The first time legendary Boer guerrilla commander, Denys Reitz, arrived in Leliefontein, a settlement deep in the Kamiesberg of Namaqualand, he found utter devastation.
It was New Year’s Eve, 1902, and Reitz was part of General Jan Smuts’ attack force sweeping through the Cape en route to Springbok. The various columns were to meet at the Leliefontein Mission Station, established in 1816 by the Methodist leader Barnabas Shaw.
“We found the place sacked and gutted, and, among the rocks beyond the burned houses, lay twenty or thirty dead Hottentots, still clutching their antiquated muzzle-loaders,” says Reitz in his landmark Anglo-Boer War book, Commando.
They had been massacred by another Boer commander, Manie Maritz, in retaliation for an attack on his unit the day before. Reitz and Smuts were appalled by the brutality of the assault.
Leliefontein survived the war, however, and today it is one of Namaqualand’s secret seasonal hideaways. If you go to ‘see the flowers’, Leliefontein is on the insider’s route you’ll want to take. In springtime, these hills around Leliefontein are a sight to be behold.
The little hamlet lies just off the road between Kamieskroon and Garies. You have to look sharp to find the turn-off, but there’s a battered sign up there in the mist somewhere. Sadly, it sometimes falls down and travellers wander off without finding the place.
But once you get there, you’ll come upon a flourishing little tourism business run by Vera Engelbrecht and her team of local ladies. They will offer you food of origin and an unforgettable overnight stay in one of the reed matjieshuise specially built for visitors.
This is an excerpt from Karoo Keepsakes II – The Journeys Continue, by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit (MLM Publishers, 2013).
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