Karoo Kos

When my Instagram pal Karen McEwan of True Karoo Trading (and festival organiser supreme) invited me to come to the Karoo Food Festival to talk about weeds, I hesitated.  It is so far, I thought. That’s true, it is far, but also a fabulous opportunity for a little foodie road trip.  What if there are no weeds there, I wondered? I needed a little adventure. I took a chance. I said yes.

Clive Lawrence is my favourite Karoo poet.  The week I headed off was the first anniversary of his death. His poem Karoo Journey from his book Small Surprises from the Great Karoo set me on my way.

Hurtling on tarmac in this vast place of stone and sky

That fixate vision and thought, it’s easy to miss

The tiny bloom that jives among forbidding rocks,

A slim snake drawing it’s delicate line in the sand,

The lofty frown of a kudu bull posing on a bult,

The keen gaze of bat-eared foxes poised to cross,

A lone “lea’ me alone” tortoise like a travelling rock,

Wind-driven pumps prattling water sunlight clean,

The ramshackle rooster, roistering in the sun.

These surprises are conjured for those

Willing to swing the wheel at a district road,

Feel the rumble of grit under rubber,

Open a window… and breathe some dust.

Clive Lawrence

I believe road trips should start early in the morning. When goats are clustered in patches of early sun and shiny school kids are walking to class with wide smiles. The expressions of individuality in the neat uniforms always delight me – ties knotted long so that the end peeps from below a jumper, trousers rolled up to reveal funky socks and some short, short skirts. Small people clutch big sister’s hands as they wait for the Lollipop Ladies in the middle of nowhere, to help them cross.  I hope the youngsters look up sometimes and admire the views that tourists drive for miles to enjoy.  

Eastern Cape

This province is so beautiful, with such fabulous roads, good signage and friendly people. I spotted blue cranes and vultures on the road into Matatiele where I stopped for tea.     

Next stop was Mount Fletcher at the info centre/cultural museum/tour, hike & homestay headquarters/coffee stop/fascinating garden that Thabathani Tshaka and Phindile Sobhuza run.   This is entirely self-funded since any municipal support disintegrated over a decade ago – they are doing their best to get a tourism vibe going in the area.  Effervescent, knowledgeable and creative – what a team!  “For many years, we have put R5 on top of another R5 and then our dreams come in the end,” Phindile tells me.

I adored their garden created from scavenged scraps, the quirky decor, heartfelt messages, Oscar Mthembu’s carved rocks and their irrepressible enthusiasm.  Time constraints meant I couldn’t sleep over as I had hoped, but it is worth a trip on its own. Look up Tshaka Rock Art Tours & other Adventures  and plan an adventure in the beautiful mountains around the town.

Phindile is also a fashion designer. Her embroidered kids’ t-shirts are adorable.  She gave me a pair of sandals she had made. Thank you to my friend Kim for the pedicure present to set me on my way, which made the photo prettier than it might have been.

What’s not to love about small towns? People smoking in the sunshine or calmly sweeping their crumbling stoeps, young men leaning on cars to catch up on the night before, piles and piles of cabbages on pavements and long, slumped queues to collect the social grant (come on B.I.G. – we need you now!). There is a gentle energy as bicycles lean on railings and women with head scarves stand tall.

Ugie

One hundred years ago, Spanish flu orphaned many children in this district. Deja vu?  The beautiful building they lived in is now Clarendon House – a perfect place to sleep over.  Each room is individually decorated with a lifetime’s collection of furniture.  The charming owner, and avid gardener, Chris, respectfully shared tales of its history.

The town is clearly cared for with roads being freshly paved and little litter. The clock in the church tower chimes the correct time and is lit from within at night, the The Cock and The Cat serves jolly good food and the tavern over the road was quiet by 7pm.  A fat white rooster slept on the outside stairs to my room and greeted the morning with glee.

Have I mentioned how fabulous the Eastern Cape roads are?  Not only is local government paying a lot of attention to them, but locals appear to have adopted the bus shelters. These are decorated with messages imploring one to watch out for stray animals, celebrate fallen heroes, directions to special places and the ubiquitous ‘speed kills’.  All along the wonderful way there are picnic spots, well-tended lay byes where one can stop and smell the fragrant bossies for a bit.

