Fertile farmlands flank the roads almost everywhere in Patensie, leaving one with a restful feeling of wholesome goodness. This small town, near Humansdorp in the plentiful Gamtoos River Valley, centres on its citrus-farming community.
At certain times of the year, the air is fragrant with orange blossoms due to the orchards surrounding the town, and visitors can opt for some recreational orange-picking in season. Potatoes, tobacco and other vegetables are among Patensie’s other successful crops and for this reason it is sometimes called the breadbasket or the pantry of the Eastern Cape.
Purple jacarandas line the roads in summer and little gardens are planted on some of the street corners. The unpretentious prettiness of the farmlands is complemented by the low green hills, wide open skies and typically relaxed mood of the Eastern Cape. Patensie’s other claim to fame is its position at the eastern gateway of the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve (the Port Elizabeth side).
If you find yourself in Patensie after travelling the length of the reserve from Willowmore, you can give your 4x4 a hug and a drink of diesel at the Gamtoos Tobacco Co-op (Gamtoos Tabak). There is also a Caltex near the station.
There are plenty of shops, ATMs, a few lovely farms stalls and coffee shops along the R331, as well as self-catering, bed-and-breakfast, backpacker, game-farm and campsite accommodation, and the wonderful Tia Ghee Tent Camp.
The surfing meccas of Jeffreys Bay and St Francis Bay are within 50 kilometres and the Port Elizabeth airport is 110 kilometres away. Quaint, convenient, settled and comfortable, Patensie is a warm and welcoming place to visit.
Look out for
Tolbos Country Shop and Restaurant on the R331 is an official tourist Information centre.
Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve - a remote, hidden landscape with natural springs, which preserves incredible biodiversity and San rock art sites, 168 recorded bird species and 15 freshwater fish species. If exploring the reserve from the Patensie side, a 4x4 is essential, especially between Combrink's Pass and Sandvlakte, and the gravely, crenulated terrain, traversed by streams and exquisite hardy wilderness is a 4x4 owner’s dream come true. Call beforehand for updates on road conditions. Self-catering chalets, huts, camping and caravan sites are distributed throughout the park.
Rock formations - Cockscomb Mountain looms alongside Patensie. En route from Patensie to Baviaanskloof, stop and look back - Queen Victoria’s bust (more accurately, her profile) appears in the conglomerate cliffs along the Gamtoos River (it can be seen only from the west). The Kouga Dam supplies Port Elizabeth with most of its water and is a short detour from this route.
Groendal Nature Reserve has rugged terrain, streams and vast ravines, encompassed by the Groot Winterhoek Mountain range. Wonderful hikes are to be had.
Mountain-biking - It is a difficult 180-kilometre ride through the Baviaanskloof but it is utterly beautiful and remote riding. Baviaans Mega Mountain Bike Tour is four to five days cycling a crazy 345 kilometres and starts and ends in Patensie.
In 2002, Hankey became the final resting place of Sarah Baartman, a Khoisan woman exhibited in Europe as an example of racial difference. Preserved parts of her body were displayed in Paris's Musée de l'Homme until 1974. Hankey is the oldest town in the valley and has the largest Sun Dial in the southern hemisphere – 36,4 metres in diameter. Loerie hosts the Naartjie Festival in September.
Elands River Valley – 52 kilometres from central Port Elizabeth, Elands River Valley offers various eco-friendly accommodation camps and other activities.