Text and Photographs by Chris Marais
Lying at the crossroads leading either to the historic diamond fields of Kimberley or the riverside vineyards of Upington, Britstown has recently gained some romantic fame.
Tying the knot on a Karoo farm, where there is no shortage of venue, space or event options, has become a popular pastime. Why?
Firstly, there is the feast. This is the land of domestic goddesses who think nothing of preparing delicious food for dozens of people at a time. There are always caterers, and of course, Karoo lamb is best at source.
Second, the weather. This is a semi-desert and it seldom rains. Or if it does, everyone celebrates and it’s considered excellent luck.
The third factor is cost. A wedding in or close to a big city can run families from anywhere between R70 000 and R200 000. The venue hire and catering often account for around half of that. Karoo weddings are almost always better value (although there are some very upmarket offerings).
About 20km from Britstown on the road to De Aar you’ll find Sweetfontein Boutique Farm Lodge which, on the day of a booked wedding, becomes an elegant venue that can cater for hundreds of guests, most of whom drive in from all over South Africa.
Their visit to Sweetfontein often opens their eyes a much-unheralded form of tourism: the Karoo guest farm experience. Sweetfontein is one of a number of guest farms in the district, and well worth an overnight stay on your Karoo journey.
Britstown itself comes with a number of entertaining accommodation options, in the form of the revamped Transkaroo Country Lodge and Vyfster, the former town jail.
Apart from its comfortable lodgings, the inner courtyard at the Transkaroo Country Hotel has become well known to travellers seeking an oasis from a long day on the road.
Some of the cells of Vyfster have been converted into comfortable guest bedrooms, but the historic feel of a solid old Karoo country jail has been preserved. On many of the large cut-stone wall bricks, one finds a series of horse etchings, some of which are quite artistic.
A stroll down the main road of Britstown will bring you to GentleCare, a remarkable museum-type shop and care centre for the terminally ill. The owners originally ran a general dealership on the premises, but then turned most of the grounds into a facility that offers sanctuary for more than 30 patients. Gentlecare is funded by international and local donors, churches, local farmers’ wives and the sale of branded enamelware from the shop.
- Transkaroo Country Lodge
Tel: 053 672 0027
- Kambro Accommodation (guest farm 21km north of Britstown)
Tel: 053 672 0408 or 083 800 0014
- Vyfster The Old Jail
Tel: 072 325 9449
- Sweetfontein Boutique Farm Lodge
Tel: 060 381 8753
Tel: 053 672 0003
Northern Cape Tourism Authority: www.experiencenortherncape.com
For an insider’s view on life in the Karoo, get the Three-Book Special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais for only R720, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at email@example.com