Geography and History
Leeu Gamka began as a pleasant outspan on the Karoo plains where travellers paused to rest and refresh. It was a favoured spot because there was drinkable water.
Leeu Gamka is located where the Leeu River enters the Gamka River; both rivers are intermittent in this region. "Leeu" and "Gamka" both mean "Lion", in Afrikaans and ǀXam respectively.
The town lies at an elevation of around 550 metres (1,800 ft), in the Southern Karoo; to the North are the Nuweveld Mountains, and to the South the Swartberge. It is situated on the N1 national road and the Cape Town–Kimberley railway, between Laingsburg and Beaufort West; the travel distance from Cape Town is 387 kilometres (240 mi) by road and 465 kilometres (289 mi) by rail. From Leeu-Gamka the R353 road runs north-west to Fraserburg and Williston.
First been named Bitter Water by road builders Thomas and Andrew Geddes Bain, because the underground water is hydrogenous (brack), it soon became the choice stop of adventurers, explorers, missionaries, settlers, "trekboere" (migrant farmers) and even outlaws. They all camped near a grove of indigenous sweet thorn trees where the Leeu and Gamka rivers meet. It was cool and there was grazing.
With the rail came stone station buildings, railway single quarters and a hotel. The final shift in naming came in 1950 when Leeu Gamka was adopted. These are the names of the rivers, and both mean "lion". Early travellers often wrote of lions here.
The discovery of diamonds at Hopetown in 1867 and at Kimberley in 1868, benefited Leeu Gamka as traffic on the road increased vastly. Hoards of fortune hunters camped at Bitter Water as diamond fever gripped locals and foreigners. The discovery of gold in the Transvaal in 1886 brought a fresh rush of fortune hunters to Leeu Gamka's small railway station. In 1880, a telegraph line was laid alongside the railway line and communications with the outside world improved.
When the Anglo Boer War broke out in 1899, troop trains and wounded soldiers almost immediately began passing through Leeu Gamka. The hotel and the railwaymen's single quarters, the picturesque little stone cottages still standing next to the railway line, were used as a hospital and convalescent wing.
In 1901, the British forces built a blockhouse on the banks of the Leeu River. Its purpose was to guard the railway line and the bridge over the river. The ruins of this stone blockhouse can still be seen.
Famous men paused to rest here, among them the Governor of the Cape, Baron Joachim van Plettenberg, explorers Andrew Steadman, James Backhouse,Hendrik Swellengrebel and John Barrow, secretary to Lord MacCartney. Governor Willem Jansens and his aide Paravincini, also ouspanned here and so did Graaff-Reinet’s fleeing Magistrate Maynier. With the coming of the rail in 1879 this spot changed its name to Fraserburg Road and this faster, cleaner method of travel saw many more famous folk stretching their legs on the station platform. Among them were Cecil John Rhodes, Barney Barnato, President Paul Kruger, Lord Alfred Milner and Presidents M T Steyn and Jan Brand from the Free State.
Like most spots in the Central Karoo the hamlet Leeu Gamka has a wealth of stories. The tallest soldier in the British Empire Grenadier Guard Private Schultz died on an ambulance train passing through here during the Anglo-Boer War and had to be buried near the station. Gold was discovered nearby, a hotel was built and a shop across the road. In time the road fell into disuse, so they “roofed” it and it became the hotel lounge.
Leeu Gamka although a small town has a variety of accommodation options available from Guest Houses, Bed and Breakfasts to Self-catering units.
There is a diverse range of activities available in and around this area, including hiking.
There are many restaurants on offer to suit every visitors budget. There is a great selection of restaurants, coffee shops and pubs to choose from!
Leeu Gamka has a thriving business community and provides a wide range of goods and services to its residents as well as surrounding communities.
For more information, please visit www.central-karoo-info.co.za.
|Leeu Gamka Tourism Office Information|
|Telephone:||023 5411 366|
|Fax:||023 5441 788|