Sunland - Sunland – A Journey into a hidden valley.
Northwest of the little town of Addo, with the world famous Addo Elephant National Park on its doorstep, you enter the Sundays River Valley. This now world renowned agricultural area owes its existence in no small measure to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick of ‘Jock of the Bushveld ' fame, who established the Sundays River Settlement Company in the early 1920’s with the purpose of enticing in the main, British soldiers returning from the first World War to a depressed Britain. The idea was to encourage these men to come out to the Sunland area, buy a farm and start a productive life.
The efforts of Sir Percy were most successful and many folk single and married arrived and established themselves as farmers or merchants. Many of the descendants of these early pioneers remain in active agriculture in the valley to-day.
The area can be described as semi-arid due to its drought prone history. The Sundays River was originally known by the Khoi as the Kukakamma or ‘grassy water’, emphasizing that despite the dry conditions, the river has created a valley that has always been attractive to man.
One of the early pioneers to the area, a Jacobus Scheepers had the good fortune to have on his property, a dependable spring of pure sweet water. His farm was later purchased by the Moravian Mission and became known as Enon, coming from the biblical word, Aenon meaning spring.
The area saw much conflict in its early history as it was subjected to various Xhosa wars in the 1819’s but later flourished in agriculture......mainly citrus of the highest export quality.
In this valley nestles the mini settlement of Sunland. Perhaps the most dominant architectural landmark is the period built Sunland Primary School. For the rest of the area, farms dominate the landscape but with a tiny shopping area and doctor's surgery. The now defunct Sunland Station is a somewhat forlorn testament to a time gone by.
Perhaps the romance of Sunland is best illustrated by a number of quaint and most attractive accommodation establishments, most of which are part of established citrus farms and are each in their own way, oases of hospitality, great South African cuisine, and tropical bird filled gardens.
Sunland is a slow and easy paced community where it seems everyone cares about everyone and nothing happens without the sky lighting up. From a tourist point of view, Sunland is that perfect contrast between the very nearby Addo Elephant National Park and colonial luxury. One cannot help feeling that any minute Karen von Blixen will stroll by, extolling her sentiments of Africa and her farm.
Just off the main R336 road that connects Sunland and Kirkwood to the north and only about 5 km from the centre of this community, is The Lookout. This viewpoint, set in a high vantage spot overlooks the Sundays River Valley and is breathtaking particularly in the late afternoon. The Lookout was bequeathed to the area by Sir Percy for the pleasure of those who happen by. He is buried here with others members of his family and is a reminder to those who visit, that life is fleeting and fragile, and the beauty that is so much in abundance is there to be enjoyed.
Sunland beckons the traveller with her sheer natural beauty and genuine warm and welcoming hospitality.
Truly a place of physical and spiritual rest, recuperation and general well being.
Conor O'Hagan Ward