It rained on me in Cacadu.   I peered over hedges into gardens filled with abandoned cars and a Mandela statue, admired rusty roofs on old churches, smiled at the endless white bakkies parked on the verges and marvelled at the pop of happiness a rainbow umbrella brought to a damp street.  Despite looking dishevelled at the edges (and sometimes in the middle), small towns are buzzing with activity and trade. 

Komani is always a surprise. I never expect a big bustling town like this no matter how many times I drive through. It is a good spot to get petrol and stretch your legs and it looks to be thriving.

Tea in Tarkastad sounded like a good idea – and it was!  I came across The Story  in the main street (which is being freshly paved).  There I met a lovely ex-stray dog (now adopted by the restaurant), nostalgically ordered a custard slice which I couldn’t finish, and foraged in their garden for weeds. Anele and Lisa were rather surprised, but gamely nibbled purslane, mallow, gallant soldier and amaranth before I set off on my way.

Cradock

There are many places to stay in Cradock, but why would one choose anywhere but Die Tuishuise?   These simple artisan cottages strung along Mark Street, were rescued by Sandra Antrobus in the 1980’s as they were disintegrating fast and in danger of demolition.  Her vision, style and courage has created a national landmark and preserved a slice of settler history. Beautifully decorated, with tiny gardens tucked into courtyards, they are superbly comfortable and quiet.  I received the warmest possible welcome from the staff at Victoria Manor and Lisa Ker and probably squealed a little too loudly when shown to my quarters.  Karoo generosity

I was beyond excited to be staying in the cottage named for Etienne van Heerden (a renowned writer from this area).  Some of his books had been thoughtfully placed in the hallway bookcase and I enjoyed quiet time reading over the next few days.  The afternoon was spent foraging for supper (scrumptious mallow – kiesieblaar) and the early sun-drenched evening sitting on the stoep greeting passers-by in my dreadful Afrikaans and even worse Xhosa.

In the morning I discovered that Mark Street is lined with pear trees dripping with fruit. Breakfast sorted. I wandered through the streets and learnt a whole lot about Olive Schreiner at the beautifully presented Schreiner House museum recognising her significance as a writer, feminist and champion of human rights.  The museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Cradock where she lived in the 1860s.  Her connection to the land she lived in was immense, as was her contribution to South African literature and politics. I am pleased she is buried beside her dog on a hill overlooking the town.  Also at Schreiner House is a super exhibition depicting 200 000 years of history – from rock formations and San people to the Cradock Four.

I walked along famous Bree Street and into heroic JA Calata Street (which curves to echo the line of the Fish River) to True Living for lunch.  What a delight to find a cool, calm courtyard just off this busy road.  Toasties made with proper bread and real cheese are my favourite. The bread is baked right here, and the cheese is from De Pekelaar.  Washed down with homemade lemonade (Oupa’s recipe).  I carried roostekoek, sundried olives and fresh eggs home to find a different patch of sun to read some more.

The moon was up, the sun was down. A perfect Karoo evening for the street market right outside my door. No edible veggies in sight (besides the big old pumpkins), so I made do with Car Park John ale served by Karoo Brew and Afrikanis rum, infused with botanicals, for supper. All accompanied by enchanting stories of who, why and where – and good music from the back of a big lorry parked in the street.

It was chilly when I set off to meet those who had signed up for my Weed Walk in the morning.  Despite my nervousness that there would be no weeds in the Karoo, the area behind the Cradock Cricket Club was full of edible weeds. We found all the usuals – ribwort (much loved by sheep), lambs quarters (not eaten by lambs), wild lettuce, clover, dandelion, black jack and dock.  Popping gritty leaves into my mouth was a new experience – Karoo dust is everywhere.  One participant explained that animals in the Karoo don’t live as long as those in KZN because chewing sand wears their teeth down.

