The town of Clarens may only be 100 years old, but the history of the area goes back much, much further. Our landscape is rich in dinosaur fossils, and if you keep your eyes open and know what to look for you will find traces of these ancient times on almost every walk. The San also lived here, finding shelter in the many sandstone overhangs and excellent hunting on the grassy plains. There are many examples of their art in the area, and one of their favourite subjects – the eland – still roams free in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The area has also seen more than its fair share of bloodshed and destruction. Many of the black tribes who settled in the area were massacred and forced to leave as Dingaan carved his “Path of Blood” – the Defiqane – throughout much of the land. These were difficult times, marauders and assassins and even cannibals ruled the day.
The earliest white settlers in the area were Voortrekkers searching for a home away from British rule, and you can still see traces of their homes and evidence of the routes that some of the Voortrekkers took as they made their way to Natal. For those that settled here, the peaceful life they searched for was, however, not to be. Cattle rustling, war with the Basotho, and British Colonization made for a hard life.
Some famous Anglo-Boer war battles took place in the area around Clarens, and with the accompanying destruction of homes and farms, many women and children chose to shelter in accommodating caves that had once housed the San, rather than enjoy Her Majesty’s pleasure in a concentration camp.
As you can see from this very brief outline above, the area is rich in history. There are many stories to tell – some of which have been retold in novel form (ask at the Bibliophile). For those interested in geology and dinosaurs the Clarens Dinosaur Tour is highly recommended. If your interest lies in more recent times, take a quad-bike tour with Sethuthuthu Tours, which takes in ruins of the early inhabitants who lived here, as well as other places of historical interest.
Clarens Dinosaur Tours: Contact details
Sethuthuthu Tours: Contact details
Louw van Biljon – Tailor-made tours: Contact details
History of Boshoek and surroundings (Niel van Skalkwyk – Sethuthuthu Tours)
Die Derde Basoete oorlog en Paul Kruger se aandeel in Clarens. (Niel van Skalkwyk – Sethuthuthu Tours)
Clarens History(extract) written for Open Africa by Tina de Beer
The British Link (article by Mary Walker)
The Battle of Naaupoort Nek (Diaries of a Village Idiot)
War in the Valley (Article by Mary Walker)
On coming Home (Article by Mary Walker)
Reflections (Article by Mary Walker)
Tartan Rainbow (Article by Mary Walker)