On 15 July 2011 my team and I set off for a day’s adventure into the stunning craggy scenery of the Swartberg ( black mountains) near Oudtshoorn ( Ostrich country)in the Western Cape’s beautiful and bountiful Route 62.

We stopped to photograph some of the ubiquitous Ostriches along the way and eventually arrived at our destination- the waterfall of the world heritage site, Meiringspoort, at 10.30 am. Poort is the Afrikaans word for “drift”.

the ostriches

The road through the poort is a remarkable engineering feat, but the overwhelming features of a drive through Meiringspoort are the wonders of nature. The folds of the Table Mountain sandstone strata tower above the road, constantly changing colour as you move through sunlight and shade.Hardy plants, including indigenous pelargoniums, cling to the precarious rock faces while birds, baboons and smaller fauna abound in the protected kloofs and crevices. Among the most scenic spots is the Skelm (the Great Waterfall) tumbling into a dark pool which, legend has it, is bottomless. (In 1938 it stopped flowing for the first time in human memory).

the great water fall

A beautiful mermaid was said to live in the pool at the foot of the waterfall. During the 1996 floods a story circulated that she had been washed out of the pool, down the Groot and Oliphants rivers and out to sea. She had been caught in a fisherman’s net and taken to the CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn, where she was preserved in spirits! The Museum was overwhelmed with telephone calls and visitors keen to see the mermaid! We can confirm that she is still in the pool as we saw her there- and called her Christine. She has moved down into the second pool and still has another 3 pools to inhabit should she wish to do so. There are 5 gorgeous crystal pools in all. It’s well-worth a visit even if you don’t see Christine!

Christine the mermaid


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