A Taste of Cradock Part II

By Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit

Should the dead souls of the Cradock Cemetery rise from their graves on a moonlit night and sit down together at a long table by the side of the Great Fish River, it would indeed be a feast of note.

Hosting the spectral supper would be Dr Reginald Koettlitz and his wife, Marie Louise. He died on January 10, 1916, and Mrs Koettlitz expired a scant two hours after him.

Read the inscription above his plinth:

“An explorer and traveller, surgeon and geologist to Expeditions North Polar and Abyssinia and with Scott to the Antarctic.” Enough said.

To his right would be General Pieter Hendrik Kritzinger, a major Boer warrior who led his British pursuers a devil’s dance through the Karoo Midlands.

To his left would be Harry Edwin Wood, the official Astronomer and Timekeeper for the Union of South Africa. He is also known for his discovery of a comet recorded as ‘1660 Wood’.

Somewhere down there is Peter ‘No-Wine-Please’ Sidey, buried in 1864 with the help of the Cradock Teetotal Society.

The remainder of the ghostly dinner party would include more than 70 British soldiers, a gaggle of nuns, four Cape Rebels (graves washed away in the 1974 floods) and look, here’s one Harry Potter, far from home, buried in Karoo soil.


Marlene van Nuwenhuys, the doyen of the More4Less emporium.


Treasure Hunt

More4Less, not 100 metres west of the Cradock Moederkerk, is the town’s mystery treasure chest.

If you really want to make owner Marlene van Nuwenhuys happy, give her a stuffed attic to rummage through, preferably on an old Karoo farm where the owners are downsizing to their retirement cottage in Port Alfred.

Her shop is a clearing house for Karoo Midlands family history, flowing in and out constantly on a tide of something kitschy, something classic and something you simply have to own.

Electric guitars, jaffle-makers, your grand-daddy’s canvas golf bag, stop watches, letter openers, snuffboxes, newspapers from half a century ago and even a funky little caravan (a snip at fifteen grand) fill the cavernous store.

“My whole shop is an adventure!” she will tell you, those eyes sparkling with energy and passion.

Marlene and her family have learned the knack of hardly ever letting a bargain slip past their eagle eyes. But they’re not infallible.

“Quite often I’ve priced a book at R10, sold it and then discovered it’s a very valuable edition,” she admits. “But it doesn’t happen a lot these days.”

Cradock people all know: before you rush out and buy something new, go and nose about More4Less first. You always come away with a prize, even if you sell it back to Marlene next week.

Photographers fooling around during the 2022 Karoo Food Festival in Cradock.

A Time to Feast

Cradock’s Karoo Food Festival in late autumn is a madhouse of fancy cheeses, dressed lamb, locally grown nuts, unusual pickles, juicy olives, prickly pear syrup and the most delicious honey this side of the Compassberg .

There will be homemade relishes and jams, some of the best biltong in the Karoo (those are, indeed, fighting words), seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables that taste like they should.

To wash it all down there will be raspberry juice, ginger beer, local handcrafted ales and solar-roasted java.

There’s also an honorary Karoo citizen from Wellington who, once the late-night music kicks into high gear, gets us all pickled with his handcrafted upmarket moonshine.

The arts of preserving, cheesemaking, cooking in formidable Aga stoves and feeding large groups with effortless grace may have died out in the cities, but they remain the skills of Karoo women and men of all colour and creed.

You can also expect engaging talks presented by the rock star chefs of the Karoo, many of whom are bestselling cookbook authors.

They give masterclasses, passing on the wisdom of not only their own experiences, but the ways and cultures of many generations past.

All you need do is come hungry.

Olive Schreiner and her husband Cron along the Great Fish River (photograph courtesy of Amazwi South African Museum of Literature).

The Writers & the Rocks

Approaching Cradock from the south along the N10, one enters a loose ring of mountains and flat-topped hills that have long fascinated and inspired famous writers associated with Cradock, beginning with Olive Schreiner, author of The Story of an African Farm.

Olive and her husband Samuel Cronwright (Cron) Schreiner lived for a while on a farm called Krantz Plaas. They used to picnic at a favourite spot on the Great Fish River and explore the district.

One day they climbed to the top of nearby Buffelskop and Olive was so entranced by the grand view that she made Cron promise to bury her up there.

He kept his word and today a lonely sarcophagus stands on Buffelskop, where Olive Schreiner, her husband, their small baby and dog are interred.

Celebrated author Etienne van Heerden also comes from these parts and often makes a pilgrimage “up to Olive”. He is an ardent admirer of her works and enduring legacy of spirit.

The late poet, author and teacher Guy Butler was born in Cradock. His aunt, the local journalist Mary Butler, took him up to Buffelskop when he was a young boy.

It was Mary Butler who reported thus on Olive’s interment on Buffelskop: “There was not a cloud, and the great panorama stretched away in all its beauty and grandeur.”

 This is an excerpt from Road Tripper: Eastern Cape Karoo by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit. The authors are offering a two-book special of Moving to the Platteland: Life in Small Town South Africa and Road Tripper: Eastern Cape Karoo at only R520, including courier costs in South Africa. For enquiries, contact Julie@karoospace.co.za.

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