During the six years that it took to build South Africa’s Gariep Dam (1966 – 1971), the little Eastern Cape settlement of Venterstad became quite a cosmopolitan centre.
In fact, legend has it that during this time you heard as much French and Italian spoken in the streets of Venterstad as you heard English or Afrikaans.
The Frenchmen and Italians may have departed, but they left behind a monumental piece of dam architecture in the form of Gariep Dam, South Africa’s biggest stored water resource.
Venterstad began life back in the mid-1860s as a farmer’s town, with its tuishuise (town houses), shops and church buildings. It was quiet until the Gariep Dam was built, and then a lot more farms were established around here now that there was available water.
Today, Venterstad is a good launch-pad for anyone wanting to enjoy the Gariep Route, which covers Gariep village, Bethulie, Springfontein, Smithfield, Jagersfontein, Philippolis and Colesberg.
That glorious Gariep Dam is still a very good outdoor option – and surprisingly under-utilised.
Venterstad has a local hotel and a small number of self-cater establishments. The manager of the local Heron House self-cater has this to say about his town:
“A doctor visits once a week and there is a clinic. There are a couple of friendly shops for basic necessities only. The municipality is well run and service is personal and quick.
“Cows walk along the street, chickens peck the pavements and goats help themselves to plants and trees in the gardens. The locals are friendly and they all have a story to tell.”
And these days, that ‘story’ would probably be told in Afrikaans or Xhosa, now that the exotic Europeans have left.
Find our newly-released e-Book, 101 Karoo Towns, HERE.