Bot Rivier

24 Jan


It would be very wrong of me to leave here without first giving you the tour. Or at least a bit of a look around.

As you approach from Cape Town on the N2, a major national road running west/east, it would be so easy to hurtle by and miss it altogether. And that would be a shame.

It’s essentially a small town, hardly a holiday destination, but not without a certain charm. It lies at the foot of the mountains and is surrounded by the most stunning landscape, which opens up as you come through  Sir Lowry’s Pass and  Houw Hoek Pass, known locally as simply “over the mountain”.

Shop - didn't know I had a business here did you?

Most of the action goes on in the square, where there is a shop, cash machine, bottle store, estate agency, hardware store, filling station and of course the Bot Rivier Hotel, the local pub. It’s also a stop for the Baz bus – a kind of hop on hop off anywhere arrangement that serves backpackers in South Africa. And of course they do the wine thing here.

Hotel stoep

From the stoep of the hotel you can watch the comings and goings, (people-watching here is second to none), banter with the regulars or simply gaze into the distant hills as you unwind with a cold beer. It’s long been a favourite haunt of the John and has become so for me too; a place to chill or catch up with the gossip – everyone knows everyone here –  amid pleasant surroundings.

There’s a huge tree that overhangs; its yellow flowers making a colourful carpet as they fall on the breeze, a water feature that acts as watering hole for the many pets that are every bit as much characters as their owners, a bird bath and, occasionally, a foot-bath for John. It’s a comfy kind of place. Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons are favourite times, the latter often bringing live music which, in my experience, is usually very good.  And the free snacks aren’t bad either.

There’s a supermarket and a Chinese cheapie shop up the way, known amusingly as The Mall, where there’s a slightly larger selection of provisions on offer. Serious shoppers though need to go further afield.

Railroad crossing

Train - what train?

John makes himself at home at the Shuntin Shed

A train line bisects the town, where you have to stop and look to make sure nothing is coming, though I’ve never once seen the train. I hear it though, several times a day, as its engines labour to carry goods to and from the coast and its sexy air horn cuts through the air. Apparently, the nearby Shuntin’ Shed, now a restaurant, shakes like hell when a train goes by. I’d love to be there then but my visits so far have proved fruitless. Still, it’s a pleasant place to be, lounging on giant sofas on the wooden deck that also has – you guessed it – magnificent views.

We also hear the ghostly whistle of a steam train in the mountain behind the bus…wooo wooo it goes. Turns out someone left the door open on the Vodacom tower on John’s top boundary and the wind whipping round this is the source. But I prefer the ghost train theory – romance over science every time.

Close-up shanty


There’s the obligatory shanty – everywhere has one, big or small. They fascinate me and I want to paint these ramshackle dwellings. I must try and get shots of the ones around Cape Town before I leave. Remarkable structures and the townships there are massive.

"Council housing"

Slightly upmarket, is what I suppose is Council housing.

Solar panels

Note the solar panels – definitely the way to go here.

Mountain View Cafe

Like the horns...

Then there’s the individual homes – some more individual than others….

Individual and Gorgeous - see the plants on the roof?

Smart - note the proud owner

Nearly home - nearly caught them

Chasing the neighbours up the dirt road

The road home from the pub, depending whether you go the dirt road or the tar road, is quite exciting or scenic respectively….

The scenic route home from the pub

Time stands still in Bot Rivier and they still talk of the Boer War. But I like it here – even though I’m on the wrong side…

4 Responses to “Bot Rivier”

  1. José February 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Like this blog. Gives a much better idea of what is going on there – my imagination can run riot as you know.

    Good photos and general atmosphere.

    Where to next?

    • Boatbird February 2, 2012 at 8:07 am #

      Oh good – that was my plan. Now at John’s Dad’s in Port Elizabeth – not sure how long for but watch this space. Coming home is looming large now – just as the cold snap begins in the UK. Great.

      • José February 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

        Any chance of seeing Port Elizabeth. Those of us huddling on icy shores may at least enjoy a description of the sunshine and easy life, to remind us of lazy days to come.

      • Boatbird February 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        All in good time – I have some beauties. I also have a connection issue which is driving me bananas so you might have to wait till back at the bus where access is brilliant. Sorry about that. Have had some interest from boatie mag re an article I sent them whilst here and it has taken me 2 days to send the pics!! So please forgive me but I’ve had it up to here with technology for now…. xx

        Check out

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