The oldest Moravian mission village in Africa with church buildings and school dating back to 1738, Genadendal is a charming village a mere 6 km from Greyton in the Western Cape. From Genadendal, there's a hiking trail that leads up into the mountains where the rivers seem to have no end.
In 1737 a young bachelor missionary Georg Schmidt was sent to the Cape. Schmidt settled on 23 April 1738 in Baviaan Kloof (Kloof of the Baboons) in the Riviersonderend Valley. He became acquainted with an impoverished and dispersed Khoi people who were practically on the threshold of complete extinction.
He taught the Khoi to read and write, but when he began to baptise his converts there was great dissatisfaction among the Cape Reformed clergy. According to them, Schmidt was not an ordained minister and so was not permitted to administer the sacraments. Consequently he had to abandon his work, and in 1744, after seven years at Baviaans Kloof, he left the country.
Only in 1792 did Moravains obtain permission to resume Schmidt's work at Baviaans Kloof.
Noteworthy developments took place in the early nineteenth century, so that Governor Janssens, after his visit in 1806, decided to change the name of the mission to Genadendal (Valley of grace).
Today, the town is frozen in the past. Streets of neat black-thatched white-walled cottages, the Moravian Mission Church (dating back from 1738) and manse and groves of oak trees have survived from the beginning of the last century. There is also an old water mill with stone ground flour and traditionally backed bread (backed in open-air ovens).
An old bell, formerly used to summon people to the church, children to the school, and to signal the beginning and end of shifts for workers in the fields, has been proclaimed a historical monument.
A small art centre and gift shop can also be found in the town.
How to get there
To get to Genadendal, take the N2 east from Cape Town over Sir Lowry's Pass. Just before Caledon turn left into the R406 to Greyton and Genadendal and drive 32 km to Genadendal. The total drive from Cape Town is a little more than an hour.
Genadendal Hiking Trail
One of the main tourist attractions of the area is the Genadendal Hiking Trail through the Riviersonderend Mountains:
- Trail Distance: 25,3km
- Day 1: 14,3km (8 hours)
- Day 2: 11km (7 hours)
- Trail limit: Maximum of 24 hikers per day, with a maximum of 14 per group
- Hut Capacity: It is necessary to book separately for the trail and for overnight accommodation.
- Nearest Town: Between Genadendal and Robertson
- Nature Reserve: Riviersonderend Conservation Area
- Reservations: Cape Nature at Tel: (021) 659 3500
The trail is fairly strenuous. It leads through private property and traverses the conservation area on both sides of the Riviersonderend mountain range. The trail provides panoramic views of the Overberg as well as the Worcester-Robertson Karoo.
This is a two-day circular route of 25,3km. It begins and ends in Genadendal at the historic Moravian Mission Church which dates back to 1738. Overnight facilities are available at the church for hikers who prefer to stay the night before starting on the route.
Day 1 leads past two pools at Groot and Klein Koffiegat, ending at the farm Die Hoek on the north side of the mountain. Overnight accommodation, including braai facilities, is available here. Day 2 returns to Genadendal.
Hikers should be fit and well-equipped. In summer it can be extremely hot and it is advisable to carry water. Winters are cold and wet and hikers should adhere to weather warnings as the trail can be dangerous in extreme conditions.