Kaapsehoop is the (long belated) third stop in my #10SouthAfricanTowns project, for which I’m visiting ten small towns across South Africa. Read about my first stop in Val and my second stop in Kameel.
In September 2019, when I was first conceiving the idea for my #10SouthAfricanTowns in 2020 campaign, I went to Kaapsehoop for lunch with my friend Julia. Julia had just moved to Nelspruit, about 30 kilometers from Kaapsehoop, and had already discovered the charm of this magical hamlet.
While we were there, I decided to make Kaapsehoop a part of #10SouthAfricanTowns — it was the first town I officially chose for the project. I planned to visit Kaapsehoop again the following September.
Fast-forward to September 2020. A pandemic hit in March, forcing me to postpone #10SouthAfricanTowns indefinitely. This was very sad. Although South Africa’s provincial borders re-opened in August, I’d pretty much lost my motivation to travel by that time. I thought I might never leave my house in Melville ever again.
But Julia kept asking me when I was going to visit her and I didn’t have a good excuse not to go. Also Julia recently started dating a guy whose family runs a guesthouse in Kaapsehoop. All signs seemed to be pointing me toward a #10SouthAfricanTowns revival in Kaapsehoop. So I went.
My second visit to Kaapsehoop was more magical than I could have hoped.
Kaapsehoop (also spelled Kaapschehoop, which means “Cape Hope” in Afrikaans) is a really unusual little town. Despite the meaning of the name, Kaapsehoop is nowhere near the ocean; it sits on a 1500-meter (4900-foot) escarpment in landlocked Mpumalanga province, overlooking the South African lowveld.
Kaapsehoop was founded in the early 1880s when gold was discovered in Battery Creek, the stream that runs beside the town. But gold-mining never took off in Kaapsehoop and the town fell into decline. Perhaps that explains why Kaapsehoop is now completely isolated — perched at the top of a mountain, surrounded by a Sappi tree plantation.
Today, this failed gold-mining town is a tourist town, with a couple of hundred residents, a handful of restaurants and pubs, zero paved streets, many B&Bs, a waterfall, and a bunch of wild horses who graze among the misty, moon-like rocks. I didn’t encounter any hobbits during my visit. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had.
Kaapsehoop is utterly charming and photogenic and the whole place has a good sense of humor about itself. I could almost move there.
24 Hours in Kaapsehoop
I stayed at the Green Venus Guesthouse, right in the center of Kaapsehoop, which is run by Sandra Bouwer and her grandson Jay. As I mentioned, Jay is Julia’s boyfriend and has spent much of his life in Kaapsehoop. This whole arrangement worked out well for me. I had a nice place to stay in Kaapsehoop, a free tour guide who knows everything about the town, and an attractive couple (Julia and Jay) to star in my photographs.
Here are a few of the things we got up to during our 24-hour visit:
Battery Creek Waterfall
The dramatic Battery Creek Waterfall is a 20-minute walk/clamber down a ravine across the road from town.
Fortunately Jay knew that you have to get to the waterfall between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to properly enjoy it, as that’s the only time the sun shines into the ravine and warms the water enough to swim in. We arrived at just the right time for a swim and it was perfect.
I took a solo walk to the town cemetery, which is very close to the waterfall, on my last morning. It’s a lovely spot and well worth a wander around the graves, which date back to the 1880s.
Lunch at Salvador’s
We had lunch at Salvador’s, one of Kaapsehoop’s restaurants, but the only photo I have is this shot of a mural inside the bar. I was suffering from a rare and delayed hangover during this part of the day — due to a crazy (for me) night out in Nelspruit with Julia the evening before — so I really cannot provide a proper review of the meal. It was fairly decent pub fare though. Bohemian Groove, the restaurant next door, is a bit more high-end.
Tour of the Town
Jay took us on a walk around town in the late afternoon, when we checked out some historical sites and had a drink at Nagkantoor, the local pub.
A Walk to the Escarpment
I was lucky to experience the most perfect light imaginable during our evening in Kaapsehoop. Jay walked Julia and me to one of the best overlooks on the escarpment, which is a ten-minute walk from town.
A final note: When planning your visit to Kaapsehoop, remember there are no ATMs, food markets, or petrol stations in town.
Thanks to Julia for pushing me to do this mini #10SouthAfricanTowns visit. I’m going to continue to do the visits sporadically — for the rest of this year and next year — until I finish. It won’t be on the timeline I initially planned, but hey: That’s 2020 for you.
Thank you to the Green Venus Guesthouse for hosting me in Kaapsehoop.