I spent a happy hour at the Barbara Weitz workshop learning about how she incorporates wild herbs into her cooking.  I was pleased to meet her ahead of my Nieu-Bethesda excursion as I was so looking forward to eating at her restaurant.

Then off to the Market to find some food to take with me as I travel beyond Cradock. I found handmade pasta made with hand milled flour that incorporates mallow, dandelion and sow thistle, some very delicious cheese and lots of pomegrantes.  For lunch jalapeño chillies, stuffed and deep fried.  The only greens to be seen were those the enthusiastic foragers on my walk picked. Around here chicken appears to be considered a vegetable. I was very happy to be able to winkle out green food in shady corners (the graveyard was a good spot) or else I would be living on roosterkoek. I also met famous foodie Tony Jackman – cooking up chicken (aka veggie) sosaties.

Enjoy all the fabulous photos of this special Karoo Market here.

In the afternoon I headed to the top of the hill where the Cradock 4 are honoured. The monument wasn’t actually open, but the kind security guard let me in. I had the whole place to myself. It was incredibly peaceful, with wonderful views of the surrounding hills. The monument tells the story of the impact these men (and a strong community) had in Cradock, with reverence.  I did not know that Cradock became a model for the organisation of the UDF, that the longest school boycott took place here, or that Cradora had presented such a formidable resistance to apartheid.

Cleverly, the monument of the Cradock 4 is depicted as the 4 Pillars of The Struggle.

  • Underground struggle
  • United mass action
  • Armed struggle
  • International solidarity

Orange Grove Farm

Tracey Michau is a bit of a legend up our way – particularly for the Self Sufficiency & Sustainable Living (South Africa) Facebook group she set up – she shares such useful information and inspires others to keep going along this path.  I was honoured to be invited to Sunday lunch, on her farm just on the edge of Cradock.   She filled me with delicious food (almost all home grown) and sent me on my way with bags groaning with just-picked pomegranates, multicoloured eggs, fresh camembert, pink peppercorns, and gifts for Midlands friends.   When Tracey has restored a cottage and turned a tractor shed into some good accommodation, I recommend you go and stay at Orange Grove for a completely authentic Karoo experience.

The Karoo generosity is something else!  Earlier Lisa Ker insisted on giving me a beautiful road trip guide to the Karoo, Tony Jackman gave me a copy of his gorgeous cookbook and Karen McEwan offered me her Fairfield cottage in Graaff-Reinet for a few days.  Oh, and a fellow Karoo Food Festival attendee left local apples on my stoep before breakfast! I cannot believe my luck at meeting all these lovely people this weekend.

Graaff-Reinet

Often the best adventures happen when things don’t go to plan. A puncture meant I had to head into town this morning for repairs.  Graaff Reinet is an insanely neat and tidy town stuffed with heritage buildings.  The tyre repair shop is in Church Street is just along from the very rather splendid Victorian Gothic Dutch Reformed Church. “Come back in an hour” they said, I returned many hours later.

First, I popped into the Info office where Khanyi Mbayile helpfully offered me all sorts of museums to visit – none took my fancy except the Old Library Museum right at the Info centre.  I was astonished and thrilled that the first exhibit was all about fracking, and the dangers thereof!

Then a celebration of the extinct San culture, which included delicate loin cloths and bracelets made of ostrich shell beads. It is hard to believe that these people were hunted for sport in the surrounding hills.

Next came a fascinating exhibit on slavery. Oh my. I had no idea that the Eastern Cape was slave central in the 17th century.  The cruel punishments inflicted for minor misdemeanours, astonished me. Many children born to the slave women had European fathers, so the mixed race was born in the region. Slavery was abolished in 1838 (not very long ago).

Then, to add insult to injury, Apartheid forcibly removed Coloured families living contentedly in town to the barren township Kroonvale. Haunting personal stories tell of the pain, humiliation and financial hardship this caused.

The final exhibition told the story of Robert Sobukwe’s life. I didn’t know he was born in Graaff Reinet. Wonderful photographs and moving text related his exceptional work. Extracts from a letter he wrote to his wife while in prison had me in tears.   

