A Brief Overview
Emgwenya, formally Waterval Boven, can be found at the top of the escarpment and as its original name suggests above the Elands River Waterfall. The 75m Eland Falls is best seen from viewing platform just outside the town, accessible from the Netherlands-South African Railway Company’s (NZASM) tunnel. This platform gives great views of the stunning escarpment, rich in plant life and bird species.
Established in 1895, as a supply town along the NZASM railway line that took goods from Pretoria to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique, Waterval Boven soon grew into a flourishing town where locomotives would stop for refuelling and repair. It was a thriving community, where shifts never ended but just merged into one and another and tales of raucous New Year celebrations are still told in the local pub.
Only in the Mid-60 did Waterval Boven run out of steam, as the locomotive industry slowed down and the Town had to look for alternative sources of income. Now it is not the railway that draws the crowds but the rocky escarpment, as Emgwenya is heralded as one of the top climbing destinations in Africa, if not the world. With over 700 testing routes, that suit both novice and experienced climbers alike, it is easy to see why so many people are attracted to the town’s “Restaurant – on the edge of the universe!” There are also a number of amazing hikes through the Elands Valley, choose your routes carefully as some are perfect for beginners but others will challenge the fittest of hikers. This is however one of the best ways to see the area surrounding this fabulous town. For those who prefer four feet to two, there are also a number of great horse trails and for the less adventurous there are wonderful trout fishing opportunities too.
For those looking to stretch their minds rather than their bodies, the town is home to a number of National Monuments. These include the beautiful sandstone 5-Arch Bridge and NZASM tunnel, leftovers from a bygone era. For the even more mentally adventurous, take a trip to the StoneCircle Museum and Bistro, where the story of Adam’s Calendar is told. Possibly the oldest man-made monument known to man, some believe this could be the proof needed to challenge both
creationism and Darwinism when answering the age-old human question – where did we come from?
Emgwenya, which means place of the Crocodile, or Waterval Boven as most locals still call it is one of those towns that as soon as you start looking around it you realise you needed to stay for longer. There are so many fascinating buildings, tales, activities and adventures to be had here. So make sure you book your stay for longer than a day!