Most people driving along the N2 between Cape Town and Mossel Bay only slow down while driving through the Overberg town of Riviersonderend because the speed limit drops to 60 km/hour. Riviersonderend, 140 km east of Cape Town, isn’t much more than a farm village with 5 245 (according to the 2011 census) inhabitants. I’m one of those who are guilty of not giving the town any more time than a quick stop for a snack on my way through, but on my last trip to Cape Town I decided to take a couple of minutes out my day and look around. I drove up to a view point behind the town and took in my surroundings, realizing how beautiful the area really is.
So where does the name Riviersonderend (“river without end”) come from? There are two theories.
In 1673 Willem ten Rhyne who was visiting the Cape and came through the area referred to the river, with it’s source in the mountains, as the “sine fine flumen” (“river without end”).
In 1707 Jan Hatogh, a horticulturist employed by the Dutch East India Company and a seasoned traveller, referred to the river as the “Kanna-kan-kann”. It is possible that this word came from the Hessequa (a local Khoi tribe of herdsmen) word “Kamma-kan Kamma” which, roughly translated, means “water, endless water”.
It doesn’t really matter which of these two stories are true, what is certain is that the name refers to the perennial Sonderend River at the foot of the Sonderend mountains. The town was had it’s origines in 1923 when Miss Edith McIntyre sold the farm Tierhoek for 6000 pounds to the church council of the local Dutch reformed Church when the congregation was established.