The hikes this weekend were urban outings in Oranjezicht and Bo-Kaap. Oranjezicht rests on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, and I think it’s one of Cape Town’s most beautiful neighborhoods. The name Oranjezicht means “orange view” in Dutch.
We began our hike at the entrance to Van Riebeeck Park and followed a gentle trail toward Table Mountain. Part of the uphill was in a small, narrow ravine along a wooden Plankiespad (boardwalk) which passed the Lower PlatteklipStroom (stream). On the way down the mountain we hiked through a wooded area called “Tooth Fairy Ravine”.
I’ve been lost in Oranjezicht and have difficulty pronouncing the name – or ren ya zicht. This is a link for the correct Afrikaans pronunciation. Driving through Oranjezicht’s winding, wooded streets it doesn’t seem possible that it’s so close to Cape Town’s Central Business District.
Many of Oranjezicht’s houses are striking Cape Dutch architecture. Some newer, modern homes have over sized windows, taking advantage of big skies and dramatic views of the Bay, Table Mountain, and surrounding trees and fynbos vegetation.
The neighborhood lies on the site of Oranjezicht Farm – fertile land at the foot of Table Mountain. In the 1700s the farm supplied the Castle of Good Hope with fresh produce.
Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company – Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) in Dutch – built the Castle of Good Hope to support ships passing Cape Town en route to the lands of tea and spices. The Castle is the oldest colonial building in South Africa.
Ship’s officers, burghers, and their families visited Oranjezicht Farm to wander through the lush gardens and fill their baskets with fresh fruit and vegetables. “Produce was brought to a cobbled yard and weighed on a scale hanging from a large oak tree. With exotic flowers adding colour to the scene and abundant trees providing shady walks, fruit and vegetable shopping was a pleasurable occasion for all.”
Our well-educated hike leader, Tielman Haumann, is a Cape Town native. His family roots date back many generations. Before the hike, Tielman emailed hikers a list of the area’s indigenous plants and fynbos – which most of us found a bit intimidating. However, there were no worries since Tielman knew the trees and plants well. To our delight another member of the hiking group was a butterfly expert.
Between descriptions of the plants and butterflies, and fascinating folklore stories, it was an educational and entertaining outing. I spent a few minutes chatting one-on-one with Tielman who had visited Oregon. He liked Portland and enjoyed hiking in the Pacific Northwest and beautiful Cascade Mountains.
Of course birds and butterflies play a significant role in the local ecosystem and propagation of Table Mountain’s fynbos. We spotted several African Monarch Butterflies. These glorious orange butterflies are poisonous. Our expert said the way to spot a poisonous butterfly is to watch its wing patterns upon landing. Non-poisonous butterflies slowly open and close their wings when they land. Poisonous butterflies leave their wings spread wide open. I never knew there were poisonous butterflies, let alone how to spot one!
Oranjezicht’s most abundant trees include the Wild Peach (Kiggelaria Africana), Wild Olive (Olienhout), King Protea (Protea Cynaroides), and Cape Ash (Ekebergia Capensis). We saw, and tasted, several varieties of wild berry. The oak trees that grow in South Africa have weak wood so oak used for building construction and wine casks is imported from Europe, mostly France. Some of the non-indigenous trees and plants are from Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Mexico, Tasmania, and the Mediterranean.
We passed by the Sayed Abdul Matik Kramat and took a peek inside where several Muslims were praying. Kramats are holy burial sites of notable Sheikhs, called Auliyah in Islam. The Cape Peninsula has 20 recognized Kramats – three of them nestled in isolated outer districts that are difficult to reach.
Tielman told us a new local book about Oranjezicht was recently published. The neighborhood’s history is compelling and affected greatly by Pieter van Breda. In 1719 van Breda sailed on the ship Spieringh from Flanders in northern Belgium to Cape Town. In 1731 van Breda acquired the Oranjezicht estate which remained in his family for two centuries.
“Oranjezicht was named either because it overlooked the Oranje bastion of the Castle of Good Hope or due to the sight of abundant orange trees growing in Table Valley.” As time passed, the van Bredas increased their land holdings growing their Oranjezicht estate to cover the largest part of Table Valley. Terraces were built for cultivating vines, but the estate’s main source of income came from the sale of fruit and vegetables.
The van Bredas were known for their hospitality and entertaining guests on the lavish Oranjezicht estate. “Pieter had his own house orchestra of 30 flute and violin players in uniform. They performed in one of many gardens on a raised bandstand encircled by trees.”
The demise of Oranjezicht began in 1877 when the Purchase Act enabled the Municipality of Cape Town to buy more than 12 morgen on which to build water reservoirs. Today the water reserve is called Molteno Reservoir. Five years later another Municipal Act claimed more of the opulent van Breda estate and their right to impound water from the farm’s many springs. Without water the farm became useless.
Gradually more land was sold but members of the van Breda family continued to live on the land into the 20th century. In 1947 the Cape Town City Council purchased the van Breda house which was demolished in 1955 to make way for a sports club. In 2013 Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF), a community farm, replaced the club.
Saturdays the OZCF hosts a community farmers market at V&A Waterfront for independent local farmers and local artisan food producers. Customers can purchase fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, organic dairy, free-range eggs, honey, and muesli. You can also sample cooked and raw foods, edible plants, and seedlings. In addition to food, the OZCF sells compost and gardening supplies. Haven’t made it to the market yet, but it’s on my “must do” list.
Mouille Point and Bo-Kaap posts to follow soon….