I crossed Church Street to the Imibala Gallery  where a glorious exhibition by Michelle Nigrini was hung. This gallery is part of the posh Drostdy Hotel which I walked through to see the original slave bell.  I was far more excited by the fallen Harpephyllum caffum fruit on the edges of their neat driveway! I filled my pockets. I did like their smart grapevine tunnel.

Graaff-Reinet sits snugly in the horseshoe bend of the Sundays River. It is a lovely town if you are a tourist, but I do wonder how much effort is put into uMasizakhe and Kroonvale – the townships out on the plains?  Considering that the generational trauma and horrific cellular memory inherited by the current inhabitants must be immense, it is incredible that it even functions at all. 

Camdeboo

While it would have been great to spot an aardvark or black-footed cat, I was delighted at all the Eastern Cape crag lizards scuttling across the rocks and pleased to see a few baboons too.  A quiet walk in the almost 20 000ha Camdeboo Nature Reserve revealed tiny floral treasures among the fragrant Karoo bossies and rocks.  

The Valley of Desolation is indeed a spectacle.  Piled dolerite columns against the backdrop of the endless plains illustrate 230 millions of years of erosive forces.  The views over the ’round’ town bounded by the Sundays River give you a lovely perspective, and looking north across the expansive Camdeboo Plains makes one feel very little.  I didn’t stay late enough to watch the full moon rise but can imagine how incredible that must be.

The joy of not needing to be anywhere is a hurry is that when wild cactus man Johan pointed to an upturned bucket and invited me to sit, I did.  Obesa succulent nursery, and the eccentric lawyer who has been growing incredible plants from seed (without water) for 50 years, is pretty famous.  How fabulous to sit amongst the spikey collections and discuss the merits of vegetarianism, institutional racism, why women are better than men, politics, local history and why some things never change.

Kos

My favourite Karoo food had to be soutslaai.  I only ever see this on Instagram posts from foragers down South, so was really delighted to find it in abundance and eat it often.  Mallow was another favourite – we get it in the Midlands, but not so prolifically.  Big juicy pomegranates are, of course, wonderful, along with other fruit I found – pears, wild plums, kei apple and karoo num-num.  I adored the cheeses from Langbaken in Willisten and farm fresh gifts of eggs and tomatoes. Along with my travelling staples of a can of tomatoes and one of chickpeas, a packet of linguine and a box of crackers, I ate exceptionally well. Foraging in the nooks behind buildings, the graveyards, vegetable gardens and river banks.  There is free food everywhere!

Nieu-Bethesda

Often people go to Nieu-Bethesda only to see The Owl House  created by Helen Martins when she lived there in from 1950 to 1976.  I was fortunate to spend part of the afternoon alone in The Camel Yard, just soaking it all in. The Owl House is utterly magical, we all know that. 

It would be sad to miss out on the other treasures that lurk along the dusty village roads, so head beyond the Owl House. 

OWL CALL

I heard an owl call,

But not my name,

Unless he thought,

This fellow’s a hoot.

Clive Lawrence 

It seems to me that the very best of humanity is housed in these dainty cottages and ramshackle barns – so much creativity, caring and passion within a community of just 1400. If you are ever in the area do visit. Actually, make a special trip.  I particularly loved all the dogs that wander freely, mostly accompanied by humans. Mornings, evenings, middays – I followed my nose and the hand drawn town map.

Do not miss the bookshop.  Dustcovers  is packed with treasures – with a help yourself library outside. The lovely owner, Victoria, also helps dogs in need, organises sterilisation clinics in the village for those who can’t afford veterinary treatment and arranged donations of dog food during then difficult Covid time.

Do not miss Gerald, Naasly and Sharon at the amazing Bethesda Art Centre  which hosts the Bushman Heritage Museum. /Xam Bushmen lived in these hills for thousands of years before being relentlessly murdered by European settlers.  This left communities torn from their roots – their history, their land and their language. The mission of the centre is to reintroduce the mythology of the /Xam to local descendants and foster personal development through the arts. The embroidered quilts are extraordinary – telling of the myths of creation (The Milky Way was flung into being by a girl in the first explosion of her fertility) and of our connectedness to all of Nature.  Gerald Mei accompanied me as I explored the space. “Now we are proud to say we are Bushmen. Our ancestors were connected to all living things and I am starting to feel that too.”

