The charming little village known as Elim, dominated by white-washed fishermen’s cottages and fig trees, is one of the few surviving South African mission stations, founded in 1824 as the third Moravian mission station in the Cape, that today lies halfway on the dirt road between Bredasdorp and Gansbaai, a wonderfully conserved little historical town.
Elim is worth a visit for its neat rows of cottages alone. Most of them date back to the 19th century, made of mud-brick, plastered with lime plaster made of sea shells and thatched with restio grass, although there are also more modern renditions with brightly painted walls and corrugated iron roofs.
Elim, which means ‘place of God’, might lie in the middle of a particularly sparsely populated area, but it has recently been firmly placed on the wine map (see: Cape Wine Routes). Four wine producing partners in the Elim ward - Black Oystercatcher, the Berrio, Zoetendal and First Sighting - have joined forces to create the Elim Winegrowers reminiscent of the self-sustaining farming community of Elim that used to supply farm goods to surrounding settlements.
The proximity to two oceans places Elim in an interesting geographical location. A number of interesting climatic factors, such as the cool south west and south easterly winds that restrict upward growth leaving the vine to focus its energy instead on a more concentrated fruit, affect the wines that are being excitedly monitored by the international wine community.
The biggest wooden wheel at any water mill in the country is in Elim, as well as the only monument ever erected to celebrate the emancipation of slaves, and the church, which dominates the village, lie on the axis of the main road. All are worth a visit.