Crossing the Great Karoo – Jill Liebermann

Nieu-Bethesda0003We’d always travel through the Karoo when my children were young on our yearly pilgrimage to the Cape. We’d load up our mini-bus with all the essentials needed to see us through the long journey from Johannesburg to our seaside destination.

Said ‘essentials’ included hoards of children and their BMX bicycles.

Graaff-Reinet0008We’d arrive in Graaff Reinet towards evening. Six children sitting for ten hours in a minibus is pent-up energy waiting to explode. As we pulled into our motel situated atop a steep hill above the town, that energy burst forth.

They would unleash their bikes, jump onto them and pedal furiously down the hill and into town in a glorious eruption of youthful vigor and joyful freedom. They’d ride through the town, in a parade of BMX’s flying through the streets which were thankfully now quieter in the evening twilight.

Graaff-Reinet0073Some hours later they would return to the Motel Panorama wheeling their bikes back up the hill, weary and spent but exultant. I in the meantime had dispersed of the day’s debris in the mini-van and explored the possibility of a fast food dinner.

This ritual was repeated during our journeys through the Karoo for many years. As the children grew up and went on their own holidays, our journeys to the Cape became more leisurely.

Nieu-Bethesda0086We often stopped in Nieu-Bethesda overnight to bask in the unique atmosphere of a Karoo dorp. On arrival the first time we stayed there, we had not made a reservation and we were told to head for a small coffee shop, (which also sold knitted jerseys) that served as the local b&b letting agent.

Nieu-Bethesda0060We were simply given a key and the directions to a b&b farmhouse in the village. No one else occupied this splendid old Karoo version of a Victorian homestead.

We let ourselves in and made ourselves at home and then set forth fairly early to find a restaurant for dinner. When we found one, we were asked to select our dinner from the menu up front.

Dinner was at  seven pm and at ten minutes to seven there was a knock at the farmhouse door and to our astonishment, in came the restaurant owners with the complete dinner on platters enclosed with  silver domed covers. They had brought the entire dinner to us in the boot of their car. It was piping hot and delicious, and we ate it in the dining room of the house.

Now that’s Karoo hospitality…

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