Do not miss the graveyard with simple stone slabs watched over by the Compassberg, or the labyrinth in Church Street near the edge of the village. Do not miss Justin’s handmade bread at Die Waenhuis Bakery , or the Blue Cupboard on the Stoep honesty shop.

Do not miss the Kitching Fossil Centre and a tour with Andries. The 300-million-year-old fossil beds are in the dry riverbed right in town, behind the pub.  I loved the recommendations on How to Become a Fossil:  Die in a place where you will get buried; Avoid being eaten…  James Kitching, one of the world’s leading palaeontologists grew up in Nieu Bethesda.  Andries demonstrated the painstaking task of cleaning a fossil using a dentist’s drill.

Do not miss Die Winkel – the best ever village shop manned by Bangladeshis Saju and Majan, or the Karoo Ale at the Sneeuberg Brewery across the swing bridge. Actually, spend at least a week to soak it all in. 

While waiting to go foraging with local herb man Neville Sweirs, I got chatting to Gershwin Piers. After singing Happy Birthday in my best voice because it was his birthday, I couldn’t resist the cement sculpture of an aardvark he was selling.  Neville was no where to be found, but fellow stall holders had seen him heading to ‘die bos’. I decided to follow in the hope of catching up with him somewhere along the water furrow that brings water from the Gats River to the village.  The Diepkloof valley was fascinating and, although I didn’t find Neville, I kept walking.  After an hour or so I heard whistling and Gershwin appeared – he had got worried when I was gone for so long and had come to check up on me!  

Eventually I did bump into Neville and we had an animated walk together stopping to sniff and chat every few minutes.  Neville is a proud Boesman and acquired his plant knowledge from his grandfather. He knows the valley like the back of his hand, having explored every crevice over the past 50 years. A medicine chest right here!  Neville does not believe in doctors (having cured himself of TB) and shared his knowledge with great enthusiasm. I loved the interesting names – stinkkruid, kaatjie-drieblaar / akadispoort, bliksembos and kruidjie-roer-my-nie.  I went home with a bunch of bitter herbs, instructions to make myself tea and a lovely new friend.

A cold damp day in Nieu- Bethesda was perfect for a walk in the hills.

GARDEN TALK

This plant, what’s it’s name?

I don’t know.

Neither does it.

It blooms just the same.

Clive Lawrence

I stayed an extra day in Nieu-Bethesda especially so that I could eat at Stirlings at The Ibis Lounge. Barbara Weitz is the charming wizard who creates dishes inspired by the Karoo, using local, season ingredients and foraging in the hills and gullies around the village to surprise diners with intriguing flavours.  She even grinds her own flour at the Old Watermill erected in 1860 on the other side of the river. 

A wild herb tea to get digestive juices flowing starts the meal.  As the day was jolly cold, Barbara whisked up a delicious curry of lentils and chickpeas served with kale ‘poppadums’, local wheat, multicoloured chillies and grape chutney. Perfectly spiced and exceptional tasty.

I went back for supper. Barbara Weitz wove indigenous herbs and fruit with familiar vegetables to create an unforgettable six course meal. 

  • Beetroot soup with aniseed mosbolletjie and yoghurt fennel mousse, paired perfectly with a gin and tonic.
  • Courgette parcel filled with home grown oyster mushrooms and handmade turmeric pasta.  Smoked red pepper, nasturtium and foraged pink pepper sauce.
  • Sweet potato poached in bloubos fruit pulp. Bloubos seeds roasted make a creamy sauce. A glass of red wine went down well with this.
  • Maizemeal case filled with split peas and dahl cooked with wildeals, wild mint and roasted butternut from the garden outside.
  • Pannacotta made with a smoky, tannin rich veldtee and topped with pomegranate seeds.
  • Langbaken Brie with boerejongens and sourdough bread made from wheat that Barbara mills herself at the Water Mill in the village.

