The mission station communities of Zoar and Amalienstein lie on the R62 at the entrance to one of the most astoundingly beautiful mountain passes in South Africa: the Sewe Weeks Poort.
In the 18th Century, the pass was used by brandy smugglers heading for the hinterland and keen to avoid the revenue officers out for their slice. Today, it’s a quieter place where eagles hunt dassies, tourists admire the folded mountains and locals go to gather firewood for the long Karoo nights.
The stream that flows out of the Seven Weeks Poort feeds Zoar and Amalienstein, where the elegant mission churches still stand proud and welcoming.
Here, you don’t say either ‘Zoar’ or ‘Amalienstein’. It’s always ‘Zoar and Amalienstein’. That’s because way back in time, the property was purchased by the Berlin Mission Society on behalf of the Zoar Mission community. The station was named after the benefactor, Frau Amalie Von Stein. Hence ‘Zoar and Amalienstein’.
The local community is mostly poor, but attempts are being made to bring the people of Zoar and Amalienstein into the Little Karoo tourism grid. The area has the advantage of the nearby Swartberg range, in particular the Sewe Weeks Poort and all its charms.
Some say it has its name because it once took brandy smuglers, travellers and lawmen seven weeks to cross the mountains here, but in reality the ‘poort’ is named after a missionary called Reverend Zerwick. The pass, once built, was soon regarded as one of the ‘seven wonders’ of the old Cape Colony.
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