 from the Mostert families. Shortly thereafter we convinced the then Cape Nature Conservation to buy the remaining land; to save the Kloof for prosperity before it would have been reclaimed by nature. Dr. George Allwright sold his share in the late 1990’s to Johan Zaaiman, an engineer from George.
In 1997 the entire Gamkaskloof valley was declared a World Heritage Site. Since this declaration most of the cottages in the kloof have been restored to their original design as part of a combined effort by the original Western Cape Nature Conservation, us and interesting parties—i.e. the monument commission, local museums and authorities. These entities then formed the Gamkaskloof Advisory Committee and assisted Cape Nature for quite a few years.
On our own farm we complied with the general advice offered by the committee and our few restored cottages hopefully exert the same nostalgic charm that inhabited these fine dwellings.