Bonus was the chatty barman, Attie, who remembered Clive Lawrence from the days he used to live and create in Nieu-Bethesda. Wherever you are in South Africa – Stirlings at The Ibis Lounge is worth the drive.

SNAIL BRAAI

Stately Ibis, stiff legged, slowly

Stalks his prey with rapier beak.

The sluggish and lowly

Cannot know he’s on their trail,

So soft his tread: a sudden jab

Kebabs a sun-braai’d snail

Clive Lawrence

On my way out of town, I stopped to say cheerio to my new friends at the morning market on Martin Street. I bought the prettiest pre-loved blouse.

De Rust

The drive to De Rust through Aberdeen and Willowmore was pleasant.  Good roads, open veld, mountains, magic.   The dry riverbeds have bold signs proclaiming their names – probably trying to will them into flowing. Stopped in picturesque De Rust village to stock up on delectable local goodies (almonds, pomegranate syrup, olive oil).  Sadly, the ostrich concentration camp which I first encountered on the edge of town many years ago was still there.

When Kathryn Eybers of Numbi Valley (another Instagram friend) heard that I was coming in this general direction, she asked if I might head a bit further to stay with her and her partner Ross, to do a few weed walks here too. An irresistible offer. 

Numbi Valley Permaculture Farm  is admired far and wide as an example of off-grid, sustainable living.  I stayed in the cob yoga studio they had built themselves. There is a lovely cottage for guests to book – with a natural pool to swim in, glorious views and abundant veggie gardens from which to feast.  If you go, you really should book an evening around the pizza oven, where conversation is real and the stars are like bees. Numbi Valley is absolutely calm, completely dark at night and exceptionally quiet (except for the birds and insects), making Nieu-Bethesda feel like a busy metropolis in comparison.

At first glance, the veld might not look particularly interesting. However, a slow wander will reveal the wonders that thrive in this hot, dry place.  I was pleased to find Carissa haematocarpa fruit to nibble on and Kei Apple too, lots of brakslaai, mesembryanthemums for salad and plenty of spekboom trees. I watched tiny mice dashing between bossies and lizards sunning nonchalantly on the rocks. 

Oh, the weed walk and talk… It was fun, with people coming from Oudtshoorn and Plettenberg Bay to discover what delicious food lurks on the edges of their gardens. One woman was determined that she would divide her home garden in two from now on – her husband could keep his side neat, weeded and mowed if he liked, but her side was going to be natural – full of free food, butterflies and bees.

The next morning, I had the special pleasure of visiting Spensplaas.  This community garden was set up on a friendly farmer’s space when Covid hit and many people in the community lost their jobs. Those who can afford to buy veggies are part of a CSA, pay a monthly fee and can pop in and pick whatever they want, whenever they like.  I met a couple living nearby who said their health had improved dramatically in the few months that they had been harvesting fresh food daily.  Volunteers from the surrounding community come as often as they like and harvest organic, seasonal food in return for their labour.  Geraldine Jacobs is head gardener at the moment and thoroughly enjoying her new occupation. Previously she processed olives on a big farm nearby.

While the abundant and productive garden is well maintained, I did manage to find some weeds to add to the usual staples.  ‘My mind is blown’ said a young chef, now determined to incorporate some unusual ingredients into her cooking, Belinda Owen from Blomnek added ‘Ons het baie geleer.’ I had a lot of fun too, rabbiting on about amazing amaranthus, and mistaking dubbeltjie, (devil’s thorn aka Emex australis) for dock. I found the leaves perfectly pleasant (much to the horror of those in my company). Apparently when the plant is young and full of yellow flowers, lambs love nibbling them.  nine million Karoo sheep can’t be wrong.

If you have never visited, next time you are in the Western Cape, a few days at Numbi Valley, is highly recommended. Kath and Ross have created something exceptional, with love, authenticity and a deep connection to the Earth.

A brightly coloured dawn, a slow drive through majestic Meiringspoort, beautiful light and breakfast at the delightfully quirky Silwerkaroo Padstal.

