Keimoes, Northern Cape

Keimoes water wheel

One of the famous water wheels of Keimoes.

The vineyards and water wheels of Keimoes are world famous, and in a good year its raisin crops are exported throughout the globe.

It was also once infamous for being the origin of the Keimoes Dop, a kind of informally distilled liquor that would stack up against the strongest moonshine ever made in the southern states of the USA.

Keimoes is now part of the popular Kokerboom Food & Wine Route that takes in Upington, Kanoneiland, Riemvasmaak, the Augrabies Falls and Kakamas as well. Visitors wanting to experience this route need to set aside at least a week of travelling time – there’s just too much to see and enjoy along the way.

Every few years, the Orange River floods from rains upstream. At times like these, Keimoes is besieged by people coming to see the rising waters.

Despite the fact that the livelihoods of many of the seasonal fruit workers are in dire jeopardy at this time, a carnival atmosphere reigns. Kids play in the side-spills and canals, chasing crabs and posing for the ‘flood tourists’.

Away from the river, the Keimoes area is also the heart of the Outback of South Africa, a magnificent rockscape of mountains and quiver trees.

More than 115 years ago, pirates used to operate all along the Orange River, causing devastation to farmers and travellers alike. Sir Thomas Upington, Attorney-General of the Cape, took on the river pirates and caught their leader, Klaas Lucas. Legend has it that it was Lucas who named Keimoes, which means ‘mouse nest’ in Koranna.

And, for the capture of Lucas, they named the principal town of the area after Sir Thomas: Upington.

The Prime Minister of the Cape at the time also got his name in lights, courtesy of the river pirates. His name was Gordon Sprigg, and the whole district was called Gordonia…

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