Here in the Karoo Highlands, it pays to look up and study the stars. You’re in the Sutherland-Calvinia-Williston-Merweville ‘big sky’ country, where the Bushmen were once able to see the moons of Jupiter (the Jovian satellites) with their naked eyes. They called Jupiter the Dawn’s Heart Star.
Merweville (the villagers call it Mirville) lies between the Swart and Nuweveld mountains and can be reached only by driving long distances along dirt roads between Fraserburg, Sutherland and Prince Albert station.
The “Englishman’s Grave” outside Merweville belongs, in fact, to an Australian by the name of Lieutenant Walter Olifant Arnot. Legend has it that Lt Arnot came to fight the Boer, developed sympathy for his foe and fell into a deep depression. He committed suicide in April, 1902. Locals still tend faithfully to the poor man’s gravesite.
It’s so dry out here that movie makers and documentary producers use the town and its surrounds as the location for various desert scenes. In a certain light at a certain time of day, Merweville resembles a Mexican border town. Just add some tequila, a sombrero and the odd adobe hut.
Not far from Merweville are a number of farms offering eco-experiences and open spaces to visitors. Urbanites have bought a number of houses in the town and use them for weekend escapes.
Merweville is where it pays to chat with the locals. Once you’ve had a few on-street conversations, the dusty little town becomes charming and far more interesting than it looked at first glance.
If you fancy a family ride around town on a donkey cart or some fresh oven-baked ‘roosterkoek’ (griddle-baked bread), just as your guest house manager to make the arrangements. You might well end up spending more time in Merweville than you had originally planned.
Find our new e-Book, 101 Karoo Towns HERE.