For lunch I stopped outside Richmond at the famous Karoo Padstal. A delicious veggie tart with homemade lemonade under the gumtrees.  The shop is filled with irresistible Karoo goodies too.

Richmond

Gosh.  Richmond is not what it seems.  Modern Arts Projects (MAPSA) has changed this dorp forever.  An incredible, utterly incredible, collection of art and seriously stylish accommodation. 

Art collector and entrepreneur Harrie Siertsema bought the derelict building (and neighbouring ones) after passing through the town years ago, and with Berlin-based artist and curator Abrie Fourie, imagined MAPSA.  In the courtyard is an impressive brick wall built from locally-crafted alphabet bricks spelling words that are either Afrikaans or English – with vastly different meanings in each language – stout/stout, guns/guns, burger/burger.  It is clever and interesting. Inside the gallery is an exceptional collection. All a bit much to take in in an hour.  My favourites included the animal skulls with ceramics, crochet and found objects by Toni Pretorius; a collection of potato bags; White Wagons by Pipa Skotnes, Leaving by Sarel Petrus; and Happy Dlame’s Immigrants – using the khumbelekhaya or Ghana Must Go bags seen everywhere on our streets.  Then there is also the intriguing Black Room around the block. “Navigate via the stars on the outer rim of the black hole, Move with purpose, body senses alert, time, a dance between the objects, In the dark”.

As the sun stretched towards the horizon I wandered around the streets, popped into the yarn shop, smiled at kids scooting around on their bikes or playing games on the pavements, and discovered artworks on odd corners.  The light was just wonderful.

Free State (not the Karoo)

It’s a long smooth drive from the silver Karoo to the golden Free State where autumn has settled.  I’d never been to Senekal before.  The petrol attendant greeted me with a ‘dumela mê’ rather than ‘môre tannie’, so I felt I was home already! 

AUTUMN

Leaves red as coal

Rumba down through chill

Burning like older women who still

Have fire in their souls.

Clive Lawrence

After waking in Fouriesburg to dawn across the Malutis, I skirted Clarens and headed through Golden Gate. I wished I could have stopped for a snack at Di Bus Stop – it looked fun – but I was too early. To celebrate arriving back in KwaZulu-Natal, I bought a little mud warthog from Sipho Hlubi on the side of the road, then pulled in at the Border Cafe/Phatt Chef on top of Oliviershoek Pass. Their ‘world famous scones’ were awful.  Then I swerved around potholes for a while before joining the magnificently maintained N3 motorway and meandered home.

If you have enjoyed this read, you might also enjoy our previous trips to the area: Delicious Karoo and Bedford

11 Comments Add yours

  1. naturebackin says:

    I am revisiting this post as there is so much to take in and savour. I have travelled much of this route and visited many of the same places but I really appreciate how you immerse yourself so much in the places you visit. I love your photos too. I enjoyed travelling virtually with you during these constrained times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nola le Roux says:

    I loved all the details you gave in your story. My best thing I think is the way the nature of the Karoo,your style of writing and Clive Lawrence’s poems all share a similar bright,stark, innocent, open quality. Enjoyed this a lot!

    Like

    1. Thank you Nola, I really appreciate your insightful comments.

      Like

  3. Brilliant story and photos, Nikki – sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Melanie!

      Like

  4. Kath says:

    Thank you for this Nikki…makes me keen to travel, and to visit Barbara a bit north of us xxx And thank you for your spontaneity!! We LOVED having you stay at Numbi, and so appreciate your enthusiasm for spensplaas

    Like

    1. Yay! Do visit Barbara. And do ask Neville to take you on a walk in the hills. You can get there in one day – i know. xxx

      Like

  5. Erica says:

    What a wonderful journey! The deserts of Africa hold a special charm in the dough mix of dust, heat, and slow pace. You took me back to this place instantly.
    Thank you Nikki

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So pleased to hear that Erica. Certainly a special place on our planet. x

      Like

  6. Christeen says:

    A journey of joy and discovery, loved reading it again as a complete story! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Christeen for being with me in spirit. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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