The small town of Aliwal North that lies on the border of the Free State and the Eastern Cape is the subject of argument, with both provinces declaring that it falls within their borders, whilst the town feels bound by neither.
The history of the town and its origins began as a tribute to Sir Harry Smith, who named the town after Aliwal in India to commemorate his victory in defeating the Sikhs in 1846. At the time, the designation North was added to the town’s name to distinguish it from the former Aliwal South, now known as Mossel Bay.
The town lies on a strategic ford on the banks of the Orange River, which was once used by the Bushmen and the Voortrekkers. When the railway line from East London reached the area in 1885 the town rapidly developed as a commercial centre for the north-eastern region of the British Colony.
Today, the area hosts a prosperous farming community and is a major contributor of maize, wool, wheat, beef and dairy products. A number of the farming establishments have incorporated B&B and guest lodge accommodation on their properties in order to accommodate tourists and visitors to the region who are lured by one of the town’s most lucrative asset, the hot spring baths and spas.
The discovery of the natural mineral springs in Aliwal North literally catapulted the area into a top tourist destination. The spas, which have high mineral and gas concentrations, are renowned for their curative qualities that are said to assist with symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis. There are numerous hotels and spa resorts built around the natural hot water springs, attracting visitors from all over the country.
Many of the properties in the area date from the Cape Dutch architectural era with the stately homesteads displaying the grandeur of a bygone period. According to recent statistics released by Lightstone there have been a total of 51 property transfers in the area over the last 12 months. The average price paid for freehold property was R527 000 and the average price paid for sectional title property was R489 000. The volume of sales that have taken place in the area is down from the 67 residential property sales concluded in 2010, to 24 property transfers thus far in 2011. There is perhaps a little relief in sight for those who are considering selling property in the area, as the statistics indicate price averages are up in comparison with the figures of 2010 and are consistent with the 2009 figures, which were marginally higher.
All in all, this quiet country hamlet offers scenic walks for those who want to wend their way through the San Bushmen caves that surround the town. The nearby Buffelspruit Nature Reserve or the JAK Strydom Nature Reserve offer riverside picnics, while game drives and fishing are among other attractions that keep tourists coming back.